Ten Warning Signs That Assisted Living May Be Needed
by Nicole Jewell, Contributing Writer
Let’s be realistic. Time catches up with all of us, and slows down the best of us. Certainly there are some individuals who are capable of living full, active “in the now” lives well into their 90s. But sadly, these people are a rarity. Even with medical breakthroughs, the body still physically wears down and sometimes mental faculties go the same route.
People who suffer the debilitations of age may eventually find themselves making the decision to go into assisted living – or having that decision put to them by loved ones. It doesn't happen out of spite or malice when a family advocates the change.
When the choices are living alone and being at constant risk of injury, sickness, death or other unpleasantness; or living in an environment where the care and well-being of a loved one are looked after in her twilight years, the choice is fairly clear. Assisted living may be the way to go and there are many options to consider. What are some of the most prominent warning signs that assisted living may be needed?
- Careless Housekeeping: When you go to your loved one’s home, are her belongings strewn about all over the place? Is there spoiled food in the refrigerator? Does she show a lack of interest or inclination in maintaining the cleanliness of her home or in engaging in domestic affairs?
- Lessened Attention Regarding Personal Care: An unkempt appearance, wearing spotted, stained or otherwise dirty or worn out clothing and declining hygiene may all be signs that something is wrong.
- Loss of Mobility: As we age, our bodies slow down and motor functions become impaired. Arthritis and other age-related conditions can make it difficult for your loved one to get around independently.
- Dangerous Driving: Being able to get around is something many people take for granted. If you notice that your loved one’s car keeps turning up with dents, dings and scratches or if he tends to get in more accidents or get more tickets the older he gets, this may be a sign that driving is not a safe option anymore. Many seniors can come to resent the failure of their aging bodies, and may believe they can beat it, and thus put themselves and others at risk as motor and cognitive abilities falter.
- Loss of Memory: Many folks stay sharp and active right up to their very last day. Then there are those who were once vivacious and witty, but start to forget where they are, whether or not they did or said a thing, who you are, or even who they are. Memory loss and other mental failings and maladies like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can have a dramatic impact on the life of your loved one. Faltering mental capabilities may indicate that it’s time to look into assisted living with a focus on keeping them on schedule.
- Mismanagement of Funds: Your loved one worked his or her whole life. Maybe they retired at 65 and were still as savvy about money as ever at the time. But 10, 15, 20 years down the road, perhaps money and the ability to manage it has become less important. Does he spend without concern for how much he actually has? Does he go the other way and save every penny to the detriment of his daily requirements? In either case, it may be time to consider your options.
- Mismanagement of Medication: As your loved one ages, perhaps she will end up taking a veritable pharmacy of medications each day just to keep going. Problems arise when she forgets to take them, or worse, takes them in the wrong dosages or on the wrong schedule. If it comes time that she need more help than you can provide by making sure that her meds are neatly arranged in one of those weekly pill boxes, then it might be time to consider assisted living for her.
- Emotional Instability: Does your loved one show signs of depression? Anxiety? Anger? Fear? Aging can be traumatic. Even the most lively and engaging senior can get upset at the prospect of this eventual death. That is perfectly natural. But as the mind fails, irrational concerns and fears may manifest. Or normal concerns may become full-blown panic-inducing problems that only the qualified staff of an assisted living environment can provide.
- Lessening Interest in Food: Not everyone can be a foodie. Some see food as merely a means to an end, rather than something to be experienced. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when your loved one loses interest in maintaining even a modestly stocked kitchen, in preparing food, or eating enough to maintain a general level of health, that may be a warning sign that things are changing for the worse.
10. Loss of Socialization: You’ve doubtless seen the romantic image of a couple who got married in their teens or twenties, and have stayed together for decades, living happily into their golden years. Sadly, when death takes one of them, the partner who is left behind may sink into depression and lose interest in spending time with friends. Or it may not even be caused by the death of a spouse, but by simply getting older. Any number of environmental factors can lead to this most isolating and lonely problem. Assisted living can provide her with a healthy chance at reconnecting with people who are the same age as her, and who potentially share the same interests, thus helping fill their remaining years with laughter and joy.
However it comes about, and for whatever the reason, assisted living is not a jail term, nor is it a death sentence. You are not exiling your loved one to some inhumane gulag to suffer. Far from it. A quality assisted living environment staffed by competent and compassionate individuals may be just the place for your loved one to live within a safe and healthy environment that gives family members peace of mind.