As many individuals age, there might come a time when living alone begins to present challenges. Perhaps normal activities of daily living become too hard to accomplish without help. Or the amount of required assistance suddenly exceeds that which a family caregiver can adequately provide. In those cases, it may be time to consider a move to assisted living.
Discussing assisted living with an elderly family member can be emotionally sensitive. Some people are embarrassed to admit to needing help; others dread losing their independence. So how do you recognize when it’s time to broach the subject?
The ideal time to plan for assisted living is before a loved one’s quality of life starts to decline. However, indications that someone needs help frequently appear unexpectedly. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of common signs that can alert you that it’s time to consider assisted living.
Difficulties with Activities of Daily Living
Activities of daily living (ADLs) are everyday self-care functions, such as eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and moving around. Someone exhibiting diminishing ADL capabilities would likely benefit from residing in an assisted living environment. Conducting ADL assessments lets healthcare professionals determine whether a person can complete routine tasks that contribute to daily existence.
Chronic or Worsening Medical Conditions
The older we get, the greater our likelihood of developing persistent medical conditions—such as memory loss, diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease—that require continuous attention. Indeed, 80 percent of Americans age 50 or older have one or more chronic ailments. And just as aging seniors with chronic illnesses begin requiring added medical support, they become less able to care for themselves.
Increased Accidents and Mishaps
Accidents happen, whatever a person’s age. But an increase in the frequency of falls or automobile mishaps can be symptoms of cognitive or balance problems. An older loved one’s unexplained bruising or physical injuries can be signs of recent spills. Likewise, car-body dents and scratches can result from driving accidents on roads or parking lots. And a propensity for accidents increases a person‘s risk for serious medical emergencies.
Average Americans aged 60 and above, who live independently, spend nearly ten hours a day completely alone. Cut off from social connections, older adults can experience loneliness or depression. Signs of isolation include decreased interest in hobbies or social activity and hesitancy to leave the house. In assisted living facilities, residents can establish new friendships, visit with their neighbors, and enjoy a renewed sense of community.
Deteriorating Living Conditions
A noticeable decline in the condition of a person’s residence often indicates that home upkeep has become too great a burden. An untidy or odorous indoor living space or a neglected yard can signify that your loved one is physically overwhelmed by home maintenance. When older adults move into assisted living communities, they leave behind housekeeping and yard work.
Poor Grooming and Hygiene
Much as those ready for assisted living grapple to maintain their homes, they can also struggle to care for themselves. Changes in appearance and personal hygiene suggest trouble bathing, dressing, or doing laundry without assistance.
Neglecting Financial Obligations
Along with ADLs, an inability to perform instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)—such as cooking and bill paying—can serve as a red flag that assisted living is needed. Be alert for signs that indicate an incapacity to live independently, such as stacks of unopened mail in the foyer containing unpaid bills and late notices.
Taking Medication Incorrectly
Failing to take prescribed medications as directed puts older adults at risk of serious harm. Seniors must remember to get their prescriptions filled, and then take them in proper dosages and on time. Stockpiles of filled pill bottles, multiple drugs on hand for treating the same condition, or medications beyond their expiration dates are apparent warning signs.
Proper nutrition is essential for everyone, particularly for older adults with medical conditions—such as high blood pressure or diabetes—requiring special diets. Unexplained weight changes suggest that your loved one consumes an unhealthy diet or forgets to eat altogether. A peek inside the refrigerator could uncover spoiled or forbidden foods. Most assisted living facilities provide residents freshly prepared, nutritious meals daily.
The Doctor Says It’s Time
Often, a physician will prescribe assisted living for someone. Whether it’s to ensure your loved one’s ongoing physical or mental health or to facilitate recovery from an injury, the doctor will determine that the patient’s best chance to thrive is with the medical monitoring and professional-level help healthcare professionals can provide.