Navigating the Decision for Assisted Living: Recognizing the Signs and Supporting Your Loved Ones

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As loved ones age, they will inevitably encounter new challenges that raise the delicate question of whether it is time to make the move to assisted living. Sometimes these challenges and changes are obvious. However, it’s not uncommon to miss small signs and signals that your loved one is in need of additional support. Here are a few things for you to pay attention to when you spend time with your loved one.

Mobility & Physical Limitations

Observe: Have you noticed any changes in your loved one’s mobility as they navigate their home? Do they lean on furniture or sit down as often as possible? Are they tripping over clutter or rugs? Do you notice bruises or cuts?

As we age, our physical abilities change, often these changes happen gradually and subtly. Rarely does somebody simply wake up unable to do a task anymore. Instead, they may find it increasingly difficult to navigate stairs or stand for long periods of time.  As you spend time with your loved one, make note of changes to how they navigate their space. Observe or gently ask what changed their behavior.

Solution: As you notice changes in a loved one’s physical ability, there are a variety of accommodations that can make navigating their home easier. Simple changes such as removing rugs, installing grab bars, or relocating dishes to lower shelves can make a big difference. Long term, especially as mobility continues to change, assisted living may be a great option. Assisted living communities offer a nurturing environment with accessibility features designed to improve mobility. These facilities provide support through physical accommodations, such as handrails, and through programming, such as physical therapy. Because these communities are designed with potential challenges in mind, residents can enjoy their surroundings instead of worrying.

Memory & Cognitive Changes

Observe: Is your loved one showing signs, bit or small of memory changes? Are they burning food because they forgot it was in the oven? Forgetting to pay bills? Stumbling over loved ones' names?

Memory impairment can be one of the most challenging aspects of aging, both for the individual and for the loved one supporting them. Watching a once-vibrant loved one struggle with remembering names or daily routines can be heart-wrenching. Having repetitive conversations can be exhausting and even frustrating. Plus, the individual experiencing cognitive changes may not be aware of their challenges and limitations causing them frustration and irritation.

Solution: Navigating memory challenges takes a lot of patience and empathy. Assisted living facilities have specialized memory care units staffed with trained professionals who provide compassionate care tailored to the unique needs of individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s. In addition to keeping loved ones safe, they offer memory-enhancing activities and therapy services, allowing them to maintain the cognition and faculties they have, for as long as possible.   

Loneliness & Isolation

Observe: What social activities and relationships does your loved one reference? Do they see friends or talk on the phone? Do they have hobbies or interests that they keep up with? Have they made comments about being lonely or feeling like nobody cares?

Living alone can be hard, especially as physical and mental changes make it difficult to keep up with existing relationships. As we age, we inevitably lose friends and loved ones, which causes feelings of sadness and loneliness. Isolation and loneliness are not purely emotional battles, they also take a significant toll on our physical health. 

Solution: In the short term, reach out to your loved ones network of support to facilitate regular calls and visits. Consider technology options, such as video calls or online workshops, that may offer your loved ones opportunities to socialize and connect with others. One of the most valuable features of assisted living is the relationships and social opportunities offered. Take tours of assisted living communities and specifically make note of social opportunities, outings, and spaces available to residents.

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The Challenge of Daily Activities

Observe: Pay attention to your loved ones daily activities. Have they started to fall behind on yard work or housework that they used to manage with ease? Do you notice changes in their hygiene or appearance? 

As your loved one ages, the execution of daily activities can become increasingly difficult. You may notice they’ve started to gravitate toward sweatpants or have stopped trimming the hedges. Changes in habits can often be connected with a change in them. Are they wearing sweatpants so they don’t have to use buttons or zippers? Do they skip dusting because they don’t want to climb to reach high spaces?

Solution: As you notice these changes in a loved one, there are a variety of accommodations that can immediately lighten their load such as hiring a lawn service or shopping for clothing that they feel good in. Long term, especially as mobility continues to change, assisted living can be a great option. Assisted living communities offer a variety of support services, such as housekeeping and laundry, that give residents fewer things to manage and worry about. 

Safety Concerns

Observe: Have you noticed anything that raises concerns about your loved ones safety? Are they able to contact help if needed? Do they forget things like closing/locking doors or blowing out candles? Are they at risk of falling down stairs? Is their medication schedule and dosing complicated, increasing the risk for missing or overdosing?

The physical and mental changes that come with aging often come with concerns about safety. A home that has been lived in for decades can quickly become a bit of an obstacle course as your loved one’s abilities change. 

Solution: As you notice small risks, find ways to address them such as posting reminder notes or making small accommodations like flameless candles. As the small risks build to critical mass, an independent or assisted living community may be your best option to care for your loved ones safety. The thoughtful, intentional spaces, along with caring staff that is always nearby and support services and programs, will minimize threats and their impact on your loved one.

Conclusion

Every individual's aging journey is unique and so are the signs and signals that they are ready for additional support. Through empathy, observation, and understanding, these signs will let the individual’s support network know when it is the right time. 

By paying attention to the small things, families struggling to make this decision can know when a move is in the best interest of their loved one. Assisted living communities, like Chapters, understand the challenge of these decisions and stand ready to provide support as the family works together to make a plan. 

Ultimately, by embracing this new chapter in their lives together, families can offer the comfort and care their loved ones deserve, honoring the legacy of love and support that has defined their relationships over the years.

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