12 signs it might be time for Assisted Living

How to know when to talk to parents about senior care

What are sure signs that it might be time to think about assisted living for mom, dad or other elderly relative? Here's a guide, with stories and advice from experts, people in the industry or those who have helped parents decide to move forward.

Find assisted living communities listed below

Signs you need to consider assisted living

1. Recent accidents or falls. If your loved one has had a fall or some similar medical scare, this is one of the most alarming signs for family. If your senior loved one fell, was someone able to respond? What was the result? If your loved one wasn’t able to get proper help in a timely manner, and the prospect of another fall looms worse, this can be a sure sign that you should think about getting help.

Yvonne took her mother’s fainting spells as a sure sign that it was time to consider assisted living. She tells us of a time when she was “luckily” with her mom when she fainted. This was an obvious cause for concern, knowing that her mother was alone in a big house with no one checking up on her daily. “It would be dire if she fainted again without anyone around.” Yvonne works in health care, and she knew it was time to raise the issue with her family. Read the whole story of her mom’s successful move into assisted living.

2. Slow recovery from a health problem or crisis. As we age, our body loses ability to quickly recover from disease or other health problems. If mom or dad had an illness from which they took long to recover, this might be a sign that it’s time to consider the move to a retirement home.

Of course, there are times where it’s obvious you need assisted living immediately. Debbie knew that her mom was ready to move into a retirement home when a bout of kidney stones led her to go into septic shock.  Debbie’s mom was already dealing with several health issues, and things had reached a point where her mom was no longer strong enough to do many things she had enjoyed doing before. A particularly significant thing for Deb was that her mother was “no longer confident leaving her home on her own.” Read the full story here and see where your story matches Debbie's. 

3. Loss of a partner or significant other. If your loved one has lost a spouse or even a great friend, this can precipitate a decline. Widowhood has many effects of which family members should be aware. It’s important to be there for them during this time, and to monitor their responses to the loss carefully. Note changes in attitude or behavior. If someone is becoming listless to the point of grave concern, call in help from local counseling.

Margaret Harvey reached a point where she decided on her own that it was time to move into an Ottawa area seniors’ building.  "I had lived alone for eight years after my husband died. I was 88 then, so I decided it was time I wanted to move while I was still active and could participate in things." Losing a life partner is more significant for women. In Margaret’s case and that of many widows, the move into a retirement home was a very happy one.

4. A worsening chronic health condition. You should be wary of signs it’s time for assisted living, if your parent has been diagnosed with a chronic health condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), arthritis or any other degenerative disease. We would expect that these will be monitored by a health professional who will advise you when its time to seek assisted living care. Seek their advice if you have not heard anything from them and you think that your loved one is getting close to a critical stage.   

5. Serious weight loss. Sometimes you can see this clearly, and if you do not know the cause of this you should be concerned. But this holiday, when you hug mom or dad, do they seem thinner to you? If the weight loss is noticeable and you feel you should be concerned, ask them, tactfully, to explain the weight loss. They may even, as Bill Klos did, admit to “not taking very good care of myself.” Bill had lost 85 pounds over six months. Such precipitous weight loss is a sign that should raise concern.

Tamara Billy of the Erinview in Mississauga speaks from experience when she notes that move-ins are often precipitated by adult children’s concerns about parents’ eating. “Because most people don’t live with their parents, they don’t get to monitor them all the time. They might notice, though, that food in the fridge is not getting eaten or going bad.” [Continued]

List of assisted living communities

A trick we’ve learned from a seniors real estate expert is to bring a bottle of water (or any other food product) with you and ask if you can put it in the fridge while you visit. You can use this to quickly gauge how much food they’re keeping and the nutritional value of the food. Family members should also take note of stale or expired foods as a sign that someone may need more assistance than they can provide for themselves.

There are many reasons people might lose weight. It’s important to get your loved one to a doctor for an assessment if you think their weight loss might be related to something other than neglect of nutrition. If your parents are not buying a variety of food, not cooking adequate meals and simply not eating enough, it may be time to consider assisted living.

6. Uncharacteristically unkempt appearance. Another sign to monitor is the neglect of personal hygiene. Again, this can be caused by many different things. Probe, if you can, and find out why your loved one may be taking less care of him or herself than in the past. It may be typical for people to care less about appearance as they get older but watch for sudden changes in the diligence of care someone takes. For example, if mom has regularly had her hair done in the past, and she now looks her hair is regularly messy now, you should understand the cause of this. If this is rooted in depression or forgetfulness this can be cause for concern.

7. Noticeable weight gain. People may gain weight if they are suddenly more sedentary than usual. If the weight gain is attributable to injury, for example, then monitor it but recognize the cause. Weight gain can also be caused by something more pernicious, including diabetes or other serious medical condition.

8. Social signals of the need for a change. Many people, as they age, become used to spending more time alone. When loved ones or friends pass on ahead of them, they may become used to less social activity. This does not need to be a norm, though. In fact, we know that loneliness can be hazardous to people’s health. Lack of social activity should always be a cause of concern for adult children of seniors.

One of the rejuvenating aspects of life in a retirement home is that social interaction becomes easy and customary. In many cases, social skills that have long been dormant are reawakened in a community of people the same age. When “friends are just outside the door” all the time, it’s easy to socialize much more – and to reap the many health benefits of socialization.

9. Increased household clutter and/or lack of care. Hoarding or refusing to throw things away can be a sign of deteriorating mental health. Signs of lax housecleaning can be a sign of deteriorating physical health. It can also be a sign of deteriorating mental wellbeing, too, caused by depression or memory loss (a symptom of a serious problems such as dementia).

10. Signs of poor maintenance of the exterior of the house. Take note of the exterior of your parents’ house. Are things in disrepair, in an unusual way? If mom or dad is letting care of their home to the point where it is becoming a hazard, this is cause for concern. If they are not capable of basic home maintenance (lawn cutting, snow shoveling) and there are other concerns as well, it may be time to consider assisted living.  

11. Signs of a loss of independence. No matter how much elder parents persist in vibrancy, age catches up with all of us in terms of diminishing eyesight and other decreased physical function. The ability to drive carefully is an important part of senior family members’ independence. If they have had accidents, this is an obvious cause for concern. If they are leery of driving under certain conditions (such as at night), this may be typical but it’s also limiting.  

If you are concerned about parent’s driving, find a way to ask them for a ride, then carefully monitor their driving. Monitor their reaction time to external factors, and their distraction threshold. How close attention do they pay to the road, to other drivers, and to anything else? Are they able to focus on the task of driving? If not, you may need to consider hiring home care or a move to assisted living.

12. Erratic behavior. Everyone may exhibit behaviour that can be perceived as erratic by others. But adult children who know parents well, should know when parents’ behavior crosses the line into something to be concerned about. If their friends or other people note unusual behavior, you should certainly pay attention to this. If the erratic behaviour is rooted in deteriorating mental health, this is certainly cause to consider assisted living.

Related Links

Comfort Life is a division of Our Kids Media™ ©2002-2021   •   Disclaimer: Information presented on this page may be paid advertising provided by the retirement care advertisers and is not warranted or guaranteecd by ComfortLife.ca or its associated websites.  •   See Terms and Conditions.

The Comfort Life eNewsletter

Sign up today to receive tips and advice on retirement living, retirement communities, home care and other services.

First Name:
Postal Code