For millions of Americans, the lingering question of just when to approach an elderly loved one about entering an assisted living facility sparks immediate anxiety. At what point should a family have “the talk?” Does advanced age alone warrant assisted living, or should health play the sole determining factor?
Doctors and sociologists alike emphasize that each person, like each family, is different. Deciding when a loved one should enter an assisted living facility can prove stressful, both for the patient, and for the family. Therefore, geriatric medicine advises evaluating several key factors in determining when family should have “the talk” with a loved one: mental health, physical health, day-to-day function, medical responsibility, and basic safety.
Understanding the Factors of assisted living
To determine when someone should enter assisted living, doctors first recommend examining physical health. As men and women advance in age, years of wear and tear on the body become more and more pronounced. Chronic illness, like diabetes or heart disease can emerge and have a debilitating effect on the body. In the same way, frequent illnesses or doctor visits can suggest that a patient might benefit more from round-the-clock care in an assisted living facility. Elderly adults often must cope with physical pain, both as a symptom of age, and as a result of other conditions resulting from chronic illness.
If physical health plays a primary role in determining when one should enter assisted living, so does mental health. Aging adults often experience depression, as loss of spouses and friends becomes more common, and as a decreasing energy level might prevent enjoyment or participation in favorite activities. Dementia and memory problems also affect many elderly men and women, and can also cause depression or irritability. Families concerned about loved ones should pay attention to changes in personality or mood as a possible sign of the need for assisted living care.
As elderly adults experience changes in mental and physical health, basic day-to-day function can become difficult as well. Older men and women might have trouble keeping up with basic responsibilities like paying bills on time or driving. Adults struggling with age also become easy targets for scams, or for con artists taking advantage of an elderly adult’s generosity. Families should take note of how an older loved one maintains his or her own health. Often, the elderly have trouble remembering to take medications, or might have trouble paying for medicine.
When considering putting an aging family member in an assisted living home, families should consider changes in hygiene, grooming, or basic household maintenance like cleaning. Likewise, safety becomes a greater concern as adults age. Older adults become more prone to injury, while memory loss can cause confusion. Thus, older adults can get lost more easily. Even the most basic tasks can become problematic for the elderly. When they do, families should begin to explore options for assisted living.
Even with the best medical techniques at hand, aging affects everyone. For family members concerned about an aging relative, paying attention to physical and mental health, daily functionality and responsibility can help determine if, and when, an elderly loved one should consider assisted living.