Judy Squires, director of the Home Care and Case Management Department in the Independent Living area of La Posada in Green Valley, Arizona, is no stranger to the challenge of transitioning seniors to a higher level of care. She and her team are responsible for helping residents determine when it’s time to move from the continuing care retirement community’s independent living area into assisted living.
“We try to keep people in their homes as long as we can, but there comes a time when that isn’t working,” she says.
Criteria for Moving to Assisted Living
Squires lists several criteria to consider in the decision to move your parents to assisted living:
- Activities of daily living (ADLs): Body odor, soiled clothing, and significant weight gain or loss can all be signs that your parents need help with ADLs. According to the CDC/NCHS 2010 National Survey of Residential Care Facilities, almost 4 in 10 residents received assistance with three or more ADLs, of which bathing and dressing were the most common.
- Chronic conditions that are getting worse: According to the same survey, almost three-fourths of residents have had at least 2 of the 10 most common chronic conditions, of which high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias were the most prevalent.
- Medications: Your parents may not be taking their medications, possibly because they’re forgetting to take them or even order them in the first place.
- The condition of their home: Consider it a red flag when paperwork piles up or your parents aren’t paying their bills.
- Socialization: Pay attention to whether your parents are isolated and are not participating in activities the way they used to, which can be a sign of depression.
- Accidents and falls: Problems with safe driving or walking are a major cause of concern for seniors living on their own.
While there is no set number of criteria that indicates it’s time to move your parents to assisted living, Squires points out that the main concern is safety. If your parents can no longer safely live independently, it’s time to talk about assisted living.
Why Move to Assisted Living
Of course, when it comes to lovingly convincing parents to move to assisted living, Squires recognizes that there are no easy answers.
“We start the conversation slowly,” she says. “It’s an ongoing process.”
Squires advises seniors and their families to tour two or three different facilities so they have a better idea of what’s available and can make a more informed decision. She also recommends getting their physician or pastor involved in the discussion: “It can help to hear it from a trusted professional.”
The primary benefits of moving to assisted living, she says, are that most provide three meals a day and oversee medications, so seniors are eating better and feeling better. Even more than that, she points to socialization as a key benefit of assisted living.
“There are a lot of different activities to get involved in, and people to eat with at every meal,” says Squires. “They’re together with other people at their level of physical or cognitive decline, so they don’t have to fight it or try to hide it anymore.”
Packing List for Moving to Assisted Living
Beyond giving up a level of independence, another obstacle to getting your parents to move to assisted living is the monumental task of packing.
“Rarely does anyone want to give up their home,” says Squires. “The thought of downsizing is overwhelming.”
Most important, you have to make choices about furniture. “Take the things you use the most, and the things that are really important to you,” she suggests. That might be the chair you always sit in, or an item that reminds you of a special trip you took with a loved one.
In addition, she says, you’ll need a dresser that can fit a lot of clothing, bookshelves to fit your favorite books, and pictures to hang on the wall. You won’t need many kitchen items if your meals will be provided.
Squires recommends getting a floor plan with measurements before the move so you can map out the furniture that will fit comfortably. At La Posada and other assisted living providers, a team is available to help with the process of deciding what to take and what to leave behind.
And once seniors get settled, Squires attests to the fact that most are very happy with the move to assisted living, saying, “I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner!”