As your parents age, you might begin to wonder when it may be time to consider whether to move a loved one into assisted living. Although every situation is different, there are some telling signs that your loved one should no longer be living alone. But even once you’ve determined it might be time for assisted living, it can be hard to convince your parents it’s the right time. When it’s time to talk with your loved ones about moving into assisted living, here are four situations when it helps to get their doctor involved and how to talk to your parent’s doctor when you do.
Accidents happen, but as people get older, the odds rise of them happening again. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. If your loved one recently fell, had a medical scare or got into a fender bender, tell their doctor and ask them to use the close call as a teachable moment. Your loved one's doctor may share your concerns about your parent’s safety at home or may be able to alleviate those concerns or suggest where to get a home assessment.
A Slow Recovery
If you notice your parent isn’t recovering from minor illnesses such as a cold or the flu as quickly as they used or that they’re not able or willing to seek medical care when needed, it might be time to start thinking about alternate living arrangements. Assisted living offers expert care and medical attention, if needed, as well as nutritious, often chef-prepared cuisine catered for specific medical conditions and senior needs. When your parent’s health or safety is at risk, ask their doctor to intervene.
A Chronic Health Condition That's Worsening
If your loved one has been diagnosed with a progressive health condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia or congestive heart failure, learn about how it will progress and how it could impact their ability to stay at home or make a decision about moving. Share what you’ve learned from their doctor and through your research, and discuss how the services offered by an assisted living community could help them as their health worsens.
Increasing Difficulty Managing Activities of Daily Living
Activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are the skills needed to live independently: bathing, dressing, grooming, shopping, cooking, doing laundry, managing medications, driving, etc. If you notice your loved one having increasing difficulties managing these activities, ask their doctor to evaluate them as part of a functional assessment.
Information gathered in this process can be used by the caregiving team to develop a comprehensive plan for therapy and future care decisions and can also help in the process of long-term care decision-making. Your parent’s doctor is in a pivotal position to assess your parent’s functional status and target interventions to prevent further loss of function and to maintain their self-care status. Performing an office-based functional assessment will measure your parent’s ability to perform self-care and fulfill the important social roles of everyday life.
Communicating with Your Parent’s Doctor
Ask your parents to sign the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form, which gives health care professionals permission to share medical information about your parent with you. Some doctors will divulge information if your parent gives oral approval, but having the HIPAA form ensures you’ll get answers. You can get this form at the doctor’s office or a hospital.
Before the visit, suggest that you and your parent talk to the doctor together first, then offer to step out so your parent can have time with the doctor alone. Decide together what questions you want to ask and who will ask them, and then let your parent take the lead.
If you want the doctor to bring up a touchy subject, such as driving or whether to live independently, it’s helpful to fax the list of questions and issues to them before the appointment. If the doctor asks the questions, then your parent will be more likely to address the issue. They’re also more likely to listen to the doctor’s advice and opinion than your own.
Following the visit, discuss the information you learned and how your parent feels the visit went. This is a good time to check in about how your parent feels about assisted living.If you’re considering assisted living for a parent, get their doctor involved. They can lay the same groundwork, explaining what seems to be wrong and suggesting options for fixing it, without risking a strained relationship.