7 Signs Your Parents May Be Ready for Assisted Living
Knowing when it may be time to begin the search for assisted living for a family member can be challenging. On one hand, many seniors are adamant about staying in their own homes because they feel that is the only way to maintain their independence. On the other hand, living without access to 24-hour assistance when it’s needed can pose serious risks to health, safety and well-being.
Assisted living* can be a positive solution that helps your parent live in a private, comfortable apartment while receiving help with daily activities like meal preparation, housekeeping, laundry, dressing and bathing. Assisted living communities also offer various levels of medication assistance and other care services.
Recognizing When It’s Time
Becoming a caregiver for a family member can be a rewarding but challenging experience. Over time, many caregivers struggle with the burdens of tending to another’s emotional and physical needs while maintaining balance with their own relationships, finances and other responsibilities.
For many families, choosing assisted living is based on the realization that an older family member requires more help than the caregiver can offer. It may not be an easy decision, but there are certain things to watch for to identify the right time to begin the transition.
Common signs to look for include:
A Decline in Health
The risk of developing a significant chronic disease increases as we age. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), “More than 70 million Americans ages 50 and older – four out of five older adults – suffer from at least one chronic condition.” The cause of chronic illnesses in aging adults varies from lifestyle changes to longer life expectancies.
Older adults living with chronic illnesses may find it difficult to handle basic tasks such as dressing, grooming, cleaning, bathing, and eating. They also have a higher rate of emergency room visits and hospitalization. If your family member seems to require more medical attention lately, and you believe it’s unsafe for them to continue living alone, it may be time for senior living.
Many people experience a decline in their ability to keep track of bills and finances as they age. Once insurance, electricity, credit cards, medical, and other bills begin to pile up, the repercussions of late fees and penalties can quickly add up. Older people also often fall prey to financial scams, which can put them in debilitating financial dilemmas.
Worsening Symptoms of Dementia
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia worsen over time. In the initial phases of these progressive diseases, mild memory loss may occur. However, in later stages, individuals can quickly lose the ability to take care of themselves.
While there’s not a cure for dementia, specialized support and programs may be able to slow down the progression of symptoms and improve the well-being of those living with it. As a caregiver, if your ability to care for your family member’s needs is beyond your capabilities or it would be unsafe for them to continue living on their own, it may be time to consider a senior living community that offers memory support.
Many older people have difficulty driving, and it can be challenging to secure transportation to doctors’ appointments, hobbies, events, and gatherings with friends or family. If transportation has become an issue for your family member, not participating in their usual activities can lead to isolation, a major problem that can lead to serious health repercussions including:
- Addiction: Seniors who are frequently isolated may turn to substances like smoking, drinking, and prescription drugs in an effort to fill the void.
- Depression: The lack of purpose or connection to others can lead to depression, which could be an agent for other diseases such as heart disease or dementia.
- Mortality: According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), “Loneliness automatically triggers a set of related behavioral and biological processes that contribute to the association between loneliness and premature death in people of all ages.”
If isolation is an issue for your family member, life at a senior living community can help. There are plenty of opportunities to socialize, plus several scheduled activities or events to choose from, allowing them to spend their days the way they want to. Assisted living communities also often have scheduled shuttle transportation, so they can get help running errands, going to the doctor and picking up prescriptions.
Untidy Living Conditions
An unkempt living space may be a sign that it’s time for assisted living. When a person gets to the point of being unable to vacuum floors, take out the trash, wash dishes or handle other essential tasks, they might need extra assistance with other daily responsibilities, too. Chances are, people who are unable to pick up after themselves and take care of their homes also struggle with preparing healthy meals or even remembering to eat.
Poor Hygiene or Disheveled Appearance
Changes in hygiene are a common symptom that may stem from a decline in vision, arthritis, a cognitive issue or depression. If your previously tidy and put-together family member begins to wear soiled clothing or has an unpleasant body odor, it could be an indication that they are unable to bathe or do laundry.
Recognizable Weight Loss
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), over 10 million older adults are at risk of hunger, and about 10 percent of adults experience malnutrition. If your family member becomes visibly thinner than usual, this could be caused by poor nutrition, a lack of eating or a serious medical issue.
In an assisted living community, staff prepare all meals for the residents, so they don’t have to worry about the chore of cooking or cleaning. Staff can also help escort residents to the dining room or remind them of scheduled mealtimes. They can even help residents with eating and ensure that any medical issues causing weight loss are being addressed appropriately.
What To Do Next
If you recognize one or more of these signs in your family member, consult with a doctor to determine which living option can provide the level of care they require.
If you’re ready to find a senior living community that offers a thoughtfully designed environment, the support and connection of neighbors and staff, and opportunities to exercise, eat well and maintain a sense of purpose, contact us today.
*Assisted living is called personal care or supportive living in some states.