Whether you’re a senior pondering this lifestyle change for yourself, or an adult child mustering the courage to broach this topic with your aging parent, it’s crucial that a plan be put in place. Just like we plan for retirement, planning our next steps as we age will prepare us for the change before it comes. As they say: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
But even if you have a plan, too often we hear about people who didn’t account for the unexpected: A financial downswing or visit to the emergency room can change your day-to-day living situation in the blink of an eye, especially if you’re ill prepared.
So how do you plan for all that?
There are numerous considerations to take into account when planning and trying to account for the unexpected. Here are a few key areas that aging seniors and their adult children tend to overlook:
If you’ve asked these initial questions and taken these first steps to make the aging process easier, you’re off to a great start.
So now back to the initial question: When is it time for assisted living? Hopefully this answer is a little more comfortable after putting a plan in place, but it can still pose its challenges. Is there an age or general quality of life that, when you’ve reached it, you know it’s time to make the switch? Is there an event that makes the determination for you?
Generally, if we’re at the point where we can ask this question, some type of caregiving situation is in place, whether it be provided professionally or by family. Taking that into consideration, here are some key indications it might be time for assisted living.
1.) General Quality of Life
Are you or your aging parent finding it harder to get around the house? Is there an increasing difficulty in managing the activities of daily living? Do dressing, shopping and managing medications come with their own challenges? Start with some more in-home help, perhaps, but know the threshold when it’s time to make the bigger transition.
2.) Progression of Alzheimer’s or Dementia
If your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, chances are in the beginning stages they can be cared for in-home. But be aware of any signs that these conditions may be worsening: Increased aggression, wandering, sundowning (agitated behavior that becomes more pronounced later in the day), and escalating care needs are just a few indicators that a change may need to be made.
3.) Escalating Care Needs
In line with the note above, even if no form of dementia is present, care needs can still increase along with age. Typically, as care needs change, in-home care provided by family members transitions to some assistance from an in-home service professional. It can be helpful to work with this professional to determine when your aging parent may need to switch to assisted living.
4.) A Recent Accident or Close Call
This is the wake-up call for a lot of people who are resistant to move to assisted living, which is why we provided a list of home safety tips to prevent this worst-case scenario from happening. Generally older adults have slower recovery times after accidents, so it can be helpful to look for an assisted living situation that also offers short-term rehabilitation on site.
5.) Noticeable Changes in Looks and/or Body Composition
Weight loss, weight gain, or any significant change in looks can be indicative of a health problem and trouble managing the activities of daily living. Difficulty preparing meals can often lead to your loved one eating whatever is available and easiest to prepare, resulting in a lack of proper nutrition. Be sure your loved one is engaging in healthy eating habits.
6.) Caregiver Stress
If you’re the family member caring for an aging parent, it’s easy to overlook your own care. As The New York Times featured in a recent article, there are psychological costs of caregiving and being the one to make the difficult decisions for your loved one. This cannot be overlooked. Here are some ways to reduce your stress and help your parents age well, but keep in mind that at a certain point, assisted living may be the way to go.
Whether you’re an older adult or the child of one, it’s critical that you ask yourself the hard questions early in the aging process. This will eliminate the need for hasty or ill-informed decision-making when it’s too late to formulate a good plan. It’s critical that each affected family member be on the same page with this plan, and open lines of communication are established.