Change Can Be Hard for Older Adults
Moving into an assisted living facility can be hard for older adults, especially if they are accustomed to being independent and maintaining their own homes. The thought of leaving a beloved home that holds many years of memories can bring sadness and grief.
Children See Their Parents the Way They Were Before
The decision to choose an assisted living facility can be just as hard for the children of aging parents as it is for the parents.
In her work at an assisted living facility, Paulette Kaufman says she is amazed at how many children continue to see their parents as the strong, in-charge people they were 30 years ago. “They are accustomed to seeing their parents provide help and support,” she says, “and they truly fear seeing their mother or father struggling.”
Son Saw His Father as More Competent Than He Was
Kaufman described meeting a son who brought his father to tour the independent living neighborhood, which is designed for active seniors.
“On the phone, I asked him how his father was managing at home,” she says. “His reply was confident: ‘My Dad is fine, and does everything for himself.’”
On the day of the appointment, Kaufman saw that the parent was a frail, unshaven man, wearing a warm-up suit that needed washing. His bright eyes still sparkled, and he gave Kaufman a big smile and a warm greeting.
As they walked down the hall, the older man confided to Kaufman that his legs were too weak to walk far, and Kaufman knew he needed assisted living, where the rooms and distances are more manageable, and 24-hour personal care is available.
“I turned to the son and explained that as our parents age, sometimes they need extra care and assistance," Kaufman says, speaking of the assisted living option.
"Everyone wants their parents to live independently as long as possible, but the ability to make good decisions and to care for one’s self can slowly decline.” Kaufman adds that if an emergency arises, it’s important to have another caring adult nearby.
After touring the assisted living facility, the older man smiled and said, “This is more like it.” When the father went to the restroom, his son looked at Kaufman and said, "I just had no idea he was so frail."
Children Often Overlook Signs of Decline in Their Parents
Kaufman says that this scenario--children seeing there parents as not ready for assisted living--is common. “The son always saw his dad as the strong father figure of years ago,” she says. “After a bit of probing, some of my questions revealed signs he hadn’t seen, like recent weight loss, and uneaten meals in the refrigerator.
It can be hard for children to admit that their parents need an assisted living facility. “It was difficult for this loving son to acknowledge that his father had aged and needed assistance with daily tasks,” she says. “A tear came to the son's eyes as he realized he had been in denial, and that he wasn’t helping his father in the right way.”
Is Your Parent Ready for Assisted Living? Ask Yourself These Questions
It’s easy to overlook signs of decline in older adults, so ask yourself the following questions to help you determine if your parent is ready for assisted living:
- Is your parent telling you that he is eating, but you’re seeing food go bad in the refrigerator?
- Is your parent covering up bruises from falling that he or she doesn’t want you to see?
- Have you seen your parent wearing the same clothes when you go to visit?
- Does your parent hear strange noises in the night?
- When you look around the house or yard, is it as neat and clean as it used to be?
- Is your parent able to take medications correctly?
- Does your parent respond appropriately to an emergency?
- When you really look at your parent, do you see the bright and vibrant person from years ago, or do you see a more limited person who needs some help one hour a day, three hours a day, or around the clock?
If you answered yes to even a couple of these questions, your parent may be ready for an assisted living facility.
Kaufman stresses the importance of adult children being able to recognize when their parents need help, and when it's time for assisted living. While making the decision to move to an assisted living facility can be difficult, adult children have a responsibility to ensure that their parents are properly cared for, comfortable, and secure.
Note: For a definition of assisted living and other senior housing terms, see Senior Housing: Glossary of Common Terms