Reader Q&A: When Do People Start Looking for Assisted Living?

Jean is one of our readers who sent me a message on LinkedIn.  It’s a question about which I’m asked quite often, so I wanted to share it with the entire readership.

Ryan, thank you for the free material. I learned a great deal, very interesting report! Another question:I am curious, when do people start looking for a place for their parents? at the time of crisis? or is there a process that Baby Boomers are aware of, thus take an initiative early on?

It would be unfair of me to lead you all to believe there is a specific time to consider assisted living.  For most of us, it’s not something that typically appears one day.

Assisted living becomes an option if your loved one cannot perform basic ADLs (activities of daily living) independently, or if their behavior could jeopardize themselves or someone else.

Basic and Complex ADLs

Activities of daily living are those activities that are essential to independent living.  They consist of basic and complex activities.

Basic activities include:

  • Feeding one’s self
  • Using the bathroom appropriately
  • Maintaining good personal hygiene
  • Dressing appropriately for the season

Complex ADLs include:

  • Cooking
  • Shopping
  • Effective communications
  • Following directions
  • Taking medications appropriately
  • Money management

When Should You Start Thinking About Assisted Living?

The decision to begin evaluating assisted living is never an easy decision.  And often, while your instincts will tell you it’s time to begin that process, your heart will tell you otherwise.  I think as children, many of us viewed our parents as heroes.  I know I did. And it was really hard to face the reality that they may need extra help.

In my experience and from that of the people I’ve met, the best time to consider assisted living is when your loved one’s ability to perform ADLs starts to deteriorate.

Some select warning signs:

  • Late bill payments
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Missed medications or medications taken incorrectly
  • Repeated accidents in the kitchen or bathroom

We’ve all had these symptoms, so I don’t want to scare anyone who sees something for the first time.  And a time or two doesn’t usually indicate a problem caring for one’s self or staying safe. However, if they occur frequently, you may want to consider a geriatric screening.  A geriatric screening is an exam usually conducted at a hospital where you can identity (or rule out) signs of aging that may impair your loved one’s ability to live independently.

You know your parents and you know yourself.  Most of the time, your gut will tell you something’s wrong.  If you start to see symptoms, be proactive and consult a doctor.