When Is It Time for Assisted Living?

It’s natural to want our loved ones to live as independently as they can for as long as is safely possible. However, there may come a time when an aging relative is not able to stay home alone safely. When that time comes varies by individual, which has many people wondering just when it is time for assisted living.

Only your family and a healthcare professional can ultimately answer that question. As a general rule, though, when someone has difficulties completing activities of daily living on their own, it might be time for assisted living.

What are Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

Activities of daily living, or ADLs, are so named because they are daily activities people need to complete to go about their day-to-day lives. Most experts identify six physical, or basic, ADLs:

  1. Ambulating – moving about
  2. Feeding – feeding one’s self
  3. Dressing – selecting outfits and putting them on
  4. Personal hygiene – performing basic hygienic tasks
  5. Continence – holding off urination or bowel movements until a toilet is available
  6. Toileting – using the toilet

What are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)?

Instrumental activities of daily living, or IADLs, are activities that require complex thinking. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) identifies 12 IADLs:

  1. Care of others
  2. Care of pets
  3. Child rearing
  4. Communication management
  5. Driving and community mobility
  6. Financial management
  7. Health management and maintenance
  8. Home establishment and management
  9. Meal prep and cleanup
  10. Religious and spiritual activities and expression
  11. Safety and emergency maintenance
  12. Shopping

10 Warning Signs It’s Time for Assisted Living

Blue graphic listing the warning signs that it's time for elderly parents to move into an assisted living facility

Are you considering assisted living options for your loved one?

It’s time for help when someone cannot complete ADLs or IADLs on their own. Inability to complete ADLs/IADLs may manifest in the following ways.

1. Issues Driving

When your aging loved one has issues driving, it’s time for them to make some lifestyle changes. Those changes can take many forms. For example, if they only have issues due to a slight visual impairment, all that may be required is a trip to the optometrist and for your relative to only drive during the day and in areas they are already familiar with. If the issues are severe or due to degenerative chronic conditions, it’s likely best for your older family member to stop driving entirely.

2. Neglected Pets

Neglected pets may be another sign that an aging parent needs outside help.

For example, pets that seem underweight or lethargic may not have been fed or given reliable access to clean water, which may indicate that their owners have memory problems.

Fortunately, moving an older adult into a senior care home doesn’t always mean they have to surrender their pets. There are plenty of senior care locations that are pet friendly.

3. Unintentional Weight Loss

‚ÄčIf your loved one looks lighter than usual, discreetly ask if the weight loss was intentional or not. Unintentional weight loss may be due to a variety of reasons, including reduced caloric intake due to:

  • Poor dental health or missing dentures
  • Forgetting to eat
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste
  • Reduced appetite

Some of these issues are easy enough to address. For instance, if the aging adult is not eating because of lost dentures, the solution could be as easy as getting a replacement set. Other times, the weight loss may be due to something more serious, such as forgetting to eat due to dementia.

4. Problems with Personal Hygiene

Is dirty laundry piling up? Are hair and teeth unbrushed? Does the living space generally look cluttered or otherwise dirty?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be a sign that your loved one is having issues completing ADLs on their own. That means they require outside assistance, either from family members or hired caregivers.

5. New or Worsening Health Problems

New or worsening health conditions can be difficult for anyone to manage; this fact is especially true for seniors. Elderly adults with new or worsening physical or cognitive issues may require around-the-clock assistance from trained professionals.

6. Recent Falls

The risk of injury and hospitalization from falls drastically increases as we age. Seniors who have recently fallen may need short-term care in a skilled nursing or assisted living facility while they recover.

In some cases, moving a senior into a specialized care facility may be the best way to reduce the risk of falling.

7. Gets Lost in Familiar Places

People who get lost in familiar places may be exhibiting signs of dementia. If your aging relative is wandering around their home or other familiar locations, it’s a good sign that they need to have a healthcare professional assess them.

8. Not Taking their Medicine as Prescribed

Most people forget to take their medications from time to time. Although, constantly forgetting to take prescription meds could indicate a larger problem, such as Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

9. Money Problems

Forgetting the occasional bill is normal. Frequently forgetting to make payment deadlines is cause for concern, however. For many seniors, new money problems could indicate something serious, such as dementia.

10. Social Isolation

Social isolation may be a sign of depression.

Mental health may not immediately come to mind when thinking of old age, but research shows that 18.4% of people in the United States aged 45 and older experience symptoms of depression. Even worse, the demographic with the highest suicide rate (39.9 out of 100,000) in the U.S. are males over the age of 75, according to the CDC.

This all means it’s critical to take the mental health of seniors seriously.

Regular communication with friends and family may ease some symptoms of depression in older adults, but it’s still important to get professional help for seniors showing signs of depression. After all, the depression itself may be a symptom of another medical condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

What are Signs of Depression in the Elderly?

Signs of depression include:

  • Mood swings, including intense feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Feeling worthless or hopeless
  • Changes in appetite and subsequent changes in weight
  • Changes in sleeping patterns and sleep quality
  • Feeling fatigued and/or feeling restless
  • Aches and pains without a clear cause (that don’t disappear with other treatments)

Anyone contemplating suicide or self-harm can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for FREE 24/7. It is available over the phone (800-273-8255) or online. Services are available in both English and Spanish.

Is it Time to Move Your Loved One to an Assisted Living Community?

Types of Senior Care Facilities

Not all senior care locations are the same, and which one is best for your loved one depends on the level of care they need.

Independent Living Communities

This type of senior housing is for active senior citizens who need little to no help with ADLs; the only assistance they may receive is with laundry, appliance maintenance, or lawn care. They are great for older adults who are able to safely care for themselves but want to live in a communal setting.

Memory Care Centers

Memory care facilities are for patients with some sort of memory loss, such as people with dementia. They can be entire facilities dedicated to these residents or they can be specialized units housed within larger senior care facilities, such as skilled nursing facilities or assisted living facilities.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are nursing homes. That means they are facilities that house older and disabled residents who require the services of a skilled nursing staff 24/7.

Home Care Options

Home care is a general term that can cover a variety of senior care options. Home care services can include:

  • Respite care for routine caregivers
  • Help with personal care
  • Companionship services

Assisted Living Communities

Assisted living communities offer their residents less independence than independent living situations do. That said, residents of these communities often have far more freedom than residents of memory care or skilled nursing facilities do. That makes these locations well-suited for older adults who need only some help with ADLs or IADLs.

What’s Next?

The well-being and quality of life of your loved ones should always be the priority. When they can no longer take care of themselves, it’s time to ask some hard questions. Two such questions to ask yourself? If their living situation needs to change, and if they need to move into a long-term care community, such as an assisted living community.

It can be difficult to answer these questions. Actually finding a senior living community doesn’t have to be hard, though. Caring Advisor’s directory is full of thousands of eldercare locations across the country, so you can find your aging relative a welcoming community when they need it, where they need it.