When it’s Time for Elderly Parents to Move to Assisted Living

When my parents were in their late 80’s it became clear that they were not capable of living in their home any longer.  Sadly, most of their friends had passed away or moved to assisted living facilities. After my dad’s drivers license was not renewed, he was devastated and they didn’t get out much any more.  Plus, their health had begun slowly but surely deteriorating.

It became more and more difficult for them to manage.  My brother and I lived in different provinces so were not close by to provide regular assistance.

After both had fallen several times and trips to the hospital became more numerous, we knew they needed help.  We were too worried about them being on their own. 

We decided an Assisted Living Retirement Residence was the best choice.

People continue to live longer through advances in medicine and Boomers are becoming concerned about the well-being of their elderly parents.

Staying in the family home

Your elderly parents are entitled to as much autonomy as they are capable of handling.  Often this means that they will want to remain in their own home for as long as they are physically able.  They are comfortable in familiar surroundings of the home they have created.

If this is the case, you need to evaluate the home for potential problems to make it safe and secure.  Home safety is important because this age group is the most susceptible to severe injuries or even deaths from accidents in the home.  For those over 80 years old, over 75% of accidental deaths occur from falls.

To lessen that possibility, make sure rugs are secured to the floor, install handrails on stairs, non-skid tub treads and grab bars in the bathroom.  Paint the bottom step a different colour so your parent doesn’t misjudge their footing.

What future home adjustments might be needed for your parents to “age in place?”

It’s important to check to see what services are available in their area to provide home help such as delivered meals and visits to ensure their well-being.

Medical alert and monitoring companies provide GPS-based pendants to track those who tend to wander, or alarm devices so they can alert someone (family, neighbour) if they fall or have a sudden health-related attack.

For your own peace of mind, make sure your elderly parent is managing well by visiting often and at different times of the day.  Note if any activities appear challenging and where changes might be made.

Signs your parents should no longer be living at home

It’s not always easy for family members to spot the warning signs, or they may be in denial that it may be time to move mom or dad out of their home.  The whole process can be overwhelming.

Look for these signs that suggest it’s time:

1.  They’ve suddenly lost a bunch of weight

If you notice your parent is looking thinner than usual, it may be a sign that they’re not eating well, which could be a sign of the beginning of a mental impairment.  They may be either forgetting to eat certain meals or not bothering to cook or prepare their meals.

2.  They’re ignoring their personal hygiene 

If your parent is less interested in their personal appearance and not bathing or performing other hygiene routines regularly it may be a sign of dementia, depression or Alzheimer’s.

3.  They get lost when going to familiar places

Common destinations like the grocery store, the bank, or their church should be routine routes for your parent. If you find they can no longer find their way to these destinations, it’s a big red flag that something is wrong.

Take notice if they rarely go out of their home and have lost interest in social activities.

4.  Their home is stacked with unopened mail

Towering heaps of unopened mail can be an indication of growing mental impairment. Keep a close eye out for unopened envelopes from creditors or charities your parents wouldn’t normally donate to. This can be a red flag that they’ve lost control of their judgment when it comes to smart spending.

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Banking and household money matters may start to become daunting or confusing tasks.

5.  You notice changes in their home

A cluttered house isn’t necessarily a bad sign if your parent was always a bit messy. However, if the house is not being kept up as it was in the past – clutter verging on hoarding, food going bad in the fridge, dirty bathrooms, newspapers and flyers piling up at the doorway – it may be a sign of an underlying issue.

Also, watch out for items showing up in strange places like a carton of milk in the dishwasher instead of the fridge.

6.  They have a strange collection of new medications

Your parents should be taking the medications they need and take them at the appropriate times.  If months’ old bottles of their daily medication are sitting around completely full, they may be forgetting to take them. 

Check the medicine cabinet for unusual or unnecessary medications for treating something that isn’t really there.

Watch for an increase in personal mishaps such as falls, cuts or unexplained injuries.

7.  They’re defensive and argumentative

With a disease like dementia, people often become suspicious of those around them—including family—as they can’t distinguish who’s trying to help and who’s trying to hurt them.

On the other hand, they may talk about new “friends” that are starting to hang about.

What is “Assisted Living?”

Assisted living complexes have self-contained suites or apartments with a central dining room and common areas for socializing, recreational opportunities and regularly planned activities.  They have housekeeping and laundry services as required, as well as an emergency response system – all managed by professional staff.

They are for people who don’t need full time care.

These residences can be publicly funded (less expensive, but huge waiting lists), or private.  Private pay options are expensive ($1,800 to $6,500+ a month depending on the size of the suite and amenities included) but there is a better chance of obtaining a suite as these complexes are being built in many cities at quite a rapid rate.

“Aging in place residences offer independent living, assisted living and continuing care in a single setting.  Residents can move from one care option to the next, as health needs change.  It benefits couples whose care needs are different, as they can remain together in the same complex.

Check out the assisted living accommodations together so your parents can be part of their own decision-making process.  Take a personalized tour and experience one of the daily activities or special functions to get a sense of the community and staff.

The bottom line

If you have elderly parents, it’s understandable that you want to do what is best for them.  It becomes a concern when children see their parents having trouble handling stairs and doing general daily activities around their home. 

But, bringing up the possibility of moving your parents into an assisted living facility can be difficult.

That generation has a different vision of assisted living – the old nursing home, end-of-the-line thought process.  This, unfortunately, can lead to feelings of resentment and stress on both sides.

Approach the topic delicately and ask how they think they are generally doing.  From there you can introduce the idea of getting help and explaining the steps.

Sometimes it’s the only way to keep them safe and healthy and give you peace of mind.

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