While most seniors hope to stay in their own homes as they age, many family members find that a day comes when it simply isn’t safe for their loved one to continue to live alone. But recognizing when that moment has arrived is challenging. And if your loved one is resistant to the idea of a move to assisted living, it can be easy to doubt yourself and wonder if it really is the right thing to do.
To help you determine when the time is right to push the point that your loved one should either move in with you or to an assisted living facility, here are a few signs your loved one shouldn’t live alone any more.
- They fall down doing everyday activities.
It only takes one serious fall to land a senior in the hospital, and senior falls are common enough to be a big cause for concern. Nearly 3 million seniors have to go to the ER because of a fall each year, and about 300,000 end up hospitalized for hip fractures caused by falls.
Many families end up realizing too late – after their loved one’s hospitalized – that they shouldn’t be living alone anymore. But often there are falls that occur before that point that can serve as a warning sign. If your loved one mentions falling down while doing regular around the house activities, pay attention. But be aware that they may not always make a point to mention it. If you notice a lot of bruises or minor injuries that seem like they could be from falls or bumping into things more often due to balance issues, then that could point toward a problem likely to get worse.
- The home is especially messy and uncared for when you visit.
With aging, a lot of typical household chores become harder. If your loved one has dementia or memory issues, they also become harder to remember to bother with or notice when they need to be done.
If you notice a sink full of dirty dishes starting to attract bugs, floors that clearly haven’t been cleaned in ages, or an out-of-control lawn that needs mowing – those are signs that your loved one has entered the phase where basic home maintenance is beyond their abilities. A messy home attracts bugs and bacteria and can lead to clutter that increases the risk of falls, so in addition to being unpleasant, it also puts your loved one at greater risk.
- You realize they almost never leave the house.
Every person needs a certain amount of social activity in their lives (even the most introverted amongst us). If your loved one isn’t participating in any social activities and has generally become inactive, then they’re at risk of senior loneliness and depression – both very serious issues.
In these cases, seniors can still feel confident living at home alone is what they want, while failing to see that it’s actually brought them a quality of life that’s inferior to what they would have in an environment where it’s easier to be more active and social in spite of the limitations of aging, like an assisted living facility.
- They miss multiple bill payments.
Like household chores, paying bills and staying on top of our financial obligations is one of those necessary parts of life we all begrudgingly do each month. But for seniors with dementia or other memory problems, remembering to sit down and deal with all those financial obligations can become increasingly hard.
If your loved one is missing bill payments and starting to get saddled with big late payments – or worse, if their electricity or water gets turned off because of it – then you all need to work together to find a better solution for them than the current one of living alone.
- They’re losing weight.
Most people spend a lot of their lives trying to lose weight, but sometimes in seniors it can be a warning sign that they’re having trouble taking care of themselves. Regularly buying groceries and preparing meals takes work, energy, and the ability to remember the need to do so. If your loved one is experiencing weight loss that seems drastic to you, they may be failing to feed themselves adequately.
- You notice signs they’re neglecting their hygiene.
Bad breath or body odor can suggest they’re forgetting to brush their teeth each day or skipping showers. Taking baths and showers is yet another daily task that becomes harder as you age – the bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms of the house for seniors. Whatever the reason, if your loved one is neglecting basic hygiene, that’s a big sign they’re starting to need help with ADLs.
- You notice unopened mail piling up around the house.
If stacks of unopened mail are starting to clutter their counters, then they’re not staying on top of going through the mail each day. Sure, we all get a lot of junk mail, but if old bills or letters from loved ones are included in the mix (and they can’t be bothered with the simple task of tossing the junk mail), then it’s a fairly innocuous sign that they’re starting to let the basics if taking care of themselves and their home go.
If you’ve noticed a combination of these signs, then you should seriously consider sitting down with your loved one to have the difficult conversation that it’s time for them to leave their home. If you have the resources to help care for them in your own home, that may be an option to propose. But if they need help with a number of activities of daily living, they may be better served in an assisted living facility. While many seniors are initially resistant to the idea, it can bring a boost to quality of life when they switch to living somewhere where all their basic needs are taken care of.
Before you talk to them, take some time to peruse the assisted living options in your area. That will make it easier to make a case to them that includes specifics about what’s good about the nearby facilities – the amenities, the activities, and the social world they’ll get to tap into. It will probably still be a difficult conversation, but a little preparation can make it easier.