How to know when it’s time to transition to assisted living

By Kati Decker, admission and marketing manager at Mountainside Senior Living. 

It can be hard to know when it’s the right time to start looking into assisted living options for your loved one. Many times, families fall into the habit of waiting for the crisis situation to occur before thinking about investigating senior care. They wait to make the tough decision until Mom falls and breaks a hip and can’t go home again, or Dad gets lost driving home from the grocery store, a route he’s driven weekly for years.

Instead of waiting for the crisis to occur, there are signs that you can start looking for to begin the transition to an assisted living community.

The biggest warning sign that I discuss with families who are just beginning their search is to think about the amount of time that their loved one spends doing their activities of daily living. These are activities that are part of everyday routines, including housekeeping and personal care.

Is it taking your loved ones most of the day to make breakfast, bathe and get dressed for the day? Are they having to take breaks frequently during their personal care routine because of fatigue? Has it just gotten too difficult to vacuum their carpets or dust their knickknacks? The biggest benefit of moving into an assisted living community is the ability to relinquish the need to have to do these taxing activities on their own. Many times I find that residents have had to give up their favorite pastimes, like knitting, woodworking and clubs, because their activities of daily living have been taking all of their time and energy. By making the move to assisted living, residents are able to spend more time enjoying themselves and doing what they are passionate about and less time worrying about having to do the housekeeping and tedious personal care routines.

The second major warning sign I discuss is a general decline in health and mental status. This goes hand-in-hand with the time consumed by doing activities of daily living.

Is a loved one who used to enjoy cooking all of his or her meals starting to eat more microwave meals or canned food products? Has he or she had a fall recently? This could be the result of trip hazards in the home or mismanagement of medications. I recently helped a family whose loved one was having trouble keeping up with medications and when to take them — and was hospitalized after a nasty fall as a result.

We all forget things; when was the last time you were looking for your phone while talking on it, or your keys when you had them in your pocket? However, forgetfulness that leads to general decline in well-being is another indicator that it might be time to look into assisted living. Where I work, at Mountainside Senior Living, an assisted living community in Crozet, we’re installing a special memory care floor later this year to assist those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Most of the time, if residents in an assisted living community need that kind of care, they have to move to another facility. Make sure you look into that as you are researching assisted living communities.

It can be hard knowing when to step in and help your loved one make the move to assisted living. Think about your college-aged child; if you walked into his dorm and saw that it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks, that his diet consisted of mostly microwave meals or ramen noodles and he had stopped bathing and taking care of himself, wouldn’t you intervene? For most parents, the answer is yes.

As we compare this scenario to the scenario of our loved ones living at home, struggling to maintain the upkeep of their homes or apartments, neglecting their diets for easy meals and not taking care of themselves, how can one not say it is time to start the transition to assisted living? Remember, it’s better to begin the transition now rather than wait for the crisis to hit.

This article originally appeared in the Generation Us section of the Daily Progress.