For many, assisted living can be a touchy subject. After a lifetime of independence, building, and providing for a family, the senior in your life may find it difficult to consider moving from their home into an assisted living facility. The truth is that at a certain point, the mental and physical health of your loved one may be greatly improved and preserved under professional care and supervision.
Have you noticed unexplained bumps or bruises when visiting mom or dad? Do they sometimes forget where they are going or forget to turn off appliances when they are finished with them? Are they still driving? And more importantly, are they doing so safely? (Hint: look for scratches or dents on their vehicles.) If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it may be time to begin talking with your loved one about transitioning to senior living.
A 2017 AARP report stated that an average of 52% of people aged 65 or older will develop a severe disability that will require Long Term Support and Services (LTSS). The average duration of need over a lifetime is about two years. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there are currently 28,900 residential care communities with 811,500 residents in the United States.
What is Senior Living?
Senior living facilities are condos and apartments within complexes or communities, often chosen when living at home is no longer the most practical option. There are several options to consider when searching for the perfect place for the senior in your life. Finding the right assisted living facility will involve assessing the level of care that your family member requires and ensuring that adequate services can be provided to meet their needs. For example, some facilities are suited only for independent living, while others offer Alzheimer’s Care, which is far more comprehensive.
When ‘shopping’ for the perfect place for you or your loved one, one should consider whether or not there is a need for 24-hour staff, if meals and medications need to be managed and/or administered, and if they will need assistance with bathing, dressing, transportation, and using the restroom.
The Benefits of Assisted Living Facilities
There are many advantages to moving to assisted living, both from a health and lifestyle perspective. Some significant benefits include:
Combats Senior Loneliness
Most senior care facilities have common areas for social and recreational activities. This allows your loved one to develop and engage with a community. Most likely, the same cannot be said if your mom or dad is home alone for all or several hours each day. A study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) argues that both social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality. While you are working all day or tending to a family of your own, your mom or dad may be stuck inside for hours with no one but their favorite soap opera stars to keep them company. In an assisted living facility, they will be given the life-prolonging gift of human engagement, socialization, and specialized care.
A Focus on Nutrition and Experiential Dining
There is a wide range of meal services provided by assisted living facilities. On the higher end, residents may enjoy farm-to-table dining, and in some cases, they even enjoy entertainment during their meals. Many places have transitioned from cafeteria to restaurant-styled dining to give seniors a better and more social experience. One of the latest trends is 24-hour access to food (via grab-and-go and food/snack carts.) Regardless of the delivery or presentation, most assisted living facilities are focused on the health and well-being of the residents. Therefore, they offer nutrient-dense meals and monitor residents’ intake and consumption to ensure that they are getting what they need for optimal health and longevity.
Peace of Mind
When you make the (albeit difficult) decision to place your loved one in residential care, you can rest assured that they are closely monitored and tended to by healthcare professionals. Gone will be the days spent worrying whether mom slipped and hit her head on the counter. Your worries about why dad didn’t answer the phone after dinner last night can be put to rest. When your beloved senior requires help, whether it be transportation, clean clothes, or even a social outing, they will have access to several amenities and caretakers who can provide these services for them.
Signs it’s Time to Transition to Senior Living
While it may be a stressful topic of conversation, there are a few tell-tale signs that it is time to talk to your parent(s) about transitioning to senior living. When having this discussion, it’s crucial to keep in mind and highlight the benefits mentioned above and that you have their health and well-being in mind.
If you have noticed excessive weight gain or loss, neglected household maintenance, or an increase in falls/injuries, assisted living may be the best option for your loved one. Seniors who consistently need to be reminded to take their medication, or struggle with personal hygiene or preparing meals would benefit significantly from a team of professional caretakers, ensuring that these essential tasks are handled.
In some cases, the decline of a senior citizen may involve Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. In these cases, there are assisted living facilities that specialize in memory care. According to AARP, some signs of Dementia to watch for are difficulty with everyday tasks, repeating stories, becoming disoriented, or exhibiting aggression. If your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia (or other conditions involving cognitive decline), he or she will eventually and inevitably require 24-hour supervision and skilled nursing.
For the health and safety of the elders in your life, assisted living deserves careful consideration. Even though it may be a challenging and emotional topic, it may be the best option for the optimal care and longevity of your senior family member. Many of the preconceived notions about assisted living facilities are things of the past. New standards and trends in place may make the remaining years of life in senior living a place of community-oriented enjoyment and relaxation. HP Legacy Care Group serves at several in the Boston area.