When's the right time to move to assisted living?

Determine which living option and level of care offer the best fit for your family.

March 11, 2022

8 min read

Shot of two senior women having tea together in a retirement home

When deciding upon an assisted living community for your parent or older relative, knowing all of the options that are available to you can make things easier. Whether you anticipate transitioning to a senior living community in the near future or are simply conducting research, it’s important to know which senior care service would best fit your family’s needs.

In this video, Karen Devaney, National Director of Care Management at Atria, answers questions about which levels of care are best for your parent or older family member.

Identifying the right time for senior living or assisted living

As people grow older, the responsibilities of owning and maintaining a home can put their health and safety in jeopardy. This is especially true for individuals with care needs, who may also rely on their caregivers as their only method of social connection. Caregivers can be limited to just one or two people who serve a number of different roles. One of those people may be you, or perhaps you have tried your best to divide caregiving tasks among your siblings and other family members or hired an in-home caregiver to provide assistance.

A move to senior living or assisted living, a setting that offers 24-hour support, is often what’s necessary for your parent to maintain their sense of independence – and for you to have peace of mind.

Ask yourself these questions:

On a daily basis, does my parent or relative engage in physical exercise? Socialize and connect with others? Eat a variety of fresh, nutritious meals? Set goals and enjoy a sense of purpose? If you answered no to one or more of these questions, senior living may be a good choice for your parent now.

On a daily basis, have you experienced symptoms of caregiver burnout?

Examples include:

  • High levels of stress due to an incident or hospitalization involving your parent
  • Moments of depression or anxiety
  • Trouble finding time for yourself
  • Feeling a strain on your relationship with your parent

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it may be a good time to start looking into what services and support assisted living communities can provide to help your family.

What living options are available in senior living communities?

In many senior living communities, you will find three types of living options: independent living, assisted living or supportive living, and memory care. The difference between each community depends on the type of support provided. Some communities offer all three levels, creating a seamless continuum of services.

Independent living

If your parent is active and able to take care of daily tasks like bathing, getting dressed and grooming, they are probably best suited for independent living. These communities provide many opportunities for social engagement and the freedom to pursue personal interests without worrying about cooking, cleaning or home maintenance.

How to tell if independent living is right for your parent:

  • Is my parent physically independent but often isolates? Am I worried that they may be lonely? It is common for older adults to withdraw from others as they age and find themselves napping or watching TV all day. Independent living offers opportunities to keep them engaged and active.
  • Does my parent live alone? Do I worry about their safety or feel the need to constantly check in on them? Are they having trouble keeping up with home maintenance? If yes, the increased safety, security and sense of community provided by independent living would be a great benefit to them.
  • Does my parent often rely on me or others to transport them to appointments, run errands or handle everyday tasks? Are they still driving on occasion and probably shouldn’t be? They may find independent living ideal since common services include transportation, cooking, cleaning, maintenance and more.

Assisted living and supportive living

Assisted living communities – also called supportive living or personal care communities in some areas – usually offer 24-hour support with a broad range of senior care services, including:

  • Personal care services such as bathing, grooming and getting dressed
  • Safety checks
  • Escorts to and from meals and events
  • Medication reminders, which includes consultation with primary physicians and pharmacies, plus ordering prescriptions and scheduled reviews by a licensed nurse
  • Transportation to and from local appointments
  • Assistance with telehealth appointments
  • Incontinence management

Full-time licensed nurses are often employed at assisted living communities to serve as another layer of professional support. And for further convenience, physicians typically visit communities, so residents can see a doctor in the comfort of their home.

Some assisted living communities partner with rehab facilities to offer therapeutic services on-site; “house calls” at the community may be arranged if on-site services are not offered.

Communities that offer customizable levels of care can help enhance the quality of life for older adults. In addition, quality senior living communities will empower their residents to live a more active, independent lifestyle.

How to tell if assisted living is right for your parent:

  • Would my parent or relative be at risk if they spent a few days alone? If yes, assisted living would be an ideal option.
  • Does my parent have a degenerative disease or serious medical condition? Even if your parent manages fairly well and only requires occasional support, assisted living could be the best fit.
  • Is the condition of my parent’s home concerning due to their inability to clean or take care of maintenance? If maintaining the home has become too difficult for your parent, consider assisted living. However, if your parent is able to maintain their home but no longer wants to worry about the day-to-day tasks associated with home ownership, independent living would be a good fit.

Memory care

If your parent has challenges due to long-term effects of Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory impairment, they would greatly benefit from a memory care community. These safe and secure environments offer round-the-clock staff to provide specialized care services and medication assistance. Additionally, auxiliary programs like support groups for caregivers, opportunities to improve cognitive health, and events to keep residents happy and engaged are common at communities that offer memory care services.

A thoughtfully designed community that offers dementia care will leave no detail unturned to provide a better quality of life for residents. Some examples include playing familiar music throughout common spaces to soothe residents and serving meals on colorful dinnerware to increase food recognition and appetite.

Deciding whether or not memory care is right for your family member can be complicated depending on their stage of impairment.

How to tell if memory care is right for your parent:

Does my parent often wander off or forget where they are? Do I have concerns about them getting lost? Have they recently gone for a walk and got confused on how to get home?

If so, memory care may be right for them.

Do I have concerns that my parent is unsafe at home alone? Do they remember people and places but forget to do important tasks like turning off the stove, locking doors and eating three meals a day?

Forgetfulness could be a common sign of aging; however, advanced memory loss can pose a safety risk. If your parent struggles to remember certain safety practices, choosing a community that offers both assisted living and memory care services would be ideal in the event their cognitive health declines.

Do I worry my parent is in the early stages of dementia?

First, visit a doctor for an official diagnosis, since there are other diseases that can present themselves as dementia. If your parent is in fact in the early stages of dementia, consider an assisted living community that also offers memory care as their condition progresses.

Senior care services at Atria can help your family

This is not a comprehensive questionnaire, and you do not have to answer every question immediately or all on your own. Transitioning from home to a senior living community can be a difficult and overwhelming process, but we are here to help.

At Atria, each resident in an assisted living community receives a thorough assessment of their physical, emotional and functional status from a licensed nurse. During the first 90 days, a reassessment is conducted to verify that we are providing the appropriate level of care.

Thereafter, additional assessments are performed quarterly or as-needed based on caregiver recommendations or changes in condition. These evaluations help us see that our residents are properly cared for and are among the factors we consider in determining and monitoring staff levels.

The professional staff at Atria Senior Living is here to assist you and your family – from answering your questions about senior living to sharing info about senior care and more. If you’d like to connect with one of our knowledgeable staff members for a one-on-one consultation, contact us. We’d be more than happy to discuss the right level of care for your parent.

Our Guide on Deciding if it is Time for Your Parent to Move into Assisted Living (PDF)

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Not sure where to start?

There’s a lot to learn when you become a caregiver, and you may be wondering where to start. Fortunately, many of the experiences you’ll encounter are common, and we've pulled together resources to help you along your journey.

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