Among all the conversations between adult children and their aging parents, the conversation about whether Mom or Dad needs to consider moving into assisted living is certainly the hardest. Emotions run high on both sides. The aging parent is almost certain to become defensive or to act offended that their child would even suggest the need for a move. Meanwhile the adult child might tend to back-pedal, not wanting to hurt the parent’s feelings and not knowing whether their concerns are well-placed.
If this describes your situation, we recommend this very helpful article on the website Caring.com. It’s called “11 Signs it Might be Time for Assisted Living.” We found this list extremely comprehensive and thoughtful, and we think you will, too.
Before we consider some of the red flags to watch for, here’s a quote from the same website that we think does a good job of describing the emotional minefield you’re about to walk into. Nell Bernstein of Caring.com writes, “You sit down with a handful of colorful brochures and a burst of optimism to have ‘the housing talk’ with a relative or the person you’re caring for – to help her sort through all the options as she gets older and her needs change. But instead of thanks you get emotions: an angry outburst, maybe even tears, and the accusation that you’re trying to ‘put’ her somewhere.” Bernstein says you need to be “prepared for the psychological roadblocks you’re likely to hit when you broach the subject” of assisted living or senior housing.
So what are the warning signs that say it may be time to wade into that minefield and discuss assisted living? We won’t attempt to cover them all here, but Caring.com breaks down these potential alerts into several categories, beginning with what the article calls “Big-picture signs.” If your loved one has had a series of recent accidents, for example, or has been slow to recover from an illness, or is just having trouble coping with what experts call ADL’s – Activities of Daily Living – that should set off alarm bells. From there the article dives into various specifics.
For instance, one category of warning signs is called “Up-close signs.” Start by giving Mom or Dad a big hug when you see them – and not just for emotional reasons. By being in close physical proximity you’ll be able to determine if your loved one has had noticeable weight loss (perhaps from skipping meals due to depression) or if they seem obviously weaker and frailer. Basic up-close observation of their appearance and hygiene also might tip you off to a decline in their ability to manage by themselves. You need to look carefully and be objective.
Another important alert category mentioned in the article involves money. Look for what Caring.com calls “snowdrifts of mail in various places,” as well as mail (apart from junk mail) that has remained unopened. If you see several thank you letters and requests from various charities, this may alert you that some non-profits are soliciting your aging parent repeatedly because Mom or Dad keeps giving too generously or frequently. Check for any letters from banks or creditors that warn of problems with delinquency – these can be sure signs Mom or Dad is not managing their affairs well. (If this is a particular concern, this recent article from our Blog describing bill-paying services for seniors may be helpful in your situation.)
There are several other areas where you should look for signs that it may be time for assisted living. Are pets and plants being neglected? Is the yard getting away from Dad or Mom? Is the food in the refrigerator past date, or is there evidence of forgetfulness in your loved one’s shopping habits (ten bottles of ketchup, for instance)? Is the bathroom clean, or are there signs of neglect? Again, we encourage you to review this helpful article for many helpful cautions. You’ll also find links to helpful articles about what to do next.
If you need personal advice on how to approach your loved one with “the housing talk,” we here at AgingOptions can definitely assist you. We have walked this road with hundreds of families and will consider it a privilege to meet with you to review your particular circumstances. As elder law professionals with many years of personal experience in matters related to aging, the perspective we bring to this difficult issue will help lighten your burden and give you peace of mind. Best of all, your Mom or Dad will be the one to benefit most.
If your questions pertain more to retirement planning in general, that is our specialty. We approach retirement planning with a comprehensive strategy we call LifePlanning, a multi-faceted methodology that answers all the most important retirement-related questions. Where will I live? Will my assets be protected? Will my health care needs be met? Is my family aware of and supportive of my wishes? Are all my legal affairs in order? All this and more becomes part of your individual LifePlan. If that sounds intriguing, we have a perfect way for you to learn more: simply attend a free, no-obligation LifePlanning Seminar. It will be a few hours very well spent, we promise! Click on the Upcoming Events tab to register for the date and time of your choice, or call our office. We’ll look forward to speaking with you soon, no matter what your particular retirement-related questions may be.
(Originally reported at www.caring.com)