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When is the Right Time to Move to an Assisted Living Community

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by: Acts Retirement-Life Community

Deciding when — and if — it’s a good time to consider moving into assisted living is a highly personal choice. If you’re a caregiver or if you’re making this decision for yourself, here are some common topics to think about. 

Seniors who are feeling the strain of maintaining a safe, happy lifestyle in their current home do have options. They could move to assisted living, or into a relative’s home, or some other solution. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and only you or your loved ones will know when it’s time for a living arrangement that provides you with more care and companionship. 

While there’s no rulebook to guide you, there are common telltale signs that suggest it might be time for someone to consider moving. Use them as guideposts for making your own decision. Here are the most common signs that it might be time to start thinking about moving. 

Important note: Please be aware that there is a distinct difference between independent living and assisted living.  

Independent Living is typically defined as a community of older adults who live in an active community filled with educational, recreational and social activities. Older adults who choose to move to an independent living community typically do so in search of a healthier, worry-free lifestyle that allows them to embrace their passions, make new friends and enjoy life to the fullest.  

Assisted Living, although designed to provide many of the social, recreational and health benefits mentioned above, is designed to cater to the needs of older adults who require a combination of residential housing and supportive health care services. These residents may need additional help with meals, medication or personal care. 

 If you want to learn more about the difference between independent living and assisted living, read about the types of senior living options 

  1. Signs It’s Time to Make a Change

For some folks, the decision to move is an easy one because circumstances dictate a higher level of care. Here are some examples. 

Safety Becomes an Issue 

When someone faces danger in their own home because of failing health, this is a very large red flag. Memory loss or forgetfulness often causes any or all of the following safety hazards, meaning it’s time to make changes. Some are also considered to be early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease:  

  • Cooking dangers. The stove accidentally gets left on repeatedly. 
  • Kitchen accidents. These begin occurring more frequently: small fires, broken dishes, burns, burnt food, etc. 
  • Food spoilage. It’s a problem when it goes unnoticed. Sometimes, either because of cognitive problems or neurological damage to the senses, seniors end up eating spoiled milk, rotten meat, and other types of spoiled food that puts them in danger of becoming sick. 
  • Frequent falls. People become frailer as they age and they also begin to lose their sense of balance. This often results in frequent falls which, not surprisingly, are the number one cause of trips to the emergency room for older Americans. 
  • Car accidents. Seniors are often apt to feel challenged when driving, whether it’s because of failing eyesight, decreased mobility, or cognitive issues. They are also statistically more prone to suffer more injuries than younger people when they crash. 
  • Medication mix-ups. Medication schedules and routines are hard for anyone of any age to manage, but seniors often feel extra challenged. Forgetting to take pills, taking the wrong dose, or running out can have serious health consequences. 

 Some of the issues above are caused by a lack of mental stimulation. Read how retirement communities work to prevent cognitive decline in seniors. 

Health Becomes an Issue 

  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). The early warning signs of dementia and AD include memory loss. Forgetfulness is natural as we age, but if someone is forgetting whether they ate lunch, that’s a clear sign of a possible health problem. Get checked out by a doctor. If dementia or AD are possibilities, moving to assisted living sooner rather than later can make sense on a number of important levels. Many communities have treatment and care plans that can greatly improve quality of life for people at any stage of dementia. 
  • More trips to the ER. When falls are happening more frequently or when a chronic health issue is worsening, there’s a good chance that someone might need round-the-clock care. In many instances, that level of care requires more than a family caregiver can give. In these cases, moving to assisted living can not only improve the health of a senior, but can also help to improve the relationship to their caregiver. 
  • Problems with the tasks of daily living. When a senior can no longer button their shirt, there’s often a workaround for stiff fingers: zippers, pullovers, etc. But when they’re having trouble with everyday tasks like moving about the house, toileting, or brushing their teeth, there can be health concerns (not to mention quality of life concerns). Moving to assisted living means getting help with those tasks in a dignified manner and a caring environment. 
  1. Subtle Signs that Someone Needs More Care

Sometimes the red flags aren’t as obvious as the danger signs listed just above. Subtle signs that someone is struggling to maintain a normal lifestyle can also mean it’s time to have a discussion. Here are a few examples:  

  • Problems managing finances. With banking changing so fast these days, it’s understandable that older Americans can sometimes feel bewildered by modern money management. But if checks are regularly being bounced, bills are left unpaid, and investments are being forgotten about, it’s time to get some help.  

Want tips? Read Financial Planning Advice for Seniors   

  • Nutrition is suffering. We’re all prone to the occasional nutritional shortcut once in a while, but if someone is eating out of cans or takeout every day, that can be signs of something larger going on. Seniors who are depressed or experiencing mobility issues or cognitive decline often give up on cooking. 
  • Socializing is almost nil. Social circles get smaller as we retire; friends move away and families get spread out across the country. Nevertheless, it’s important to stay social. It’s been proven that isolation can affect a senior’s health as much as tobacco use or obesity. 

Making a Decision 

Asking yourself — or your loved one, if you’re a caregiver — these questions can help you with your decision. But these are by no means the only considerations to make. As you explore your options with your family members or spouse, keep in mind that everyone is different and there may be conversations you’ll want to have beyond the common concerns we’ve outlined here.  

If you find that you are unsure of whether you or your loved one should move to an assisted living facility, you should read about the alternatives to nursing homes. It’s likely that today’s modern, active retirement communities are very different than the nursing home you are picturing in your mind. And Continuing Care Retirement Communities may offer the perfect intermediary solution – they are independent retirement communities that offer extra levels of healthcare based on the need, meaning a senior can live in an active, independent community until such time when true assisted living or even deeper healthcare becomes necessary, and that level of care can occur right within the same campus.  

One final word: what you decide will have an impact on your lifestyle as well as everyone who’s close to you. Ideally, you’ll want to talk things over many times with family members. So give yourself plenty of time and allow yourself the space to make a good choice that not only makes sense, but feels right, too.