If you’re looking for a hard-and-fast rule about the right time or age to start considering assisted living, you won’t find one.
But Jason Rieger, who has over 30 years of experience in senior living, says just about every family he’s worked with tells him that they wish they would have made the move to assisted living sooner.
“It’s never too early to explore assisted living,” says Rieger, the Executive Director at The Ivy at Watertown. “Becoming an educated shopper or consumer before you have an urgent need is a great thing to do. It’s harder to shop when you’re in crisis mode. You don’t have the time to be as thorough in your research.”
So why are these families glad to have the caregiving support offered by an assisted living community?
Signs Assisted Living Can Help
Everyone has a different reason for choosing to move, but here are ones the staff at The Ivy at Watertown see often.
1. The House, Though Comfortable and Familiar, Is Challenging
Although your parents might enjoy owning a home, the upkeep may be more than they can — or want to — handle. It’s common for people to move into an assisted living community so they can get a little help with daily tasks like cooking and cleaning or mowing the lawn.
“Anyone who is starting to see any challenges with themselves or a loved one as far as living alone, owning their own home, and dealing with the chores of daily living — whether it’s showering and dressing or getting the driveway shoveled — any type of little bump or roadblock with the stuff we take for granted is a great sign to stop by a local assisted living to check it out,” Rieger says.
2. You, as a Caregiver, Are Struggling to Find Balance
When you become a caregiver for an aging parent, it has an effect on your relationships.
“If your parent’s healthcare is becoming a struggle for you to manage, assisted living can offer you a chance to step back and become the family member again, instead of their caregiver,” says Liz Brown, Resident Care Director at The Ivy at Watertown. “Assisted living allows caregivers to stop being the chauffeur and the pharmacist and turn those care responsibilities over to us. Then the time they do have in their busy lives can be spent visiting Mom and Dad. It can give them time back.”
3. Life Seems to Have Lost Purpose and Meaning
Living at home can be isolating. It can be difficult for older adults to maintain their social relationships and sense of purpose when they are no longer working, and many struggle with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and a lack of regular companionship.
Many people choose to live in assisted living because the community provides a sense of belonging and gives them social purpose. Having someone nearby who can identify with, empathize with, and even laugh at shared struggles helps them stay positive. Residents often gather for conversation and programs in the lively community areas — pubs, living rooms, libraries, beauty salons, private dining rooms, and sunrooms — and enjoy the companionship of neighbors, friends, and family.
“It’s easy to miss the signs it’s time to consider an assisted living community for a parent,” Rieger says.
“A lot of folks come in a lot later than they should have,” he says. “Oftentimes, the folks who are living at home will hide and compensate for the issues they’re dealing with. It can take the loved one some time before they uncover that there are some potential problems there. The adult children should seize any opportunity they can to peel back the onion.”
But What If My Parents Aren’t Ready?
You might still be worried that it’s too early to bring up the topic of assisted living. But no matter which stage your loved one is in, it’s best to start the conversation as soon as possible.
Even if your loved one isn’t ready to move to assisted living anytime soon, exploring your options sooner rather than later will help you both get comfortable with the idea and what to expect.
If the thought of your parent in an assisted living community makes you feel guilty, you’re not alone. But Rieger says many families don’t consider the guilt they’ll feel if something goes wrong at home.
“A lot of folks don’t realize there’s more guilt to be felt by not exploring assisted living,” Rieger says. “Someone living at home and having challenges really needs assistance. By not moving that ball forward, even though it’s challenging, that loved one is really missing out — not only on critical interventions but also the wonderful amenities and social opportunities assisted living offers.”
Adds Brown: “You can get ahead of the guilt by having frank conversations before the need arises about what you can handle as a caregiver and when your loved one thinks they’d want you to step in. They may say never — ‘Never take me out of here. I never want to leave my house!’ — but now you have information and you know you’re going to have to get your siblings on board or be prepared to handle some objections.”
It helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns and to empower your parent to be an active participant in the process.
If your parent remains reluctant to consider assisted living, you can help them overcome their resistance by visiting a community when it’s having a social event so they can see residents talking together and having fun.
And if you’re still on the fence about whether it’s the right time to start thinking about your assisted living options, the staff can help make the transition easier for everyone involved. Discover a community in your area, schedule a visit, and meet the people who'll provide the level of care and support your loved one deserves.