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Sometimes you can see that parents are simply not doing well, but it is hard to put your finger on why. Often times, the holidays are a common time families notice changes in elderly relatives as everyone is reunited after months, or sometimes longer. But whatever point you discover that your loved one needs more help than you knew—for example, your family begins to reevaluate the safety and care needs of your aging loved one as they seem depressed, malnourished or uncharacteristically aggressive or agitated—here are a few things you should look for to help you determine whether it may be time to move to a senior living community:

1. They seem depressed, lonely or isolated. If a senior can no longer drive, their world changes dramatically as they no longer have as much freedom. They can’t make a quick run to the store, drive to the barber or hairdresser on their own, or easily meet their friends for lunch. And, often, at a certain point of life, most of their friends—and spouse—have passed away, which can lead to depression and a lack of interest in normal, everyday activities. Socialization and stimulation are important and if life has changed and the senior is no longer getting these things, their health and personality can be negatively affected. If your loved one doesn’t seem to be acting like him/herself, go with your instinct that something is wrong.

2. They seem confused or forgetful. Health conditions, such as dementia, diabetes and others, can dramatically affect personality and can create confusion and problems with communication. If your loved one seems confused, you need to consult a qualified physician to see whether the change is health-related.

3. They are having problems taking medication. Medication problems are a big warning sign that something is wrong. Some medications are critical to get right, such as blood thinners.

4. They seem malnourished or their physical appearance looks different. Is your loved one eating old food in the refrigerator because they didn’t notice it is not fresh? Take a peek in there. Sometimes they forget to eat, so look for signs of weight loss. What’s in the cupboards and does it seem normal? Are wounds healing? Are they getting sick often? Does your loved one look like themselves? Have they showered and are their clothes clean? These are all important questions to ask.

5. They are not paying bills. Have the bills started to stack up in a big, disorganized mess? Is your loved one getting calls from collection agencies? This is a big sign your loved one may need your help and support and may need to relocate into a less independent environment.

6. Their pets are not cared for. This is pretty straightforward. If your loved ones’ pets seem underweight, sick or not like themselves, they may not be getting proper care because your loved one is no longer capable of caring for them.

Asking neighbors and friends and scheduling a routine doctor check-up is also a good idea to make sure nothing is out-of-the-norm. It is common for people to have a tendency to remember parents how they once were—not see the problems of today. Again, make sure to go with your instincts.
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Knowing they need it and getting them to agree to it are two different things. You can suggest a tour, you should ask their MD, but mostly it is up to you. When you find yourself needing to care for them on a daily basis, always running over for minor emergencies, it's time.
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