But needing more help as we age is a natural occurrence in life. While we know it will likely happen at some point, knowing the right time to make that transition is a challenge for the strongest of families.
There are a number of important factors to consider. Here are three ways for you to know if it may be time to consider assisted living for your loved ones.
Simply defined, memory is the creation, storage and retrieval of information. Some form of memory loss is natural. From time to time, we all forget where we put the car keys and if we’ve already used shampoo and conditioner while taking a shower.
Normal mental aging involves slower recall of facts, names and places. As a 60-year-old, I laughingly say that my RAM has become too full for quick retrieval – but my brain naturally just moves at a slower pace. It also becomes harder to multi-task as we age, and we don’t make memories as easily as we did when we were younger. But it’s time to be concerned when life’s regular routines are interrupted due to memory gaps. While misplacing things is normal, finding objects in strange places, finding bills or lipstick in the shower or freezer is not.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as challenges with planning, problem solving, difficulty completing familiar tasks and confusion with time or place, is not normal aging. You may notice that a parent has trouble understanding visual images or finding words when speaking or writing. Changes in mood and personality may also be a signal that your mom has difficulty perceiving, absorbing and processing information.
People who with memory loss may start to withdraw from work or social activities. You may want to look more carefully if a parent stops participating in something that they’ve enjoyed for years. They may be embarrassed that they can’t remember the words to familiar hymns or the rules of a card game.
When a decline in functional ability persists, living without support becomes traumatic. Getting support for activities of daily living in a setting with people who are trained to provide it decreases the stress and agitation of seniors with memory loss - as well as the demands of family members to provide that support.
Physical challenges can be obvious signs that a parent needs extra care. Limitations can gradually pile up with time, and it’s hard for seniors to recognize and admit them. When visiting my parents, for example, I noticed that Dad leaned on walls to steady himself. Mom didn’t have the energy to cook or hold a heavy pan. My alarm bells went off seeing my 94-pound mom holding my 200-pound father by the belt when he leaned over to section a grapefruit. While they both got a slice, being in the kitchen alone wasn’t sustainable - and they didn’t see the danger.
Scrapes or bruises stemming from tripping, falling or bumping into furniture typically result from mobility or balance issues. The CDC notes that 2.8 million seniors are treated every year for fall-related injuries, the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among 65+ senior adults. Falls can often be prevented with the appropriate support. They shouldn’t be taken lightly, even if your parent brushes them off.
If a parent has difficulty getting out of bed or standing up from a seated position, it’s important to seek out care while they are still mobile. State regulations require that seniors move into assisted living while they still can still transfer out of bed or a chair (with or without help), propel in a wheelchair, stand, pivot and take a few steps. Getting help through assisted living helps seniors avoid the expense, lifestyle limitations and challenges of nursing homes that are stressed to the limit by COVID-19.
Physical challenges can manifest in other ways, such as difficulty driving. If your family member begins collecting traffic tickets or you see damage to their vehicle, please don’t overlook it. My father still obtained drivers licenses in both Florida and Georgia shoulder inspite of physical limitations that resulted in a hit and run charge (he backed into a car and didn’t hear it). Initiating the driving conversation can be difficult, but Dad safely and successfully kept his independence by using GoGo GrandParent and transportation services provided by his assisted living community.
Some seniors develop challenges with personal hygiene. If you notice body odor, poor dental hygiene or your mom repeatedly wearing the same clothes, your mom may need support for routine hygiene activities. Getting help doesn’t have to be invasive: seniors can preserve their dignity by having someone lay out clothes, do their laundry, and stand by while they shower if they are unsteady. Support like this is fundamental to maintaining our dignity while we age.
Clearly, medical conditions can motivate seniors to find help. Medication management – reminders and support to take the medications seniors need at the times they need them – are one of the most affordable and valuable services senior living provides. Automated prescription refills, in-house doctor visits and eyes-on care management help people thrive and recover, particularly when these tasks become hard to accomplish on their own. Since visiting dentists and nurses provide services inside senior living communities, serious medical complications can often be avoided through the support of people who are trained and experienced to know how to help seniors.
Assisted living can be a smart short-term option if your loved one seems to be taking longer to recover after falling ill or falling. 30 day or more respite visits can help families and seniors evaluate if they are fit enough to return home or would enjoy the senior living lifestyle. Aging in place while most people want to stay in their homes as long as possible, people who live alone can become isolated and lonely, particularly with Covid-19. The CDC links loneliness to serious medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke and dementia, so companionship can have more benefits than we may realize.
Nutrition is an issue for many seniors. if your dad begins rapidly losing weight, whether due to lack of appetite, leaving food to spoil or difficulty preparing meals, he can be healthier in a community with a diet plan and meals that meet his specific needs. You can relax knowing that he’s eating what’s necessary to remain healthy and vital.
Let Me Help You Plan the Next Phase for Your Loved One
Whether you need help now or are planning ahead, Assisted Living Locators is your expert advocate, guide and sounding board that makes finding great care easier.
If you’re unsure what to do, let’s talk. We're your local partner and sounding board right here in metro Atlanta. We consider your senior’s budget, care needs, location preferences and personality. You’ll feel better, shed some stress and save time working with a trained expert rather than going it alone.
Call me at 404-479-1457 or visit my website. Together, let’s ensure a brighter, safer future for your loved one.