When it comes to assisted living homes, the average person has many questions. Assisted living is one of those areas in life surrounded by myth and misinformation. Many people only know what it was like 20 or 30 years ago, when one of their relatives went to a “home,” or what they’ve seen in movies. Their minds rarely picture the reality of assisted living today. This can make it extremely difficult to talk to a loved one about making this change.
The following six questions are the ones we hear the most often, and the answers that we feel best prepare you and your loved one for making this move. If you still have questions, please leave us a comment below and we’ll answer (and include your question and our answer in the FAQ).
#1: How can you tell that it’s time for a loved one to move to assisted living?
One of the earliest signs that it may be time for assisted living is when loved ones have trouble handling their medication. This may present as missing a dose, dropping pills on the floor, or confusion regarding times and dosage. Other signs to look for include frequent falls, poor decision-making, not eating well-balanced meals, and not staying hydrated. Failure to stay properly hydrated often results in UTIs (urinary tract infections), so if your loved one suffers from these, it’s a sign that he or she is not taking in enough fluids.
#2: How do you approach a senior about the necessity for the move?
This can be a real challenge, because so many seniors have outdated ideas around assisted living, particularly if they had a parent or grandparent in a nursing home. Of course, a nursing home is not the same thing at all, but it’s what many people envision. We advise creating a list of the signs you’ve noticed that indicate that your loved one may benefit from an assisted living home. However, when you have that talk, don’t go down the list detailing all of these things. Instead, express your concerns as just that: concerns. That way, they hear worries you have about their health and wellbeing instead of a litany of things you think are “wrong” with them. Then, we advise visiting an assisted living home, preferably during the lunch hour. Your loved one will see others who share their circumstances, experience the community, and may even make a friend.
#3: How much attention should you pay to downsizing so you can fit your relative’s things into the new living space?
This is very important as it will most likely be a smaller area. Larger communities provide a great deal of “common” space and encourage residents to get out of their apartments to socialize with others, but you still want to personalize your loved one’s own space. We recommend taking photographs of their current living situation to see how much you can recreate in their new one. For example, hang artwork and photos on the walls or arrange furniture in configurations similar to what they enjoyed in their own homes. If there’s room, bring one or two pieces of favorite furniture, particularly their bed. Familiar surroundings make the transition so much easier. Professional moving companies help with downsizing and may even be able to assist with liquidating items. Take a quick look at our living gallery to get a better idea.
#4: How important are frequent visits after the move to help with the transition?
It is very important to visit often so that your loved one feels loved, not abandoned and forgotten. However, some situations are different. For example, if the person has dementia, it may be better to hold off on visiting until they’ve adjusted to their new home. Your loved one’s caregiver and physician can advise.
#5: What other things can you do after the move to help your relative feel at home?
Besides decorating their room with personal belongings, you can also add a bit of greenery, which offers both beauty and a sense of purpose, since plants require care (assuming he or she has the capacity to care for a plant, of course). If the facility allows, you may also paint the walls. Buy an extra chair to create visitor seating in his or her room. If there isn’t space for that, consider a folding chair, which tucks neatly away under a bed or behind a door.
#6: How important will be it to monitor conditions at the assisted-living community over time?
You should visit often and at different times to get a true feel for the community and staff. Take the time to actually talk to staff and get to know your loved one’s new community. That’s the best way to both monitor current conditions and recognize quickly if things start to feel “off.”
Feel free to read through our blog, which is chock-full of articles on helping your loved one feel at home, having the talk, and more. We update it twice a month.