Knowing when it's time to move into assisted living

Alexander Raths

Yesterday, you received a call from your mom’s neighbor: Your elderly mother had fallen and sprained her wrist. It was her third fall in the last few months.

While no one wants to think about their parents’ need for assisted living, it is a topic that many adult children will have to face eventually. That conversation is not easy, but the way you approach it with your parents can make a difference, says Jackie Weintrop, spokeswoman for Brentmoor Retirement Community.

“Whether it’s a decline in their health, they’ve had a life scare, or they’re just lonely because they have outlived all their friends, something has prompted the need for this move,” Weintrop says.

Falling, not taking medication properly or forgetting to eat three meals a day are all signs that your parents may need help with everyday living. But once you see those signs, how do you approach them about a move?

“You want to express your concerns for their health and safety,” says Cindy Paige, health services sales director for Aberdeen Heights. “If your parent understands what your primary concern is, it’ll help those conversations go a little more smoothly.”

Stressing that your parents have worked all their lives, and now they deserve to be taken care of also can ease their minds, Weintrop says. However, you often still will encounter objections.

“One of the main objections is that your parents have lived in the same house for years and don’t want to leave,” Weintrop explains. “That’s their life, and it can create a sense of loss that’s not easy for anyone.”

Parents also will protest to the need and the cost of such a change. They often have a hard time seeing themselves as similar to other elderly residents. “Studies have shown that one of the greatest fears people have is fitting in,” Paige says. “It’s the same concerns anyone has about a new social situation.”

The family physician can help vocalize the need for assisted living, says Weintrop, but one of the best ways you can alleviate your parents’ concerns is to show them what their life can be like in assisted living. “The best thing an adult child can do is to take their parents to tour some of these communities so they can see that they can have a healthy, vibrant, independent lifestyle,” Paige notes. “It’s not the same as the old nursing home model from years ago.”

Attending a meal or activity at the various retirement communities, as well as having a checklist of considerations, will help your parents decide if they would be happy there. Paige also recommends using to view the state survey of facilities.

While the decision to move may be the best for your parents, you sometimes can come away with feelings of guilt. There are support groups for adult children within the retirement communities and “that can be helpful to know that other people are experiencing the same emotions and conflicts,” Paige says.

Despite initial concerns, parents will usually forget those objections after transitioning into the community where their needs are taken care of, Weintrop says. “Often, parents will call after a month or two and say, Why didn’t I do this sooner?