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  When Is It Time for Assisted Living
 
   
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  Deciding on Assisted Living
   
  Caring For Aging Parents
   
  How To Know When It's Time For Assisted Living
   
  Not A Nursing Home
   

 

 

How Do We Know When It's Time

 

Assisted living is an exciting option for seniors who need some help with activities of daily living yet want to retain as much independence and privacy as possible.

Meals, laundry and housekeep are standard as are a variety of activities and outings.

Assisted living facilities are licensed and regulated by individual states, which explains why there can be differences in terminolgy and services in different areas of the country.

For many of us, there will come a time when we find that one or both of our parents need our help to ensure their well-being during their senior years. It may not be something you had planned on, but it's just the way it is.

Many of us are reluctant to acknowledge that our parents can no longer adequately take care of themselves. Sometimes, it makes us realize our own mortality, but that's a separate matter for us to deal with. Right now, our job is to provide for our parents in the best way that we can, just as they did for us when we were children. It can be a daunting job - encompassing the many facets of their lives and their needs. To say it can be overwhelming might just be an understatement.

What follows is a general guideline of items to be considered. The effects of aging are gradual, so your parent may not need help in all areas initially, unless a sudden health issue has caused them to lose a significant amount of functionality. If the signs of aging are gradual, it may be easiest to get involved a little at a time. It will be easier for you to grow into your new responsibilities and it may be easier for them to begin to give up some of the control.

What follows is a general guideline of items to be considered.

Medical Care

Is your parent able to get to medical appointments independently? Can they drive or use public transportation safely? When they get to the appointment, are they able to communicate effectively to the doctor or health professional? When they are given instructions, are the able to understand these instructions and follow the prescribed treatment? Are they able to hear the doctor or health professional?

It may be time to offer to accompany them for their appointments if the answer to one or more of these questions is "no". There is certainly a benefit to having a family member with them when the senior becomes aware of a new medical condition and the suggested treatment.

Transportation

Is you parent still driving? Do you consider their driving to be safe? You might want to consider riding with them to find out how safe they are. Too often, the licensing agencies don't have the manpower to give behind the wheel driving tests to senior as they age. If they don't drive, are they able to use public transportation? If using public transportation is a little more than they can manage, you may need to get involved by providing transportation for medical appointments, grocery shopping, church services, etc.

Healthy Eating

Is your parent able to shop for groceries and prepare nutritious meals? Do they refrigerate the foods that requires refrigeration? Have you checked their refrigerator to ensure that none of their food is spoiled or outdated? It's a fact that their generation was taught not to waste anything, and they are often reluctant to destroy any food that might be beyond it's safe shelf life. Is their diet balanced, with adequate protein, vitamins and minerals? If they have special needs, like a heart condition or diabetes, are they limiting saturated fats and sugar?

Medications

Are your parents taking their prescribed medications in the correct amounts and at the appointed time? Do any of their medications have special instructions that need to be followed? If any of these are a concern, it might be time to begin to be involved. Are your parent placing orders for refills so that they don't run out of a needed medication?

Exercise

Is your parent able to get the appropriate exercise as deemed appropriate by their physician? Even those who have illnesses or special conditions are usually advised to have a modified exercise program. Their doctor should be able to tell you what is best. Most seniors don't like to exercise alone, and they often disregard their doctor's suggestions. Maybe they would be more likely to participate in an exercise program if they didn't have to do it alone.

Religion

Religious beliefs are an important part of anyone's life and advanced years is no reason to abandon them. In fact, for many seniors, adhering to their religious beliefs is what life is all about. Regardless of our own personal beliefs, our parents are greatly benefited if they are able to continue to practice their own religion. Are they able to attend services and observe the customs associated with their beliefs? If not, do they need help in finding outreach program that will help satisfy this need?

Finances

Are they able to effectively manage their assets for their own well-being? Can they still balance a checkbook? Can they manage cash? Can they say "no" to solicitors or even well-meaning relatives who are asking for a loan or a gift? Protecting assets to ensure that a senior's needs are met is not an easy job. At some point, they may need assistance.

Safety

Is your parent able to keep their home safe and clean? Are their danger in the home? Are they vulnerable to anyone who might want to take advantage of them?

Socialization

Is your parent alone most of the time, or are they interacting with others regularly? Are they excessively lonely? Are they isolated or depressed? This is often a concern that is not easily addressed.

Housing

This is the big one. Do your parents need assistance with so many of the items listed above in addition to other needs that are not addressed here, they might need help with housing. There are many options for housing, and it's a huge decision to make. I will present some of the most common alternatives for consideration.

Can they hire help in home? It could be any kind of help ranging from light housekeeping to a full-care personal assistant. Can they afford the expense and are the able to manage the help? Will they be able to check references and ensure that the help is qualified and reliable?

Can they live with a family member? Would this work for them? Would this work for the rest of the family? Remember, each has our own varying needs for privacy and independence, so give careful consideration to this option.

Check out the many assisted living facilities in your area. The available choices may include board and care homes, adult family homes or larger assisted living facilities. These homes are growing in popularity and the staff works very hard to meet the needs of the residents. They are different than nursing homes in that residents maintain a certain degree of independence. The costs of assisted living vary from state to state.

There are many assisted living placement agencies that will be happy to help you evaluate your situation and make the best decision.

Could they consider a move to assisted living? This comes in many forms, from homes that hire help to assist 3 - 6 residents all the way to facilities that have hundreds of residents. The services run the gamut, as do the charges for these services. Medical insurance usually does not help with these expenses. Long term care insurance might cover much of the cost.

Assisted living is usually for those who get along pretty well, but require assistance in one or more of the areas mentioned above. The fees are often on a sliding scale, where those who receive more services pay a little more. The assisted living facilities that I have encountered address all of the needs mentioned here. Residents are free to live independently in an environment that makes available all that they need for their safety and well-being.

Much research is needed to find appropriate housing and make this very important decision. It's a very personal decision, and not a decision that can be made easily.

Learn as much as you can about all the senior housing options that are available in your area. Everything you read and each facility you visit will help you to get closer to determining your own need. There are adult family homes, retirement communities, board and care homes, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities and other options. With all these options, and maybe because there are so many choices, it can be overwhelming. There's nothing wrong with getting help.

A few of the services offered by assisted living placement services are:
1) Determining if Assisted Living is Right for You
2) Determining the level of care needed
3) Locating the home or facility best suited to your needs
4) Helping you to negotiate the lowest possible price for you and your family
5) Helping you with finanacial planning so that your resources can be used wisely to cover the costs involved
6) Ensuring that the facility you choose is able to handle any special needs that you may have.

There are a number of placement agencies that will be more than happy to help you sort through the maze and make the best choice for your loved one. This is their field of expertise and they are happy to share the knowledge they've gathered with you. A few of our favorites are A Place For Mom, Elderlink, and Assisted Living. In Southern California and Southern Arizona, one of our favorites is Assisted Living Placements. Most referral agencies (also called placement agencies) will provide their services free of charge.