The decision to move a loved one to assisted living is never an easy one to make, but it can be especially difficult if your aging parent has been living independently for a number of years. Some of the signs that it’s time to move to assisted living are subtle, making them easy to overlook or deny for some time. If you haven’t seen your aging parent in a while, spending time together over the holidays provides an ideal opportunity to pay attention for changes that may have cropped up since your last visit.
There is not always a definitive, clear-cut indication that the time has come for your loved one to move into assisted living. However, there are a number of signs that suggest that your loved one may not be as successful in leading an independent lifestyle as they once were. These six signs are a good indication that it’s time to start considering assisted living options.
6 Signs It’s Time for Assisted Living
1. Personal care issues.
Give your loved one a big hug when you first see them. Pay attention to how they feel in your arms. Do they seem frail, as though they’ve lost weight or strength? Have they gained weight? Do you notice any odors? Are there any noticeable changes in their appearance, such as dirty clothes or lack of makeup when they once wore a full face every day?
Weight changes can be an indication of health issues, or a sign that they are struggling to prepare regular, nutritious meals. Likewise, changes in physical appearance and hygiene suggest that personal care habits are being neglected.
2. Health changes.
Has your parent experienced any falls recently? Has their cold from a few weeks ago worsened into a more serious illness, rather than healing? Were they able to seek medical attention, if necessary? Do they seem to be managing their medications?
Pay attention to their mobility. Observe them rising from a seated position, climbing stairs, and maneuvering around obstacles. Do they seem to move around with a reasonable degree of confidence and dexterity? Impaired mobility is a significant safety concern. Assisted living provides peace of mind in case of falls or other injuries.
3. Eating habits.
During your visit, find an opportunity to browse your loved one’s kitchen. Take inventory of the fridge and pantry. Are they well stocked? Do you notice multiples of unnecessary items, like ketchup? Do they have a freezer full of TV dinners? Are there any stale or expired items?
A person’s kitchen is a good indication of how well they are feeding themselves. Lack of supplies suggests that they are struggling to prepare regular or nutritious meals, and would benefit from having healthy meals prepared for them on a daily basis.
4. Household maintenance.
Walking in your loved one’s front door, you will immediately be greeted with an impression of how well they are keeping up with household chores. You know what your loved one’s usual housekeeping habits are. If they used to be a neat freak but now live in a state of clutter, that’s an indication that they may no longer feel as capable of performing household chores such as straightening and vacuuming.
Look beneath the surface. They may have made an extra effort to tidy up knowing guests were coming, but if the bathroom still shows signs of grime or you notice spills that have been neglected, that paints a more accurate picture of their day-to-day habits.
5. Warning signs of cognitive impairment.
Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. The sooner you notice the early warning signs, the sooner you can begin treatment. It’s important to be aware of what the warning signs look like so that you can notice them in their earliest stages.
Common warning signs include memory loss that interferes with daily life, difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion of time or place, changes in mood and personality, and problems with speaking or writing.
Read more about the early warning signs of dementia and what to do next as a caregiver.
6. Personality and social changes.
During your time together over the holidays, watch for signs that your loved one is not quite feeling “themselves.” A decline in a person’s mobility may inhibit their ability to maintain social connections, participate in hobbies and social gatherings, or even leave the house on a regular basis.
Watch for signs of loneliness, depression, or withdrawal. Among other things, assisted living communities are a source of companionship and social connections that can be crucial for a senior’s wellbeing.
When the time comes to start talking about moving into assisted living, there are many resources out there to help you and your loved one ease the transition to senior living. The more prepared you are, the easier the process will be—for both of you.