Few people are keen on moving from their homes to senior living communities. However, according to the National Center for Assisted Living, there are just under 29,000 assisted lving facilities in the US today offering nearly a million seniors a place of residence. Assisted living is an excellent option for keeping older adults safe, social, and mentally and physically healthy. The question is, how do you know when your parent needs the support assisted living provides?

How to Know When It’s Time for Assisted Living

Timing a transition to any type of senior living setting can be tricky. While there are a few definitive signs that a senior is ready for assisted living, each situation is unique. Instead of looking for specific signs, it’s often easier for a family caregiver to ask themselves some pointed questions about a loved one’s daily schedule, health status, functional abilities, current and future care needs, and quality of life. Just be sure to answer these questions honestly and objectively to get a clear picture of whether moving to assisted living is a viable option.

17 Questions to Ask When Considering Assisted Living

  1. Is the senior eating healthy, balanced meals regularly?
  2. Is there fresh, nutritious food in their refrigerator and pantry that is not expired?
  3. Is the senior capable of getting around safely and independently? (Look for unexplained bruises or minor injuries that may indicate they have been falling or having accidents recently.)
  4. Are they wearing fresh, clean clothing each time you visit?
  5. Can they bathe themselves, groom adequately, and handle other personal care tasks like dental care?
  6. Are they laundering their clothing, towels and linens regularly?
  7. When you look around their house or yard, is it as neat and clean as it used to be?
  8. Is the senior remembering to take their medications correctly, with the right dosages and at the right times? (Warning signs of mismanaging medications include hospitalizations, stockpiled or expired medications, and pill boxes that are not current.)
  9. Are their current health conditions regularly monitored and well controlled? (Chronic medical conditions may worsen with age, and progressive conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are guaranteed to worsen. Both current and future health concerns should be factored into senior housing decisions since settings like assisted living do NOT provide skilled nursing care.)
  10. Are they able to operate household appliances safely?
  11. Do they remember to turn kitchen appliances off when they are finished cooking?
  12. Is their home equipped with safety features and modifications for aging in place, such as grab bars and an emergency alert system?
  13. Do they have a plan in place to summon help in case of an emergency?
  14. If the senior is still driving, are they doing so safely? (Red flags include an increase in accidents and new dents or scratches on their vehicle.) If they are no longer driving, do they have alternate means of transportation?
  15. Are they paying their bills on time and opening and disposing of mail in a timely manner? (Look for stacks of mail, unpaid bills and past-due notices.)
  16. Do they have friends, family or acquaintances whom they interact with regularly?
  17. Does the senior still engage in hobbies or activities that they enjoy?

If the answer to most of these questions is “no” or you are noticing some of the red flags listed above, then it may be time to begin researching local assisted living communities. When you really look at this person, ask yourself: are they still active and vibrant like they were years ago, or do you see a more limited person who needs additional help around the house and with their activities of daily living (ADLs)?

Requesting a needs assessment through your local Area Agency on Aging will further clarify if your loved one is a good fit for assisted living, or if a lower level of care (independent living) or higher level (nursing home care or memory care) may be appropriate.

Read: Needs Assessment: The First Step When Moving to Senior Housing


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Benefits of Moving to Assisted Living

Making the decision to move an elder is difficult, but it may help keep your elderly loved one healthier, safer and perhaps even happier. Assisted living transitions are usually smoother when they happen sooner rather than later, but many families wait too long before exploring senior living options for their loved ones.

After an initial adjustment period, many seniors find that they truly appreciate the higher level of support as well as the added opportunities for socialization, dining and activities. Furthermore, it means that there is a plan of care in place, which eases the pressure on family members to provide regular hands-on assistance.

To learn more about choosing an assisted living facility for a loved one, read Assisted Living Checklist: What to Look for in Senior Housing.