As a nurse in the assisted living industry, some of the top questions I get from families include, “How do I know if my parent is doing OK at home alone?” and “How do I know if Mom needs assisted living?” Unfortunately, families often fail to look at these questions seriously until there is a medical event or emergency that prompts them to make a quick decision. Sometimes there isn’t an available apartment at the assisted living community of their choice at that point in time. This problem leads to even more crisis and a potential second move.
This article provides an overview on how to recognize the early signs that your loved one may not be doing OK at home. Your honest analysis can answer if your loved one could benefit by moving to an assisted living community.
If you are concerned about the well being of an elderly parent or loved one, look for these signs on your next visit to determine whether it’s time to suggest a more supportive living arrangement:
- Unopened mail, past due bills, excessive donations to charities
- Noticeable weight loss, increased frailty, changes in appearance
- Expired, duplicate, unopened medications
- Expired food, microwavable dinners, broken appliances
- Excess clutter, grubby bathrooms, dried spills, piles of laundry
- Signs of isolation, depression, disinterest in hobbies and activities
- Overgrown lawn and landscaping, un-shoveled walkways and driveway
- New dents, other signs of impaired driving, dashboard warning lights
A few other important safety concerns to look for include:
- Can Mom reach shelves or cabinets without risk of falling?
- Are the area carpets a tripping risk?
- Is she leaving electronics plugged in and on that shouldn’t be, such as an iron?
- If she has hearing loss, can she hear the tea kettle whistling or the disposal running from another room?
When do most families think it’s time for assisted living?
Most often, seniors and families feel the time is right for assisted living when any of these 4 factors come into play:
- There are signs of isolation or loneliness
- Proper nutrition has become a concern
- Safety issues become overwhelming, such as the potential for medication error or a high risk of falling
- Memory loss progresses, a loved one is at heightened risk living alone
Why do so many aging adults think they are OK at home alone?
Aging adults often resist admitting that they need assistance. In fact many of them do think they really are OK at home alone. This could be due to their physical or mental condition worsening. Slowly over time they may have made accommodations to deal with their deficits. If this is the case, their current living situation, although compromised, feels normal to them. In addition, many older adults experience impaired safety awareness. This means they don’t realize the danger they may be putting themselves in, such as driving beyond when it is safe to do so or climbing up on a chair to reach something in a cabinet. Finally, older adults are comfortable in their familiar surroundings and find it daunting to think about making a move to a new place.
Due to all these factors, families are the ones who must notice when their older relatives are not thriving at home anymore. It’s up to families to try to convince their elderly loved one that a more supportive living arrangement is not a step back. Assisted living is a step forward that helps seniors maintain their independence far more than living at home alone while enhancing their quality of life.
Assisted living is a step forward, not a step back
Many seniors and their families will tell you that moving to an assisted living community was the best decision they made. Why? Because they love the combination of living in a private apartment home with the conveniences that a community setting offers. Amenities and a social lifestyle can be easily available right outside their door. Often, senior residents don’t like dealing with the hassle of cooking, yet they can enjoy delicious homemade meals there. Seniors like having some assistance with tasks that have gotten difficult for them. These can include tying their shoes, buttoning their blouse, and even remembering when to take their multiple daily medications. Seniors enjoy being involved in hobbies and programs that interest them without the hassle of having to arrange everything themselves. Some of these hobbies and programs include adult learning classes and outings to cultural events. Additionally, it comes with the bonus of being free from constant home maintenance tasks, such as managing plumbers, electricians, handymen, landscape companies and snow removal services.
Having worked in assisted living for years I have seen firsthand how the safe, secure and social environment of assisted living can boost a senior’s independence, health and daily happiness, AND provide family members peace of mind.