How-to Series: Caregiver 101 - Vital Signs

Vital signs are measurements of the body's most basic functions. Vital signs include but are not limited to, body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate (rate of breathing), blood pressure (blood pressure is not considered a vital sign, but is often measured along with the vital signs.)

Vital sign monitoring provides valuable information about a client or loved one's current health condition. It allows caregivers, physicians and family members to understand and improve long term health relating to medication and lifestyle changes. Not only can this help caregivers decide whether or not medication and lifestyle practices are working correctly, it can also help to prevent costly emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

It is also very important for loved ones who struggle with high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes are checked often to ensure that their readings stay within a safe range.


Normal body temperature does not change significantly with aging.  However, as you get older, it becomes more difficult for the body to control its temperature. Loss of subcutaneous fat makes it harder to maintain body heat.  Many older people find that they need to wear layers of clothing in order to feel warm.

Aging decreases one's ability to sweat. Older adults find it more difficult to tell when they are becoming overheated. Older people are at greater risk for overheating (hyperthermia or heat stroke). They are also at risk for dangerous drops in body temperature (hypothermia).  (from

I found a video with everything you need to know about taking temperatures. It was too large to post here, so just click HERE to watch it on Youtube.


Pulse rate and rhythm shows how fast your heart is beating, the strength of each beat and whether your rhythm is regular or sporadic. This is important since the heart is the pump that circulates blood throughout your body, and your blood carries the oxygen essential for life, .

Checking your pulse rate is counting the number of times your heart beats in a minute. Pulse checks can be taken at the wrist (radial pulse) or at the neck (carotid pulse). Do not use your thumb; instead use your index and middle fingers. A resting adult heart rate should be between 60 and 80 beats a minute, but heart rate slowly decreases with age, due to changes in the heart muscle as it ages. Therefore, the resting heart rate of the elderly will usually be slower than that of a younger person. Emotional state, infection, medications and overall health can also affect your heart rate.  You can watch step by step HERE.


"Respiration, or breathing, is a normal and vital body process that exchanges carbon dioxide and oxygen in the bloodstream. Breathing in is also called inspiration, while breathing out is known as expiration. Caregivers of seniors can observe for signs of normal and abnormal breathing in order to provide safe and efficient care."
Read more from Normal & Abnormal Breathing in Seniors HERE and watch a how-to video HERE


For clients and loved ones with hypertension, home monitoring allows your physician to monitor howmuch your blood pressure changes during the day, and from day to day. This may also help your physician determine how effectively your blood pressure medication is working. The following video explains the proper way to take blood pressure using different methods.

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