How Early Is Too Early to Move Into Assisted Living?

The decision of a senior to move to an assisted living community is monumental. If you are the adult child of a senior mother or father, who may wonder if the time is right for your parent to move to assisted living, you are far from alone. At the outset, you should consider whether or not it is too early for your senior parent to move into an assisted living community.

Brief Overview of Life in Assisted Living

Before considering whether or not it might be too early for your senior parent to move to assisted living, we provide you with a brief overview of the basics of life in this type of senior facility.

  1. Assisted living provides a unique combination of housing, personalized supportive services, and other features designed to meet the needs of older adults who require help with activities of daily living. These services can include assistance with meals, dressing, bathing, medication management, laundry, and transportation.
  2. Assisted living communities offer greater flexibility than other long-term care options, such as nursing homes or in-home care. Residents can maintain independence while benefiting from support services tailored to their needs.
  3. Assisted living is generally less expensive than nursing home care and may provide a higher quality of life for those needing assistance with daily activities and medical care. In most states, including California, assisted living is regulated by a state agency.
  4. Assisted living communities typically provide a wide array of amenities that cater to their residents’ lifestyle needs and preferences. This can include fitness centers, beauty salons or barbershops, libraries, movie theaters, game rooms, courtyards with walking paths and gardens for gardening enthusiasts, lounges or social areas where residents can gather, and pet-friendly facilities. A commonplace feature is a communal dining area.
  5. Most assisted living residents enjoy an active lifestyle filled with recreational activities tailored to meet the needs and interests of each resident. These can include such things like:
  • Outings for shopping or entertainment venues like museums or cultural centers
  • Arts and crafts classes
  • Exercise classes
  • Spiritual meeting
  • Lectures
  • Educational programs such as computer classes
  • Card games
  • Special events like birthdays or holidays
  • Musical performances
  • Day trips to local attractions
  • Nature walks in nearby parks or trails
  • Barbeques
  • Other activities, programs, and events

Additionally, many communities offer a variety of volunteer opportunities that allow residents to give back to their communities in meaningful ways.

Four Reasons Why the Time May Not Be Right for a Move to Assisted Living

There can be many reasons why the time may have yet to arrive for a senior parent to move into an assisted living community. Four of the more commonplace of these reasons for not moving to assisted living at present include:

  • Financial concerns
  • Medical concerns
  • Desires of a senior parent
  • Lack of proper preparation
  1. Financial Concerns: Assisted living facilities can often be quite expensive, and putting your parent in such a facility could quickly become cost prohibitive if they don’t have life savings or other financial resources available. To determine if this is an issue of concern, you’ll need to research ahead of time and figure out what type of assistance programs exist that could help offset these costs. Additionally, consider whether or not your parent’s current home requires any costly upkeep and repairs – if so, these costs would need to be considered when deciding to move into an assisted living facility.
  2. Medical Concerns: If your senior parent has certain medical needs that require continual care, then it might not make sense for them to move away from their current home and doctor until their health improves enough for them to transition effectively without the fear of complications due to relocation stressors or changes in the environment. It’s best practice to consult with their primary care physician before making this major decision so that they can give you specific advice based on your parental unit’s individual medical needs.
  3. Desires of Senior Parent: Often, elderly folks feel overwhelmed at the prospect of having to leave their homes as they’ve known them for many years and embraced all the memories created within those walls over the span of decades; leaving those walls might prove too emotionally taxing for them at first glance. You must show compassion towards these feelings while simultaneously being cognizant of potential physical limitations that may arise due to aging or other medical issues requiring special care or attention outside what you can provide yourself; balance is key here.
  4. Lack of Proper Preparation: Before moving into an assisted living center, you and your senior parent must understand all aspects involved in such a transition. These include legal matters related to finances and healthcare decisions, packing up belongings (or getting rid of unwanted items), and (perhaps) finding new doctors or caregivers nearby a facility. Taking care of such matters will enable smoother integration for everyone involved during the process.

15 Questions to Ask: Is It Too Early for Assisted Living for Your Senior Parent?

When contemplating whether the time has arrived for your senior parent to transition into an assisted living community, there are a set of 15 questions you and your mother or father should consider in this regard:

  1. Is your parent getting around safely and comfortably at home, including modifications if such changes are needed?
  2. Is your parent’s home appropriately clean, tidy, and well-maintained?
  3. Is your parent able to do laundry frequently to change clothes daily?
  4. Does your parent have opportunities to regularly interact and socialize with friends and family?
  5. Does your parent have any hobbies he or she can engage in comfortably?
  6. Does your parent feel happy, satisfied, and mentally stimulated at home?
  7. Is your parent able to exercise regularly and maintain healthy habits?
  8. Is there fresh, nutritious food in your parent’s refrigerator and pantry?
  9. Does your parent eat three balanced meals each day?
  10. Is your parent capable of running errands readily?
  11. Does your parent have access to reliable transportation? 
  12. Is your parent still able to drive?
  13. Are your parent’s bills paid on time without any past-due notices?
  14. Does your parent have a plan in case of a medical emergency?
  15. Does your parent remember to take medications according to the doctor’s orders?

Five Alternatives to Assisted Living for Your Senior Parent

If, after considering the 15 questions referenced a moment ago, you and your senior mother or father determine that the time is not right for assisted living, you may want to consider other alternatives. We present five possible alternatives that might work for your senior parent (and for you and the rest of the family):

  • In-home care
  • Adult daycare
  • Retirement communities (or continuing care communities)
  • Home-sharing programs
  • Senior living apartments
  1. In-Home Care: In-home care is an alternative to assisted living that involves hiring a caregiver to come into your home and provide the necessary care. This can range from basic tasks like helping with meals and laundry to more involved activities like managing medications or providing physical therapy or other medical services. In-home care may be right for those who prefer the comfort of their own home or are looking for a less expensive option than assisted living.
  2. Adult Daycare: Adult daycare centers provide daytime supervision and support for seniors who require assistance but do not need around-the-clock help. The centers usually provide therapeutic activity programs, health-related services, and socializing opportunities in a safe environment where seniors can receive quality care from professionals during the day while family members remain in the workforce or attend errands during working hours.
  3. Retirement Communities: Retirement communities offer the convenience of access to onsite amenities such as healthcare, meal plans, and recreational activities within proximity of home or an inclusive community atmosphere. These types of amenities are often found needing more in independent living arrangements. Residents can access all these services without worrying about transportation costs or risks associated with long car rides. Some retirement communities also offer additional services such as housekeeping, security, outdoor maintenance and landscaping, recreation activities, and other amenities.
  4. Home-sharing Programs: Home-sharing programs pair up older adults who need additional assistance with someone looking for a place to live in exchange for providing some support- from transportation services and running errands to companionship. These types of arrangements typically involve two people living under one roof. An example of such an arrangement may be one in which one senior citizen needs help with daily tasks while the other person provides it in exchange for free room and board.
  5. Senior Living Apartments: Senior living apartments offer seniors more autonomy than assisted living facilities but with more options than traditional apartment complexes. These include such features as access to a 24/7 emergency response system, onsite concierge service, communal areas (including gymnasiums and lounges where they can socialize with neighbors), health clinics staffed by registered nurses or doctors, safety features (including smoke and CO detectors, fire alarms, security cameras), restaurant-style dining facilities, and convenience stores stocked with food items needed daily steps away from their doorsteps.