One of the most important and difficult responsibilities societies face is how to care for the elder members of the group as they become less able to care for themselves. As it becomes
more difficult for seniors to live on their own, it becomes necessary for the individual and their families to discuss difficult topics and make tough decisions about the person’s future care. One of the saddest and most difficult things for the senior to accept is the loss of independence that comes with physical and mental decline. There may be a sense of shame and frustration at now requiring assistance to do the things that they have for so long on their own.

The family may experience guilt and resentment over their inability to provide all of the assistance that mom or dad needs. There can be a stigma in our society about deciding on a community and families often fear being judged or blamed while at the same time being crushed by the overwhelming demands required of them.

However, it is often in the best interest of the senior and the caregiver to agree on a plan for proper care. Choosing an assisted living community can offer many benefits such as socialization, safety, meals, transportation, and less worry for the family. While assisted living isn’t the answer to every elder’s needs or budget, it is an option that can contribute to a healthier, happier and longer life in the elder years. But how do we know when it is time to consider assisted living?

1. Worsening medical conditions

Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease as well as progressing physical changes such as continued weight loss, increase falls or forgetfulness may make it
unsafe for someone to continue living alone. One in three seniors will suffer a fall each year. As age and disability increase, so can the incidence of death resulting from a fall. Older adults may forget to eat or it may become increasingly difficult for them to prepare nutritious meals which leads to weight loss and poor health.

2. Difficulty managing finances

As we age it may become more difficult to stay on top of our financial responsibilities. Neglecting finances may be one of the first signs of decline for many seniors. Inattention to
finances often leaves seniors vulnerable to financial scams and spiraling financial difficulties. You may begin to notice increases in the past due to bills, unfiled tax returns, and cancelation of insurance policies as elders becoming increasingly less capable of managing their finances.

3. Poor Hygiene

As seniors age, it may become more difficult for them to bath and do laundry. Or they may lose the motivation to do so. As Carol Bradley Bursack explains on, depression can
cause seniors to lose interest in how they look or smell. “If your elders feel isolated or are depressed over life or health issues, they may not care enough to bother with hygiene.”
The appearance of messy grooming habits or a bad odor may indicate an increasing need for assistance. Poor hygiene can lead to skin infection, fungus, parasites and possibly septicemia.

4. Poor diet or weight loss

Changes in appetite are normal as we age. However, if seniors are not getting enough food or making poor nutritional choices due to lack of energy, or ability to cook or depression and
isolation, it may be time to consider additional support.

5. Escalating care needs or lack of safety in the home

If the senior is no longer safe in the home due to frailty, or memory loss, or experience increasing accidents or near accidents, it is important to provide extra support. If the person’s
care needs are beyond the abilities of the family or cause conflict or escalating tension between the senior and caregivers, assisted living may be the best option.

6. Isolation

Millions of seniors live alone. Isolation and depression is a major problem in the senior population. Isolation from friends, family, and hobbies can lead to depression, addiction, and
increased mortality. Assisted living offers the senior companionship, engaging actives and an atmosphere of continued learning and a more active lifestyle.

As the population continues to age, more and more seniors and their families will need to make important decisions regarding the best option for them. Luckily there are many options for the senior to be in the best possible environment for their unique individual needs. Choosing the right assisted living community can lead to improved living conditions, better mental status and better health outcomes with lower mortality.

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