Many of us are looking forward to the days when we can once again safely gather together with our loved ones, especially the older adults in our lives. Perhaps it has been many months since you were able to spend close quality time with one another, and during that time apart, it is possible that certain lifestyle factors have become more difficult for your loved one to manage.
When visiting with your aging loved ones, you may notice some of the early indicators that they are ready for the additional support and care found in a senior living community. Recognizing these signs sooner rather than later can help you avoid making hasty living decisions due to unexpected emergencies.
AWaRENESS MEANS YOU CARE
It's easy to miss the subtle signals that someone you love may benefit from the support of a senior living community. Since they're not always obvious, you'll need to pay close attention to their day-to-day lives. For example, you may notice their home isn't as tidy as it once was, or you might find excessive amounts of expired food in the refrigerator.
Many adult children may initially make excuses when a parent first shows signs of struggling with activities of daily living. In the midst of busy lives balancing work and family needs, it can be challenging to recognize that simple changes are emblematic and that a higher level of care may be necessary.
Recognizing signs of aging in your parents or grandparents can be difficult to accept, but they should not be ignored. Keep an eye out for these signs that it might be time to consider the support of a senior living community.
1. A Difference in Self-Care
The activities of daily living (ADLs) that we take for granted in our younger years may prove to be more difficult as we age. When those activities become harder to do, your parents or grandparents may make small adjustments to get around the problem or make it easier. Make note of the following examples of your loved one's ADLs:
- They have a harder time getting dressed in the mornings or begin to wear different clothes that are easier to put on. Sometimes, this might mean wearing clothing that is not seasonally appropriate, like wearing thin fabrics even when the weather turns cooler, or failing to put on socks.
- Their hair is not as put together as it typically is.
- They do not seem to be washing on a regular basis.
All of these may be signs that daily tasks are becoming increasingly challenging and that your loved one may benefit from living in a senior living community.
2. Medication Management
Managing prescribed medications that all have different but specific requirements can become extremely complicated, especially for seniors. Does your loved one have many medications prescribed to be taken at a certain time of day (or even several times a day)? What about pills that should be taken with food? Or intravenous medication? If your loved one is having trouble keeping their medications straight, it may cause serious side effects or health issues. They might not tell you outright that they're struggling, so look for these indicators if you're concerned about their ability to manage their own medications:
- Fluctuations in blood pressure.
- Frequent visits to the emergency room.
- Receiving refill notifications while still having days’ or weeks’ worth of pills.
- Needing refills on pills earlier than had been prescribed.
If you notice these changes, they could indicate that your loved one is forgetting to take prescribed medications or is taking them incorrectly and could benefit from additional support.
Senior living communities often provide medication management services, which can help your loved one adhere to their prescriptions.
3. How They Handle Finances
Remembering to pay the bills on time and maintaining a budget can be challenging at any age. However, if you notice differences like these in your loved one’s spending habits, it may indicate that your loved one needs assistance.
- Sudden large or impulsive purchases. For example, suddenly subscribing to a large number of magazines or buying items they don’t need.
- Missed bills. Some utility companies may reach out to you if they can't get a hold of your loved one about past-due bills, or your loved one may mention it themselves.
- Inability to sniff out a scam. Some phishing schemes and fraudulent offers target seniors who can't tell it's fake. This leaves them more vulnerable to giving up sensitive data like credit card information, Social Security, or other personal identification.
Depending on the level of care necessary, many seniors discover that moving into a senior living community helps to consolidate their finances and stay organized, making it possible to maintain independence while reducing the complexity of their bills and financial management.
4. Change in Driving Abilities
Are you noticing changes in your senior loved one’s driving abilities? Over the last year, seniors may have had less occasion to drive, and this might add to feelings of nervousness if they are getting back behind the wheel. It’s important to make sure they still feel safe driving by themselves. Depending on the signs, there are different ways to accommodate your loved one’s changing needs.
No matter how old they are, driving is an important part of an individual’s independence. Unless you suspect that your parent presents a danger to themselves or others on the road, don't take away their keys immediately. The solution might point to something as simple as needing an eye exam and an updated prescription. However, if you or your loved one is concerned, you could recommend that they take a driving test again to ensure their abilities on the road will keep them safe.
One of the great benefits of living in a senior living community is the scheduled transportation services offered. Even if your loved one is no longer driving on their own, they are still able to keep their independence and commute around the area.
BEGIN THE CONVERSATION EARLY
If you are noticing some of these subtle signs, we recommend starting a conversation with your loved one about transitioning to senior living. Your loved one will likely be nervous about how this change would affect their lifestyle, so remember to approach the topic calmly, respectfully, and with compassion.
“Waiting too long to have the conversation is probably the worst mistake you can make,” says Wendy W., daughter of a resident at Terracina Grand in Naples, Florida. “Have it early when they can still tell you what they want and when they can pick the community.”
THE SUPPORT AND ENJOYMENT OF A SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY
A senior living community can actually increase a resident’s autonomy and their independence. Passionate professionals can oversee those simple responsibilities so seniors can focus on other meaningful activities they enjoy. For many, choosing to live in a senior living community offers social engagement stimulation through focused activities and programming.
Living in a senior living community can offer your loved one new freedom, even later in life, and you can rest easy knowing they are cared for so they can focus on the things that they enjoy the most.