There comes a time when the roles of parent and child are flipped. When children are now adult caregivers and their parents are now childlike seniors. For every family, that flip comes at a different time and in a different way. Sometimes the changes are subtle and slow. Other times the shift happens all at once as the result of a medical diagnosis or condition.
Talking with your parents about their when is it time for assisted living should start early. The conversation is always easier before their medical needs make it a necessity and everyone is in crisis mode. As a child or spouse, it can be very difficult to address these concerns with your loved one. But it is better to address them than to wait until they hurt themselves or someone else.
Signs it is Time to Talk to Parents About Assisted Living
If you’re concerned about your parent(s) ability to care for themselves, check for these common warning signs:
- Eating/Meal Concerns: Are they eating well? Check the pantry and the refrigerator. Is it full of good things to eat, fresh foods and lots of supplies for cooking or is it sparse – showing that going to the grocery store or preparing meals is now a struggle for your parent? Lack of proper nutrition can lead to confusion, diabetes concerns, lower immunity and dehydration.
- Basic Hygiene: When you visit, do they look like they are sleeping ok? Are they groomed and clean and are their clothes fresh and ready to use or is everything a little worn/ripped/dirty or wrinkled because its too hard to keep their clothing clean?
- Household Care: Look around the house. Is it in good repair? Is it picked up and the kitchen clean with everything put away? If mom was always meticulous about her kitchen and now it’s always a mess? This may be a sign that she is having trouble keeping up with the housework.
- Check into their schedule: Are they staying home more than normal? If they were normally outgoing and always up for a car trip, and now an outing to church or even just the grocery store tires them out, this may be a sign of reduced ability or increased depression, sometimes both.
- Medication Mismanagement: It is easy to become confused with the amount and frequency of the medication which leads to forgetting dosages or doubling up on them. There are several products in the marketplace that can help, like planners with alarms that only open to the proper compartment. So watch carefully. Many times this is one of the first signs of trouble and should be taken very seriously. It can cause confusion, depression, dehydration, and falls that can lead to hospitalization or worse.
- Isolation/Withdrawing: If your loved one is starting to isolate themselves or withdraw from doing things that they love, it is important to notice and address this. This could be due to depression, dementia, fear or a variety of other factors.
- Forgetfulness: There can be many causes of forgetfulness or short term memory loss. But checking in on their memory frequently is important. Seeing a doctor should be done to rule out any issues related to dementia or medication related concerns.
- Falling: Of all these warning signs, probably the one that signals “when is it time for assisted living” is if your elderly parent falls or goes to the floor and then cannot get up. If your mom or dad has to pass the night on the living room floor because they could not get up and had to sleep there until someone showed up to help them, that’s an emergency situation that calls for immediate action.
Starting the Conversation:
The idea of assisted living can bring with it a whole host of emotions. It may bring fears of mortality, reservations over independence, and emotional concerns and financial worry.
Consequently, these important conversations are put off for too long, until the time for assisted living becomes urgent. Instead, be proactive about talking to your parents, and tackle the issue in small steps in peaceful settings.
- Start Small: Assuming you’re not rushed due to medical crisis, begin by planting the seeds of mentioning senior care. Start early in times when a parent is complaining about the difficulty of accomplishing everything he or she would like to accomplish. Mention how assisted living could help, but don’t be pushy. Keep the discussion going little by little.
- Recruit your siblings: If you have brothers or sisters, first talk to them about their opinions on assisted living and work together to kindly encourage Mom or Dad to take that immense step. As the need becomes more pressing, consider a group meeting in an environment of love and empathy, not judgment or force.
- Take your parents on a tour. With a senior transition specialist on your side, you can actually take a look at many communities without any obligation. Many modern facilities are more like luxury resorts than nursing homes and may actually help your loved one be more excited about their future than ever before.
- Get their doctor involved: If your parent’s doctor is able to speak with you without violating privacy concerns, talk with them about how much care your doctor thinks your parent actually needs.
- Present All Options: Even though you may prefer they move into a facility, be sure to present other options as well, such as an in-home nursing, hired help for housekeeping and meal prep, or an emergency alarm system in the house.
- Speak carefully. This is a sensitive topic, use words such as “community” and “retirement-style living” are usually better than “assisted living” or “nursing home.” Stay calm and pleasant in your tone, and avoid sounding condescending or frustrated.
- Listen First: It’s important to talk with your parents, not at them. Listen to their concerns first rather than suppose you know best. Maybe your parents are afraid you won’t visit as often, maybe they fear the grandchildren won’t be around, maybe they aren’t sure if they can bring their own things. Listen to their concerns and work to find solutions rather than judgment
- Review Finances: Many parents may be concerned that assisted living is too expensive and that it will quickly exhaust their resources (and your inheritance). Consulting with a senior transition specialist can help educate you and your parents. Review their finances with them and be sure they are making the best use of their resources for their own future.
Forcing Loved Ones into Assisted Living
The transition into an assisted care facility can be the most emotionally difficult decision to make. No one wants to force their loved ones into an assisted living or memory care facility. But when they need help caring for their own health or safety, difficult decisions must be made.
This idea of “forcing” someone into assisted living can seem barbaric to some, but in most situations, it is very necessary to the overall wellbeing of the person. For example, if your loved one forgets to turn the stove off, has trouble getting around, or falls frequently then family members have no choice but to relocate their loved one.
Specialized Care for Memory Loss
With cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s, the family member responsible for placing them may undergo much emotional distress in having to deal with their loved one as if they are the child. It’s especially important for the family member placing their loved one to become educated on the effects that dementia and Alzheimer’s have on the brain. It is also important to understand the difference between these two terms.
What is Dementia?
- Not a specific disease; describes a wide range of symptoms
- Associated with a decline in memory
- Can reduce a person’s ability to perform daily activities
What is Alzheimer’s?
- Most common form of dementia
- Causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior
- Not a normal part of aging
- Progressive; symptoms worsen over time
When illnesses like dementia begin to take hold, your loved one might still seem like themselves, but their ability to reason is being strongly affected. Family members who are trying to place a loved one experiencing dementia must keep in mind that although their loved one may seem as if they are just being obstinate, they simply may not have the ability to go through the reasoning process with you. It’s at this point that a family member may have to decide, even if that decision goes against their loved one’s wishes.
Stepping Up for Love
With proper education and support, family members can find some encouragement towards making this tough decision by understanding the specific effects that these conditions have on the brain.
If you need help speaking to your loved one about signs it is time for assisted living, don’t hesitate to call Patti. As a certified Dementia Care Practitioner, Patti can guide you through the difficult journey of finding the perfect place for your loved one.