Agency on Aging

How To Know When It Is Time To Move

We are living longer and enjoying good health longer than ever before. Older adults are able to remain independent, in their own homes well into their 80s and 90s. The ability to “age-in-place” is the expressed desire of most older adults, however for some, there comes a time when independent living is no longer appropriate. How do you know when it is time to move from independent living?

There are three signs to watch for that can help you determine whether it is time to move to another level of care. The first sign is a noticeable worsening of memory and forgetfulness that potentially impact safety. Forgetting a pot cooking on the stove, forgetting one’s address are examples of forgetfulness and memory deficits that can compromise safety.    

The second sign is a decline in ability to perform independent activities of daily living. Helping with a bath once a week is manageable for most family caregivers, but helping with dressing, feeding, and toileting daily is more than most family caregivers can manage, if the parent lives in a separate household. The last sign to watch for is an increasing frailty and tendency to fall.

One change in functioning does not signal an immediate need to move from independent living, but when all the signs are there, the caregiver needs to take action. There are community-based services available for people who qualify functionally and financially. In addition, there are private pay options available for people who have the financial means to afford this care. Since most people prefer to remain living in the community for as long as possible, these options should be explored. If, even with the support of community-based programs, it is not safe or practical to remain living in the community independently, there are options in assisted living and/or nursing homes that can work. Remember, it does not mean you are no longer a caregiver, or that you have failed to support the person you care for. It just means that your care will take place in an alternate setting. Your care recipient will need your attention, support, and advocacy as much, if not more than they did previously. You will become the eyes and ears for your loved one to ensure they are receiving the services you have contracted for and to continue to provide them, socialization, love, and support. No matter how many people surround them in a nursing home or assisted living facility, the face of your loved one will light up when you arrive. You are the continuity between their former, independent life and their life is a new setting.