When Temperament Indicates a Senior Living Transition

shutterstock_404537383You may already understand some of the universal indicators that a loved one requires Assisted Living, such as needing support with activities of daily living. However, these warning signs can vary widely by individual temperament as well.

A Primer on Personality

“Temperament” refers to the inherited aspects of your personality, as opposed to learned attitudes and behaviors. Introversion and extroversion are key dimensions of temperament, affecting the way you think, feel, and behave.

Contrary to popular belief, introversion does not mean “shy,” nor is extroversion synonymous with “outgoing.” Rather, you can distinguish the two types of people by what energizes them. If you need alone time to recharge, you’re more of an introvert; if people and activity energize you, your temperament skews closer to the extroversion end of the continuum.

Temperament is not something that changes with time or age.

“Temperament is innate and remains constant throughout life,” affirms Dr. Nicki Nance, a licensed psychotherapist and an expert on aging. “Serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain, decreases in extroverts who are alone too long, and in introverts who are without quiet time for too long.”

Senior Living Clues for Extroverts

shutterstock_404536990Introverts and extroverts have vastly different ways of interacting with the world, so you should understand your loved one’s temperament to determine when a move to senior living is in order.

“An extroverted senior might become depressed as his or her social circle shrinks,” explains Dr. Nance, who is also an assistant professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, which educates students who learn differently. “The older extrovert might increase alcohol consumption, or become a nuisance to a neighbor or a merchant.”

In fact, she says, you might think your extroverted loved one has dementia due to their erratic behavior when, in reality, he or she is intoxicated.

“A move to a full-spectrum community can provide necessary stimulation and socialization,” says Dr. Nance.

Senior Living Clues for Introverts

shutterstock_126744245You might have to do some detective work to discover problems with introverted seniors because they tend to withdraw from others and neglect to ask for help, says Dr. Nance. Look for changes in their living space, but do it as subtly and respectfully as you can.

“Infrequent visitors might find there isn’t adequate food in the refrigerator, or the house needs repairs,” she says. “Introverted people, in general, become more irritable when they feel their space has been invaded.”

Your loved one’s temperament may also mask other underlying problems. “Dementia, for instance, might not be noticeable in an elder who has always been a loner,” adds Dr. Nance.

If you suspect that your introverted loved one can no longer maintain a healthy and safe environment on their own, you should consider a senior community transition.

“A move to an Assisted Living apartment in a quiet community might be a good choice to meet their physical needs and preserve their privacy,” says Dr. Nance.

Supporting Your Loved One

Once you understand where your loved one’s temperament lies on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, you can provide appropriate support in the senior living decision. Dr. Nance recommends involving seniors in every step of the move and offering choices whenever possible.

“For an introvert, even small decisions like, ‘Would you like to take a look at that apartment on Tuesday or Wednesday?’ keep the person in control of a life where his or her choices are diminishing,” she says.

As for extroverts, Dr. Nance suggests letting their activities and interests guide senior living decisions. Consider military service, union membership, or a faith-based affiliation to plan activities and help seniors meet like-minded friends. Extroverts could also fulfill their need for interaction through volunteer work.

Ultimately, understanding your loved one’s unique temperament can give you a clearer sense of both timing for the move and an appropriate setting to meet their needs.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Do you think introverts or extroverts have an easier time adjusting to a senior living community?

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