How do you know if it is time for your loved one to consider relocating to an assisted living facility? It is not always easy to understand how. At Franklin Park, we have created this guide to help you with that decision. Based on our years of experience in the industry, we have developed this resource to walk you through five general concern categories: Aging, Social, Financial, Transportation, and Home. In addition to questions for you to consider as well as signs that your loved one may need more support, we also review how you can incorporate the observations of other caregivers into your family's discernment process. At Franklin Park, we are dedicated to caring for all of our residents and their family members. That care starts now, at the beginning of your journey.
Here are Five Categories of Concerns to Guide Your Decision:
General Aging Concerns
When it comes to your loved one, you know them best. As you consider whether assisted living is right for your family member trust your instinct about the warning signs you may notice. Some of these signs include the following:
- Are you being called on for more support, or are you feeling as though your loved one needs support that they are not requesting?
- Is your loved one having difficulty with the activities of daily living that were once easy?
- Are you concerned that they might fall or are there other physical limitations?
- Have they had a recent accident or other concerning incident? Some of these might include a medical scare, a car accident, or a potentially dangerous lapse of memory such as leaving a gas burner ignited on the stove?
- What is your loved one’s physical recovery time? Think back to their most recent illness. How long did it take them to recover? Did it seem inordinately long? If medical attention was required, did they readily seek it?
- Does your loved one have a chronic illness? Can they still manage it on their own? Do they make it to their medical appointments, and can they handle their medications on their own?
- Have you noticed frequent bruises that may be a sign of falls or other mobility issues?
- Has your loved one lost a significant amount of weight without that being a stated health goal?
- Does your loved one seem frailer? Does their strength or stature feel different to you when you hug them or shake their hand? Can they rise easily from a seated position? How does their balance seem? If they are not stable, do you worry about their risk of falling?
- Has your loved one gained a significant amount of weight? If so, this could be the result of several factors and could be cause for concern. Many injuries and illnesses can contribute to weight gain, as well as depression, dementia, and many times, financial stress.
- When you are in close contact with your loved one do you notice any strange body odor? This can sometimes be a sign that personal hygiene habits are slipping which can be caused by memory loss or dementia. Depression and other physical issues can also contribute to hygiene concerns.
- Observe how your loved one dresses. Do they wear the same clothes repeatedly? Has their appearance changed dramatically from how you know them to present themselves? For example, if your loved one has always been a fastidious dresser and now they only wear stained, wrinkled clothing, take note. That could be a sign that the activities of daily living are becoming too difficult for them.
Our personal connections are directly tied to our physical and emotional health. As we age, personal relationships can become more difficult to maintain. Think about your loved one’s social network, and use these questions to think about how that network is supporting their health.
- Has your loved one expressed feelings of loneliness or isolation? Are they still making an effort to meet regularly with friends, neighbors, groups, and clubs that are important to them? Do they regularly talk about others and seem as though they are keeping up their social connections? If someone who normally seemed very social suddenly does not seem connected, it could be a sign of depression and isolation. Moving to an assisted living community where they would be surrounded by others may be very beneficial to their health.
- Does your loved one still keep up favorite hobbies or crafts? If they are a member of a gym, interest group, or club have they renewed their membership? Do they attend meetings regularly? If they enjoy going to the library, have they been recently? Are they still showing interest in activities or do they seem to be drawing into themselves?
- Do they get out of the house or do they stay at home for long periods of time? As we age and face health issues of many kinds, it can be easy for our loved ones to stay at home and not find reasons to get out and interact with others. This tendency can make any existing health issues worse.
- Does your loved one exhibit strange or inappropriate behavior that causes you to question their state of mind?
- Is it practical for you or other family members to regularly check in on your loved one? If a family member cannot regularly check in, is your loved one willing to install and use a home safety or monitoring system?
- Does your loved one have a safety plan in place in case of fire, earthquake, tornado, or flood? If they do, do you believe they can physically manage their care and protection if a natural disaster or other true emergency arose?
It can be hard enough to manage your budget when you are non-disabled and young. For older individuals, financial management can be difficult and stressful to the point of becoming a significant health concern. As you think about your loved one’s financial situation, consider these questions:
- Can you discern if your loved one is paying their bills in a timely manner?
- Are their piles of mail, including bills and important paperwork, all over their home, often unopened?
- Are they opening personal mail including letters and cards? If not, that could be a sign that something is not right.
- Do you see several thank you letters from charities and non-profits? If so, it could be that your loved one is not properly managing their charitable giving. Perhaps they do not remember pledging or giving a financial gift, and then they make the same gift again in the same year.
- Are there several copies of magazines? Or, are there lots of unread magazines piling up? This could be a sign that your loved one is not as engaged as they once were. It could also mean that they are subscribing to the same magazine multiple times and not remembering that they have done so.
Some of the biggest areas of concern, and often our biggest safety wake-up calls, include transportation issues for our loved ones. As you think about your loved one, respond to the following:
- Has daily transportation become a challenge?
- Have you ridden with your loved one lately? What is it like with them behind the wheel? Do feel safe as a passenger? Do you feel that they can still navigate the roads safely?
- When they are driving, do they seem hyper-focused on not becoming distracted? This could be good safety protocols, or it could be a sign that they are overcompensating for some difficulties.
- Does your loved one tailgate, drift out of their driving lane, drive significantly below the speed limit, or mix up the appropriate reaction when driving?
- When they are in the car, do they quickly fasten their seat belt, or do they need to be reminded?
- Do you notice additional dents or paint nicks on their car? What about their garage? Any damage to the door, door frames, or walls?
- Does it seem like the car is being well-maintained? Are any dashboard indicator lights illuminated?
Many of our clues about assisted living can be found in the maintenance and care of our loved ones’ homes. There are many areas of the home to consider, and we try to capture as many of them as we can in the following questions:
- Is your loved one finding it more difficult to maintain their current home? Are there signs of neglect such as peeling paint, clogged gutters or broken windows? Are houseplants dying or simply dead and left where they are?
- Are there newspapers in the yard that have not been picked up? Is their mailbox full of mail that they have not regularly retrieved?
- How are the appliances being maintained? Are they all still in good working order?
- Is their refrigerator empty or perhaps filled with expired or spoiled food? Are there multiple items of the same ingredient or food in either the refrigerator or pantry? If so, it could be a sign that they cannot remember what they have and what they need.
- Is their freezer full of frozen dinners? Not that all frozen food is bad, but a large amount could mean that it has become too difficult for your loved one to prepare meals with fresh food. This could negatively impact their health.
- Are they using takeout options more? Has their cooking become more simplified, to the point of concern?
- Can you detect any signs of fire damage in the kitchen? Do you see any singed pots or potholders? Any discarded fire extinguishers or other burnt items? Be aware of the risks for your loved ones in the kitchen.
- Is the home excessively cluttered? This could be a sign of decreased engagement and mental capabilities. Clutter can also be a significant tripping hazard.
- How is the housekeeping? Can your loved one keep up with the weekly maintenance needs of a home? Specifically, review the bathrooms, both guest, and master. What is the hygiene like in these areas? Does your loved one need help to keep these rooms clean?
- If your loved one has pets, are they being well cared for? Are they being fed, bathed, and regularly taken to the vet? Are they being adequately exercised and allowed to go outside regularly?
As you consider whether your family member requires assisted living support, remember, this is not a journey that you need to undertake on your own. Please seek input from other family members and friends who know your loved one well. Share observations and concerns, and work together to make the best decision possible for your family. Do not hesitate to consult with medical caregivers who may be able to also provide input into how you can best care for your loved one. You may also seek out support from social workers or geriatric care managers who can give you insight into how you can think about this decision.
Importantly, remember that your instinct about your loved one’s well-being is valid. Be honest about the concerns you have and know that the choices you make in love and support of your dear one are genuinely that, love and support. Just because something may be challenging, it does not mean that it is not worthwhile or not what we are called to do. Your emotional state and that of your loved one is important and should not be discounted. In the case that your loved one’s quality of life and emotional health are suffering, by extension, your emotional health and quality of life will suffer. In that state, you are not helpful or support to those who need you. Seek counsel where needed and trust that you will make the best decision possible for your loved one.
At Franklin Park, we are here to walk alongside you through this process, and your family members can receive necessary daily support while they still remain as independent as possible. Importantly, you can remain active in their lives as you partner with professionals who come alongside your family and provide comprehensive support. The transition from living in a home full of warm memories to becoming a part of a new community can be a difficult one. It is possible to ease the transition by taking the time to find the right fit for your loved one and being honest about their needs and concerns.
If you have any questions, please contact us today!