In 2010, 37% of Americans aged 65 or over reported some type of disability according the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Aging. However, often the signs of physical decline can be subtle, particularly if a loved one is not open about his or her change in status.
Sometimes the first step toward a transition to assisted living is a frank talk with a loved one about an observable decline in his or her health, mental acuity or physical capabilities:
Signs of Dehydration and Improper Nutrition
Having an empty refrigerator and bare cupboards may mean that a loved one is having problems with grocery shopping or having trouble preparing meals. If a loved one seems particularly frail or is losing weight, they may not be getting adequate nutrition or hydration.
Dehydration is a common problem for many individuals and particularly for the elderly. Being dehydrated can interfere with cognitive functions and negatively impact digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Vitamin deficiencies are common in the elderly. A lack of adequate B12 can contribute to a decline in cognitive function, while having low levels of Vitamin D has been associated with an increase in the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s.
Forgetfulness – Forgetting to Take Medication
Forgetting to go to a doctor’s appointment might indicate a sign of memory loss, but could also have the potential to create more immediate health problems. Your loved one may forget to take his or her medication as scheduled, which can result in serious and immediate health problems.
Even if your loved one is taking prescribed medication on a regular basis, there are still inherent risks of side effects. The sheer number of different medications that many seniors are prescribed compounds these risks. Having medication managed by professional staff lessens the odds that negative side affects from drug interactions go unnoticed. Medication management is counted among one of the top reasons that many people choose to place a loved one into an assisted living program.
No Longer Able to Manage the Home or Personal Finances
Keeping up a household can be an onerous burden as senior citizens experience physical decline. You may notice that your loved one’s house and yard are no longer as tidy as they once were. Your loved one may have trouble with managing money, and an investigation on your part might reveal that bills are not being paid on time.
Moving into an assisted living residence eliminates the need to maintain a household, and there are rarely any utilities that need to be paid for in addition to all-inclusive rental and care fees. If necessary, arrangements can be made to help your loved one manage finances and pay bills.
You might notice your loved one isn’t dressing appropriately for the weather. This suggests that some confusion may have set in, and could be an indicator of early stage dementia.
Your loved one may seem a bit disheveled, wearing the same clothes repeatedly, and not quite the dapper person they used to be. This could indicate trouble with bathing, dressing or doing laundry.
The skilled staff at an assisted living residence can gently assist your loved one with activities of daily living, including dressing appropriately, while also carefully observing your loved one’s behavior and speech to detect signs of dementia or stroke.
Loss of Hearing or Vision
Hearing or vision can gradually fade, making it much more difficult for your loved one to live independently. The loss of hearing or vision may happen so gradually that your loved one may be unaware of the extent to which it is interfering with his or her ability to perform the tasks of daily living.
An inability to see and hear greatly impacts a person’s ability to live independently. Assisted living residences do their best to ameliorate the effects of such changes by having bright lighting throughout the residence, as well as thoughtful and observant staff to assist when needed.
Difficulty Getting Around
Many seniors suffer from arthritis and other degenerative disorders. This can greatly interfere with mobility, making it difficult for them to move around. Seniors with these kinds of mobility issues are much more likely to suffer falls, which is a particular issue for those who live alone.
Seniors with arthritis or mobility issues can greatly benefit from the regular exercise programs offered at assisted living residences, as well as the diligent staff there to assist with getting around.
No Longer Able to Drive
Vision and depth perception often deteriorate with age, making it difficult or impossible for many seniors to drive. This may limit your loved one’s ability to run errands, shop for groceries, and get out into the community. Assisted living residences provide for many needs in-house, and offer regularly scheduled group trips into the community for everything from shopping excursions to doctor’s appointments.
If your loved one is feeling isolated, they are much more vulnerable to depression, which can exacerbate existing problems. Living close to other seniors in a residence can reduce the chances of experiencing feelings of isolation and the depression that often accompanies these feelings
Distance from Family
There may be no family members living close to your loved one, or job and family obligations might consume most of their time, leaving you and the rest of the family unable to provide the level of care that you would like to. Perhaps there is a lack of support services for seniors in the community in which your loved one lives. These problems can be ameliorated by life in an assisted living residence.