Is It Time to Have 'The Talk' With Your Senior Loved One About Assisted Living?
As your senior loved one gets older, you may have tried to casually mention assisted living as an option, but you were likely met with resistance. At the time you shrugged it off, but at what point is assisted living necessary to ensure your loved one remains safe while continuing to thrive? Sure, you're a caregiver, but is that care enough?
Talk with the Doctor
If you don't already do so, consider accompanying your loved one to their medical appointments to not only be a second pair of ears but ask questions and address any concerns you might have about medications, mental/physical changes, or test results. You might think about scheduling an appointment with a geriatrician who specializes in age-related health conditions and can help put a plan in place to prevent and manage common senior issues such as falls, memory loss, and frailty. A geriatrician is a great person to talk to if you're having concerns about whether your loved one's home is the best place for them.
Examine the Home
One of the easiest ways to tell if your senior loved one is struggling is by examining their home. You may notice bills piling up, clutter, and an overall lack of cleanliness (dust, dirt, mold, food smells, dishes in the sink). Perhaps the yard is lacking maintenance, a pet is going neglected, or issues driving have resulted in multiple missed appointments or an inability to get the necessities such as groceries and prescriptions.
Falling Can Be Dangerous
Seniors are more prone to falls due to lack of strength, reduced bone mass, changes in balance, vision changes, medications, and environmental hazards. Many falls result in fractures, but even those that don't cause injury can have a serious impact, as many seniors can't get up without assistance, which is why it's a good idea to get your senior loved one a medical alert system. These devices can connect seniors to emergency services if they've fallen or are dealing with another medical issue such as a stroke or seizure.
Pay Attention to Areas in Which They Struggle
You might have that gut feeling that assisted living is the next step, but it helps to be sure. Some of the biggest signs that a change is needed is if you notice personal hygiene issues, trouble with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, cooking, eating), medication mishaps, or new or worsening health conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, dementia/Alzheimer's, lung disease, and heart disease.
Do Your Research
It's time to have a conversation. More importantly, this is a process the two of you need to do together. Before you broach the subject, do some research first using an online search tool so you are prepared with a few local assisted living options that fit your loved one's needs. It can be helpful to have pictures and a list of specific amenities/features to give a visual.
Starting the Conversation
Talking with your loved one about assisted living isn't easy, so try to find an opportunity to broach the subject naturally such as when they are mentioning the struggle they had getting dressed or after a minor fall. It could be that you need to sit down and discuss your concerns, and perhaps get their doctor involved in the conversation too. Many seniors are resistant, which is where having a support network is crucial. Find a calm setting such as with a counsellor or therapist where you can both communicate your feelings and emotions in an environment that is helpful, supportive, and understanding. Counselling can help everyone come to terms with the situation, and work through any issues and concerns without sacrificing your relationship. If family members disagree about options, you can also hire the services of an elder mediator. A mediator will listen to each family member and present possible solutions.
When you start having concerns about the well-being of your loved one, it's time to speak up. Talking about assisted living isn't easy, and you may be met with resistance. Stay the course, keep the conversation going, and involve professionals to calmly arrive at this next step in life.