Transitioning into senior adult life is no simple task. It is a process, just like when you are younger and trying to find a purpose in your life, applying for jobs or starting a family. It requires a lot of understanding and sensitivity from loved ones and medical professionals. Aging doesn’t have to be a negative time of life; deciding about the future is another great step in the journey of life.
Older adults can feel disillusioned when you begin the discussion of assisted living. To them, it is a step in the wrong direction. However, for many, it can be such a positive experience that allows more freedom and long-term health benefits. You may feel like you or your loved one are getting close to taking this step, but how can you know when it is necessary? What are the important signs that it is time for assisted living?
- Dangerous medical conditions and more physical limitations. One of the beautiful parts of humanity is our ability to adapt and cope with the difficulties that life throws at us. However, there comes a time when a medical condition needs monitoring by professional caregivers. If your loved one is taking more falls, sustaining injuries from decreased mobility, or is unable to keep up with the rigors of their medical conditions, it may be a good idea to consider assisted living.
No one should ever be in a rush to move someone they know into assisted living unless there are significant dangers at hand. Falling, forgetting to properly clean a wound, or taking the wrong medication could lead to hospitalization and would be considered a legitimate reason for considering a more suitable environment. Moving a loved one to assisted living should be viewed through the lens of long-term care. Will this move improve their life? Will this prevent otherwise unavoidable accidents?
- Incontinence problems. Lisa Gwyther, long-time social worker and director of the Duke Family Support Program in Durham, N.C., says that incontinence is an indicator that a senior may need more help on a regular basis. Assisted living programs provide housekeeping that can change sheets frequently. Gwyther suggests that it is best if your loved ones are still capable of changing out their wardrobe and able to make the necessary contacts when accidents do happen.
Sheets are typically replaced weekly in an assisted living program, so, if an accident occurs in between regular changes, a senior adult would need to take the initiative to contact their housekeeping department or desk workers.
- Struggles with transportation. Senior adults who are still capable of getting out for grocery shopping, church, and social gatherings are excellent candidates for assisted living. They may still be active, but they aren’t able to operate their vehicle or navigate a transit system like they did in the past. Extreme vision impairment, accidents, and close calls, or the inability to navigate even familiar areas are all good indicators that it may be time to think about entering a program.
If your aging loved one is unable to get around town safely, they might consider the benefits of having transportation available to them through an assisted living program. According to a CDC Survey, 81% of these types of programs offer transportation for medical checkups, 75% offer transportation to jobs, and 75% provide transportation for grocery shopping and other outings.
- Dementia. Dementia does not have to be severe or diagnosed as Alzheimer’s for a senior adult to consider assisted living. We all have forgetful moments and lapses of judgment. Important signs to consider are when you may be seeing a consistent pattern of forgetfulness that leads to missed appointments, personality change or disorientation.
“Even if your memory problems are caused by normal aging, your primary care doctor will be able to take steps to determine your baseline so it’s easier to detect if things get worse,” says Sarah Kortenkamp, Ph.D., a Marshfield Clinic neuropsychologist, suggesting that regular cognitive assessments should be made by a physician for aging patients.
- Home maintenance. As a senior adult, simple tasks become more difficult. You may notice that a once flourishing garden is now in disrepair or that the kitchen counters are now filled with unopened mail and clutter. Aging adults who have lost interest or the ability to do simple maintenance around their home could be getting close to considering assisted living. You will notice they have lost their motivation when it comes to housekeeping and even doing some of the other small tasks they used to love to do to occupy their time.
A survey taken by the AARP shows that senior adults are reluctant to make a move to a smaller home. Only 1 in 10 senior adults have done so to make living conditions easier. Go with your intuition when it comes to how your loved one responds to making changes to their home or to moving into a smaller one. They may be worried about cost, losing friendships with neighbors or losing independence. Be sure to keep these indicators in mind when discussing assisted living.
- Loss of appetite and depression. If your loved one is struggling with hopelessness and has lost interest in living life, it is probably time to assess their living conditions. A medical professional can help determine if this is a sign that they need a change of scenery. Sometimes, independent living is a heavy burden for an aging person. They are battling with the idea that it may all be taken from them and also the desire to be free from the anxiety that paying bills and life management require.
Assisted living communities were created to lift unnecessary burdens from both their residents and their loved ones. Does your loved one speak frequently about the burdens of life? Do they talk about easier times and wishing things were different?
If you’re thinking about assisted living or encouraging your loved one to make that step, be sure to keep the prospect positive and optimistic. The elderly “need positive reassurance that they are moving into a new chapter of their lives, rather than ending the life they have always known,” advises Psychologist, Dr. Deborah L. Stote. She says that it is very common for senior adults to struggle to adjust to the concept, but that assisted living really gives more independence, at the end of the day.
Roger Sims serves as the owner for LoCost Medical Supply, LLC. Roger oversees the family owned and operated medical supply company from the Duluth, Georgia headquarters. In 1985, the Sims family began providing medical supplies in a corner drug store named HealthWise Family Pharmacy in the Atlanta suburbs and although they do not operate a pharmacy these days, they continue to place the highest value on trust, customer service, knowledge, and excellence.