What Are My Choices for Housing as I Grow Older?
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A retirement community is a suitable option for an older adult that is able to care for himself or herself independently and would like to live amongst other retirees. Some retirement communities do allow residents to have assistance in the form of home health aides or home nurses, but the community does not provide this type of care. These communities will usually require the resident is a certain age and no longer working. Most retirement communities offer many social opportunities for those that reside there. For many, the social activities is one of the major highlights to this type of living.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living is a great option for people who can get around independently but need assistance in some aspects of their activities of daily living (ADLs). Services provided by these facilities may include:
- Medication management
- Transportation arrangements
- Social activities
- Assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, toileting, etc.)
- Health services
- 24-hour security
- Wellness programs
- Community involvement
Every facility is different and all offer different levels of assistance. It is important to thoroughly assess you or your loved one’s needs before deciding on which facility is the most appropriate fit for you or your family member.
Extended Care Facilities (Nursing Homes)
The nursing home setting is appropriate for people who are no longer able to perform their activities of daily living (ADLS) independently and are in need of continuous nursing care. The residents of a nursing home are provided with 24 hour nursing care and complete medication management. There are a variety of people that live in the extended care facilities including: senior citizens, people with disabilities and Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Decide Which Option is Right for Me
Who can I talk to about options?
Transitioning to an assisted living facility is a major life change that requires a lot of adjustments for the individual and the entire family involved with the change. Communication is a key factor for healthy adjustments for everyone. When making the decision, it is important to talk with all members of the family involved and keep open communications about feelings and wishes.
The physician may play a key role in making the decision of you or a loved one going into assisted living. In fact, the physician is sometimes the one who might recommend the arrangement. There are also geriatric care managers that can get involved to assist in this decision making process and also help to find the best suited facility to meet the needs of you or your family member.
Having a home evaluation
Having a care giver come to the home and conduct a thorough assessment of how you or your loved one functions in the home is the best way to determine if assisted living is appropriate. This type of assessment is referred to as a home evaluation, or a home assessment. This assessment doesn't take much time and can be done by a routine caregiver or by a representative from the Area Office on Aging or a geriatric care manager.
Talking About the Transition to Assisted Living
Talking to your family member if you think they need assisted living
This may likely be the most difficult conversation you will ever have in your entire life, but also can be the most important one as well. This very conversation could save the life of a family member. There are many things to keep in mind when having this conversation.
First, always keep your tone of voice soft and calm so that they don’t feel tension. If they raise their voice, make a conscious effort to not shout back otherwise it will be an all-out fight before you know it. Secondly, always make sure that they feel that they are in control and the one who will ultimately have the final say-so in the decision. This entire scenario is often the worst nightmare of an aging individual, to them it may feel as though they are being kicked out of their home and losing all of their independence. Also, make sure you have thoroughly researched what assisted living can offer your family member before you initiate this stressful conversation. Having this information will help you highlight all the positives so that they understand how they can benefit from this type of living situation. Finally, make sure they are involved in all financial aspects of the decision. It is important that you provide them with all the information such as costs, etc. and maybe even ask them to join you for a tour of the facility where they can evaluate what they will be getting for the price.
Talking to the doctor
If you or a loved one are considering transitioning to an assisted living environment your doctor is a great resource to discuss this issue with you. Ask him or her what they think regarding your or your family member’s medical condition and prognosis and if they feel that looking into an assisted living facility would be an appropriate choice. If the decision is not quite obvious the doctor may be able to recommend where you could get a home evaluation to further assess the needs of you or your loved one.
Self-Initiated Moves to an Assisted Living Facility
Forgetting appointments and scheduled phone calls
Do you find yourself forgetting or missing appointments or scheduled phone calls? Do you seem to be more forgetful in general and have difficulty remembering where you placed things or what you need to do? If you feel like you are becoming increasingly forgetful assisted living can benefit you by having transportation arrangements made and reminders for important events such as doctor’s appointments and phone calls.
Having difficulty preparing food
Is it becoming harder for you to prepare meals at home? Do you sometimes forget to prepare meals for yourself, or do you not have the motivation to cook meals for yourself? Assisted living can bring you prepared meals throughout the day, so that you no longer have to worry about what’s for dinner or if you remembered to cook dinner or not.
Falling at home
Be honest with yourself and think about this. Have you been falling at home? Falling can be very embarrassing and it is natural to want to deny the falling or hide it from family and friends, but by hiding this issue could cost you your life. Assisted living facilities offer grab bars to help prevent falling and emergency call systems so that in case of a fall you can get help right away.
No longer able to drive
If you are no longer able to drive due to license restraints or safety concerns most assisted living facilities have an answer by providing transportation services.
Feelings of depression or loneliness
As we grow older, many of us will face issues with depression and loneliness. We may have lost a spouse, our children may have moved away or whatever the reason, loneliness and depression are very normally feelings are we age. Assisted living communities offer the opportunity to live close to others and develop friendships. Not only that, but most facilities will provide organized social and community events.
Having difficulty keeping up with housework and laundry
There comes a point in the lives of most where we just can’t get around like we used to. Sometimes being easily fatigued or just not being as mobile as you once were can make it difficult to accomplish household chores and laundry duties. One of the major advantages to assisted living is that these duties will be taken care of for you.
Talking to your family about moving to assisted living
If you feel that assisted living would help you function better to allow you to enjoy a safer and more fulfilling life, do not hesitate to discuss this with your family members. If you are able to recognize areas in your life where you are struggling and you feel that assisted living can help you in these areas, your family members would likely see the same areas that you are struggling with and would be more than supportive of your decision. Sometimes loneliness can become a disease of itself. While financial constraints may be on your mind, don’t let that keep you from bringing up this important discussion. Chances are they may already have the same thoughts and feelings and will likely be happy that you brought up the issue. Always remember that your family will likely want what is best and if safety in the home is an issue the sooner you bring up the issue the better.
Talking to the doctor
If you or a loved one are considering transitioning to an assisted living environment, your doctor is a great resource to discuss this issue with you. Ask him or her what they think regarding your or your family member’s medical condition and prognosis and if they feel looking into an assisted living facility would be an appropriate choice. If the decision is not quite clear the doctor may be able to recommend where you could get a home evaluation to further assess the needs of you or your loved one.