Moving a loved one into an assisted living residence is a complex undertaking – both emotionally and practically. Your deepest wish is for your loved one to feel cared for and safe. Yet you also need enough evidence to feel confident that the time is right to make the move into assisted living. Every situation is different, though there are some common signs that will tell you if the time is right. There’s also the helpful Checklist of Activities of Daily Living (ADL) produced by the WGBH Educational Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which can help guide your decision making. It’s important to spend time with your loved one to observe any changes that might be happening.
These following signs can help guide you. If more than a few of the following are of concern, then the time is probably right to start your search for assisted living.
Conspicuous signs. These tend to be obvious signs that the time has arrived for assisted living.
- A serious chronic health condition that’s getting worse
- Inability to perform activities of daily living
- Recent accidents or close calls
- Falls resulting in injury
- A slow recovery from an illness
- Wandering tendencies
Subtle signs. These subtle signs are of concern too, especially if they are cumulative (occurring in more than one instance).
- Changes in appearance
- Noticeable weight loss or weight gain
- Personality changes
- Seeming more frail or fragile
- Fewer active friendships
- Fewer activities and interests
- More days spent without leaving the house
- Unopened mail and bills
At home. Surveying your loved one’s home can provide important clues to their wellbeing.
- Excess of clutter, especially if this is not the norm
- Lack of housekeeping
- Wearing the same clothes over multiple days
- Plants that are dead or dying
- Animals that don’t seem well tended
- Signs of yard neglect
- Stale or expired foods in the kitchen
- Multiples of the same item in the refrigerator or freezer
- Broken appliances
In the car. A loved one’s driving ability is perhaps one of the most important signs to watch.
- Signs of dangerous driving
- Being easily distracted behind the wheel
- Warning lights on dashboard, such as sufficient fuel, oil, and antifreeze
- Car accidents
- Nicks or dents on the vehicle
Conducting your own assessment of a loved one is an important step. Use that information to share with other family members and care providers. If the evidence supports your hunch that the time is right for assisted living, don’t wait to start your search. It can take several months and even years to be admitted into your facility of choice, and many facilities have waiting lists.