Every life journey is unique. Even as we age, we continue to follow distinct paths and advance through the aging process in very different ways. As a result, there is no clearly defined point at which older adults begin to need help with day-to-day activities and would benefit from moving to an assisted-living community. However, according to Gayle Young, Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations for Sunset Retirement Communities, there are certain signs that can help adult children determine when it might be time for an aging loved one to make that transition. They include (among others):
Activities of daily living are becoming more challenging
Daily activities such as dressing, bathing, grooming, toileting, and transitioning in and out of bed are an integral part of everyday life, and it’s not unusual to need a little help with these activities as we get older. But if an aging loved one is having significant difficulty with daily activities that necessitates a high level of direct care and oversight, assisted living might be a good option. “One of the primary indicators that assisted living might be a appropriate for an older adult is if he or she is beginning to require much more hands-on assistance to complete these fundamental tasks,” states Young.
A chronic health condition is worsening
Chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, or COPD, are often manageable at home during the early stages of the disease with a little help from family caregivers and routine medical visits. But as these conditions progress, symptoms often become more acute, expert medical care is needed more frequently, and effective at-home management tends to become more difficult. “Choosing a quality assisted-living facility will not only result in more effective disease management, but also help free family members from the exhausting routine of around-the-clock caregiving,” Young says.
Fall risk is on the rise
Factors such as declining strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and vision can significantly increase the risk of older adults falling and experiencing a debilitating or even fatal injury. Some of the signs that can indicate an older adult is at increased risk of falling or is already experiencing falls are unexplained bumps, bruises, or other injuries; holding on to furniture and walls when walking; visual impairments; dizziness or impaired balance; weakness, numbness, or reduced sensation in the lower extremities; cognitive decline; and taking multiple medications (aka polypharmacy).
Hygiene and cleanliness are declining
Another common indicator that an older adult might be ready for assisted living is if he or she seems to be having increasing difficulty with personal hygiene habits or with routine household cleaning. The former may be evidenced by an unkempt appearance, body odor, and/or wearing the same clothing repeatedly; the latter by a cluttered living space, spilled food or beverages that aren’t wiped up, dirty dishes piling up in the sink and on counters, etc.
Healthy eating is getting harder
As people age, a wide variety of physical, emotional, social, and economic factors can increase their risk of malnutrition. The signs of improper nutrition in older adults can be subtle and difficult to detect. Young advises, “Some of the ‘red flags’ of poor nutrition in older adults include a once hearty eater losing his or her appetite or losing interest in favorite foods, unexplained weight loss or clothes fitting more loosely than normal, unhealthy skin tone, poor wound healing, a normally active individual becoming lethargic, and finding expired or spoiled food in your aging loved one’s refrigerator.”
Medication is managed poorly
Older adults often take multiple medications to treat various chronic ailments, but failing to take medications at the right time and in the proper dose can have serious health consequences. If adult children notice that their aging loved one is having increasing difficulty managing his or her medication schedule properly—skipping or doubling up on doses, forgetting whether they’ve taken a medication, etc.—it’s time to give some serious thought to assisted living.
Memory issues are emerging
Of course, many of the issues mentioned above go hand in hand with memory loss, which in and of itself can be another good reason to consider assisted living with memory support for an aging loved one. Some of the early warning signs of memory loss to watch for include becoming lost or disoriented in familiar places, repeating stories or questions in the same conversation, forgetting how to do things the individual has done many times before, having difficulty recalling details of recent events or conversations, frequently forgetting appointments or activities, frequently struggling to find and use the right words in conversation, and exhibiting confusion about time and place.
They want to stay as independent as possible
It may seem counterintuitive, but choosing assisted living can actually help older adults maximize their independence and maintain the highest possible quality of life. “By joining a community where help is provided for daily activities, the risk of falls and other accidents is significantly reduced, transportation concerns are eliminated, delicious and nutritious meals are provided, and social opportunities abound, older adults stand to gain much more than they leave behind when they make the transition to assisted living,” Young states.
Young encourages families who are considering the option of assisted living for an aging loved one to visit a community and explore all that it has to offer. She notes that in addition to offering the day-to-day support residents need, many assisted-living communities strive to create a home-like, family-friendly environment by welcoming pets, supporting intergenerational activities, and providing outstanding dining experiences. “A quality assisted-living community is one that allows older adults to flourish and thrive,” she adds.
Sunset Retirement Communities offers a full care continuum that includes assisted living, memory care, and health care at Sunset House; assisted living, health care, memory support, and a state-of-the-art rehab center at Sunset Village; independent living apartments at The Woodlands; active-living homes at Fieldstone Villas; and hospice and palliative care services through Ashanti Hospice and Palliative Care. For more information, please call 419-536-4645 (Sunset House), 419-724-1200 (Sunset Village), 419-724-1220 (The Woodlands), or 419-386-2686 (Fieldstone Villas), or visit www.sunset-communities.org. ❦