How do you know when it’s time for an elderly relative to enter assisted living? Just as important, how do you broach the subject? This can be a delicate, if not painful, decision. Some senior citizens refuse to see that living alone is no longer a safe or prudent option.
These people might reject the possibility of assisted living until something catastrophic happens, especially if the program requires that they leave a home they may have lived in for decades. On the other hand, younger relatives might make assumptions about their elderly kin that aren’t true. Just because an elderly widow or widower is living alone doesn’t automatically mean he or she must go into an assisted living situation. It might also not be time for assisted living just because the elderly relative has stopped driving or has given up his or her car. And forgetfulness isn’t a sign that assisted living has become a necessity. If the forgetfulness is more inconvenient than a safety concern, don’t let that be the sole deciding criterion.
When it’s Time
It might be time to seriously consider assisted living when it becomes apparent that a senior citizen can no longer cook, attend to personal hygiene, or follow basic safety precautions. If you are spending an inordinate amount of time worrying about your parents’ safety or feeling resentful about the time spent taking care of a relative, this can be an indicator that the time has come to contemplate assisted living options.
Caring for an aging relative can take a toll on your time and emotional reserves. If your own life no longer seems to exist or you are missing important events in the lives of other loved ones, such as your kids’ activities, it’s natural to feel resentful about the time you are missing in your own life. This resentment must be taken into account when making a decision about assisted living, because it can negatively affect the care you provide, even subconsciously. And if your elderly relative seems particularly lonely, this can also be a sign that a change is imminent. The companionship that can be found in an assisted living facility could be a significant benefit, regardless of any other factors.
Preparing for an assisted living situation should take place well before it’s needed. Information about your family member needs to be collected. This includes health status, insurance information, and financial and personal records. Some senior citizens balk at revealing this sort of information. In this case you can explain that an assisted living or other facility will need to know these things, and collecting this information now just might save money in the long run. It will certainly save time. It’s crucial, however, that the senior citizen, if he or she is of sound mind, be included in planning. Allowing the senior as much independence as possible is important for his or her mental and even physical wellbeing. Remind your relative that with assisted living, help with everyday hygiene and other day- to-day tasks can be provided, but around-the-clock nursing is not the goal. Autonomy will be maintained.
When the time comes, or is approaching, be as open and honest with the senior citizen in your life that this decision needs to be made for the benefit of everyone involved, and that it doesn’t mean loss of independence. New friendships and less worry about daily chores might even be a welcome change.