How do you know when it's time for assisted living?

Young woman with elderly woman
While it can be difficult to make the decision to move to an assisted living facility, it might be the right time for a change. See more healthy aging pictures.

As we get older, small things, such as tying shoes or lifting heavy pots, become more difficult. For many, the big things get tough, too. Being unable to get out of the bathtub, losing their balance while walking, and forgetting whether or not they took their morning pills are threats to a seniors' safety and well-being.

Assisted living, an alternative to nursing homes and home visitation, is an increasingly popular option for seniors who need some help in their daily lives. But how do you know when it's time for assisted living? There are many signs to watch out for if you think it's time for a loved one to move.


First, you may notice your usually fastidious parent has let the house go, leaving objects on the floor that could cause people to trip, neglecting to clean the oven to the extent that it becomes a fire hazard, improperly storing food and risking food poisoning, or neglecting care of a pet. When a senior is unable to keep up with housekeeping, or when it's neglected to the point of becoming unhealthy, it may be time for assisted living.

A move may also be the answer when seniors have challenges with personal care, such as bathing or dressing. Assisted living facilities are designed to make sure regular needs are met, that living conditions are safe, and that chores and responsibilities are taken care of, including keeping up with mail and paying bills on time.

Some seniors may have deterioration in mobility that makes them susceptible to falling and injuring themselves. If they live alone, the mobility challenge becomes more life-threatening, since they may not be able to get to a phone to call for help, and there isn't anyone on the premises to see if they need prompt medical assistance.

Others, such as those with Alzheimer's, could become a danger to themselves as well as others. It's not uncommon for Alzheimer's patients to throw things at or hit caregivers as they become confused or agitated.

Driving skills can worsen, too, as seniors have slower reaction times. They still need to get around to medical appointments and to socialize, but some seniors are dangerous on the road. Assisted living facilities usually offer rides to anywhere a senior may need to go.

Next up, we'll look a little more at how assisted living can be beneficial to a senior's health and well-being.


Health and Well-being

It's a fact of life that as seniors grow older, their bodies begin to fail, their friends begin to pass away, and they have fewer ways of keeping engaged with social and cultural activities. As time goes on, seniors can become isolated and lonely. Assisted living staff will recognize depression and the causes, and skilled staff will identify ways to keep the residents engaged and interested, according to their specific interests and needs.

A loss of ease of mobility may be another sign that it's time to move to a safe place. Many seniors eventually have difficulty feeding themselves. Their loss of mobility, for example, may make it more difficult to retrieve pots and pans from the cupboard, to cook and to wash dishes. They may resort to eating what's easiest, like snack foods, and miss out on important nutrients. In the worst cases, seniors lose their appetites completely or forget to eat. Assisted living facilities will monitor intake and assist seniors to be sure they eat regularly, and they will ensure those meals are nutritious.


Memory loss is one of the major reasons that many make the move to assisted living. Sadly, the ramifications of memory loss can be extreme. As mentioned earlier, some seniors have trouble keeping up on when to take their medications. Those with memory loss have even more trouble. Skipping medications can put the senior's health at risk, and doubling a medication because they forgot they already took it can be dire. Seniors with memory impairments are also prone to wandering and could walk out of their homes and forget how to get back. They may be safer in assisted living, where staff can keep an eye on them at all times.

Some seniors, such as those who have suffered strokes, have difficulty communicating. Without the ability to speak, they can't convey when they're hungry, thirsty, feeling ill or in pain. This makes it hard for a caregiver, such as a family member, to know when, where and how to seek help. For seniors who can't verbalize distress and live alone, the situation becomes dangerous because they can't relay their needs over the telephone.

Skilled employees at assisted living facilities can attend to the needs of those with difficulty communicating 24/7 and are more experienced in what the senior is likely to be requesting.

For more articles on assisted living, check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • All Assisted Living Homes. "Signs That It's Time to Look Into Assisted Living for Seniors." (May 15, 2011)
  • Assisted Living Facilities. "Services and Amenities." (May 10, 2011)
  • Assisted Living Federation of America. "Senior Living Options." 2009. (May 11, 2011)
  • Elder Guru. "What Should You Look For in An Assisted Living Facility?" Aug. 26, 2010. (May 14, 2011)
  • Seniors for Living. "Frequently Asked Questions." (May 13, 2011)