When is the Right Time to Talk about Assisted Living?

August 17, 2022

One of the biggest challenges people face is finding the right time to move into assisted living. While there is no set age for moving into assisted living, the thought of losing our independence can drag out the decision. Assessing potential signs, counseling, and talking with loved ones can help determine when the time is right.

Signs may vary from person to person. However, if you feel that you or a loved one is unable to live a safe life on your own, then the right time to talk is now. Don’t be a hero. Many millions of people care for their parents at home, often without formal training or support. However, not everyone is cut out for the demands of caregiving. It requires resolve, patience, and training.

The decision to move yourself or a loved one into assisted living can be emotionally taxing. Approach it carefully. Talking openly and weighing the pros and cons can go a long way to minimize possible guilt, anger, or fear of losing independence.

“Assisted living provides a good balance for individuals who need some assistance throughout the day, but who want to remain as independent as possible.” aplaceformom.com

When Should I Be Concerned About My Elderly Parent?

Eventually, it happens. Children recognize that their parents are beginning to need more day-to-day assistance. They see how their parents can no longer manage some things that used to be taken for granted, or how difficult it has become for them to cope with everyday life on their own. Add to that the current situation with the pandemic, where we’ve become even more worried about our families. Sometimes it can feel like we're hitting a wall. 

Children need to put themselves in their parents’ shoes and think about why they react so negatively to the idea of moving into a care facility. Perhaps because they’re afraid of giving up their autonomy. The loss of autonomy is a painful process for everyone. No one wants to become dependent on other people and give up our independence. Let’s not equate this with “senior stubbornness.” 

Possible signs that it's time to yourself move, or to talk about a parent moving to assisted living include:

  • Mobility problems
  • Memory loss
  • Personal and environmental hygiene problems
  • Poor eating habits
  • Forgetting medication
  • Difficulty with activities of daily living
  • Recent falls
  • Chronic health problems

“While moving is a big adjustment, assisted living can actually extend a senior’s independence, improve their social life and provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). Unfortunately, many families postpone this conversation for too long. An accident or medical crisis can suddenly necessitate a higher level of care.” agingcare.com

How Do You Know When it's Time to Move to Assisted Living?

Assisted living facilities and residential care homes are places for older adults or people with disabilities who need assistance with daily tasks. This is not the same as a nursing home. The larger facilities also have the ability to provide medical care with trained nurses available as required. Assisted living communities help with daily activities such as toileting, housekeeping, eating, and dressing.

The decision to care for your dependent relative yourself is a big step. It is often easy to say that you want to care for your parents or partner at home for as long as possible, but few people are aware of the implications of this decision.

Before you decide to care for your loved one, you should take time to discuss their care needs and wishes with them (and other family members). At the same time, you should become aware of your own needs and limits and decide whether you are physically and mentally capable of caring for your relative.

  • Do I have care skills and knowledge?
  • Does my home have the necessary space?
  • Am I physically capable of caring for my loved one?
  • Am I mentally able to cope with the additional burden of care?
  • Can I combine caring with my job and family?
  • Can I afford financially to care for my relative?

“Obvious red flags like a broken hip or a sudden downturn in health may speed up the decision-making process, but more often than not, there’s no one clear sign. However, there will be clues along the way that can help alert you that a change in living arrangements may be necessary:” consumeraffairs.com

What is the Average Time a Person Lives in Assisted Living?

Most people entering an assisted living facility do not require as much help as those entering a nursing home. There are government initiatives, combined with a shifting of assisted living business models, that in some instances actually encourage seniors to move back home after a period of care. Some people simply need help dressing, or eating, which can be managed in the home of a relative. 

Moving to an assisted living facility need not be a one-way ticket. Studies have shown that as many as 24% move from assisted living to another type of care. The length of time spent in assisted living depends on the services and facilities available, and the social support a person has. 

Studies suggest (UCSF) that the greater social support available to people, the lesser chance of their requiring a care facility. As in everything, the more hands you have, the easier and more successful the outcome.

“In the annual State of the Senior Housing Industry report released by the American Senior Housing Association (ASHA) the Senior Living industry reported average length of stay in 2008: Assisted Living (21 months), Independent Living (38 months), CCRC (77 months) and Alzheimer’s Care (17 months).” ccconnection.net

The services you can expect from an assisted living community vary. Services should fit the needs of yourself or your relative. Assisted living homes offer:

  • Daily meals
  • Monitoring of medication
  • Personal care, such as dressing and bathing
  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • 24-hour emergency care
  • Certain medical services
  • Recreational and social activities

“A report jointly prepared by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living found that the average length of stay for residents in an assisted living facility is about 28 months with the median being 22 months.” buenavidaestates.org

How Do You Talk to a Parent with Dementia about Assisted Living?

Deciding when to make the move into assisted living is one of the most difficult decisions for many family members. If it’s possible to discuss this at an early stage of an illness, for example, it’s easier to find the right solution. 

Talking with a loved one should always be done with respect and understanding for each other. It’s also advisable to have the conversation in a quiet minute and not when everyone is stressed.

“In preparation for this conversation, remember that this is about them and how their needs will be best served. Call a family meeting. Try your best to guide the conversation so that the decision is one you all come to. You may want to consider asking a third party to be involved, such as a doctor, faith leader or family friend. Be compassionate and be prepared.” seniorlivingresidences.com

Initially, some people may not be as receptive to the idea of moving into an assisted living community. For this reason, they mustn't feel pressured or forced to move. Similarly, involve them in counseling and conversation as you make the decision. This way you can avoid disregarding their feelings. It’s not uncommon to encounter anger, disbelief, and resistance. Remain calm and discuss the benefits rather than the disadvantages of assisted living.

“Be sure to look into senior living facilities that offer care for this specific type of illness as well. If your parent has been diagnosed with Dementia and you’re unsure, make sure places have a program dedicated to memory care. Visit each place and really understand how they will be able to help your parent move from residents of their own house to being residents of a shared community.” stonebridgeseniorliving.com

Are You Ready to Talk the Talk?

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