8 Signs It's Time to Move to Assisted Living

Have aging parents who still live on their own? These safety issues could signal it's time for a frank discussion.

By A Place for Mom
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If your parents have been living independently for some time, it may be difficult to come to terms with the idea of senior care. However, if they need help with their daily routine or health care that is beyond your ability to provide, assisted living provides structure, socialization, health care monitoring, and other support services.

How can you know for sure that it's time for your loved one to move into assisted living? The answer isn't going to be the same for everybody, but there are signs you can watch for: unusual changes to a senior's daily habits; problems keeping up with personal care, household care or finances; depression or social withdrawal; and health needs that have escalated beyond your ability to cope.

Warning signs can indicate a senior’s need for the type of care provided in assisted living, and are often why families decide to make that step. Let's look in more detail at some of the reasons people move to assisted living:

1. Mobility issues: This is a common reason why families consider assisted living, says Melissa Pratt, A Place for Mom Senior Living Advisor in Boise, ID: an elderly loved one may be bit of a fall risk or need help transferring to a wheelchair, for instance.

2. Trouble keeping up with personal care: Sometimes a senior parent is having trouble with personal hygiene such as showering or keeping clothing clean, or they need help coping with incontinence, dressing themselves, eating properly or other day-to-day care.

3. Home safety issues: This often goes along with mobility issues. If a person is having trouble getting around their home, going up and down stairs, or operating appliances, assisted living may be the way to go. Driving safely may also become an issue.

4. Problems with household care or finances: Household neglect can become a serious problem, whether it's spoiled food, overflowing trash, or failure to pay utility bills.

5. Increasing health care needs: Plenty of family members come to realize that their parent's care needs have moved beyond the caregiver's physical or emotional abilities, particularly if a loved one has dementia.

6. Mild cognitive impairment: Cognitive decline can have serious ramifications, says Melissa Pratt, especially if your loved one can't take medications correctly, is not able to fix a meal or doesn't remember to eat. If a loved one exhibits confusion, poor judgment, or other signs of cognitive impairment, assisted living is often a good next step.

7. Wandering / behavioral issues: These may come into play for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. When dementia progresses to the point where they begin wandering, or they exhibit behavioral problems such as aggression or anger, a family caregiver may decide their loved one needs residential care.

8. Loneliness or social isolation: If a senior family member is showing signs of loneliness or depression, such as giving up hobbies, withdrawing from friends, or rarely leaving the house, it may be time to consider a senior living residence.

Assisted Living and Senior Wellness

Many seniors may have a great deal of apprehension about moving into assisted living. If resistance is an issue, make sure you convey your own concern for their well-being, and communicate clearly and honestly in order to encourage them to voice their own worries with you.

When the conversation turns to senior care, make sure to talk about the positives of moving to assisted living, such as personalized daily care, social interaction and activity, transportation assistance, and appropriate senior nutrition. A visit to nearby assisted living facilities can go a long way toward assuaging your loved one's fears – and your own. And once you're ready to start the search for assisted living or senior care, A Place for Mom's advisors are here to help guide you through the process.

Are you considering moving your loved one into assisted living? What is the most pressing reason for your decision? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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As someone who has seen both a mother and mother-in-law through Alzheimer's/dementia I can confidently say that moving to assisted living does not solve most of the problems listed here. Yes, a lock-down facility can keep them from wandering, but wandering is a phase and will soon enough stop on its own. Problems with bathing and personal hygiene? In a care facility a frightened woman is stripped by strangers and forced into a tub or shower often times by strangers of the opposite sex. She cries and screams and fights; does she get clean? Sure, but at what cost? And the problems you are having getting her/him to bathe will disappear as the stages of dementia progress. And the cost of a walk in tub or roll-in shower are far less than a year of paying for assisted living. And what about food? Eating someone else's idea of a "nice" meal, like macaroni and cheese or tomato soup from a can things which your parent would never choose given a real choice; eating dinner at 5 or 6 pm for someone who never ate dinner before 7:30 or 8pm? Rigidity in mealtimes and menus and dining choices is a given in any institution in order for it to run "efficiently". And then loneliness? Sitting in a chair in her room in front of a TV won't cure her loneliness and the lounge area of most facilities is a barren wasteland of staring faces and a TV that no one wants to watch, and a piano that no one plays surrounded by silent residents sunk in depression or in various stages of dementia; such a place won't cure your parent's loneliness. Mild cognitive impairment? That is soon followed by more serious impairment, which means another move to another facility, or at best, a move upstairs, downstairs or to another wing in the same facility; another move which is not explained to your parent; another move over which they have no control; another set of strange caregivers, another set of strangers who can't begin to seem like friends. Your parent surrounded by people who irritate them? An activist granny surrounded by vehement right wingers or vice versa? Trouble with household care or finances? Well, for the cost of assisted living, and even the most basic places are very expensive these days, one could hire several come-in caregivers from your community and renovate your parent's home to boot. And I'm talking here about the good facilities, not the ones where residents are left in dirty diapers for hours or strapped to beds. And I am talking here about the good facilities when a relative visits every single day and continually talks to the caregivers and management about your parent's care and is on the watch for needed adjustments and variations. Assisted living facilities, even the best ones, are a very poor choice, a warehouse, a gateway to death and no amount of marketing can change that, especially given that most are for profit places where cuts to staff and increases in "productivity" are more important than your parent's happiness.

patgibbs@shaw.ca on 2014-11-12 12:49:59

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