As adult children watch their parents get older, it can be tough to know when it’s the right time to make the move to assisted living. Some signs may be more obvious than others, but the key is to listen to your gut, according to Margie Veis, executive director of Oakmont of Santa Clarita.
While it may be a son or daughter’s instinct to trust their parent when they say they’re eating and taking their medication, Veis stressed that in this situation, simply asking questions isn’t always enough.
“Open the refrigerator. Is it filled with food? Look at the food — is the milk expired, is the bread stale?” she said. “Are their medications placed haphazardly? If they’re using a medication box, look at it. If it’s Tuesday and all the meds are still there, that’s a sign.”
Another sign to look out for is memory problems, which could be an indication of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
“If your mom has always been sharp and with it, and then in the first five minutes, she’s telling you the same story — or … ‘I just saw my neighbor,’ and then two minutes later, ‘Oh, did I tell you I just bumped into my neighbor?’ — it’s out of the norm,” Veis explained. “You know your parents best, so you have to trust your gut, and that’s a hard thing.”
Rather than waiting for something to happen that forces the move to assisted living, Veis noted the importance of being proactive instead.
“Take that first step and see, what is assisted living? What is Oakmont? What do you offer, what does it cost, how does this work? So at least in your mind, you have an idea,” she said.
Even if the move to assisted living isn’t necessary right now, communities like Oakmont often offer waitlists for potential future residents so that when the decision becomes imminent, it’s not a panicked last-minute effort.
“Start exploring that option so that when something happens — because usually something’s going to happen — you’re prepared,” Veis said. “Once that incident happens, where that fall happens and a hip is broken, they get pneumonia, they aren’t eating … you start to lose control. You start being forced to make decisions and emotion takes over and you’re not thinking clear. So the more informed you can be prior, the better you’re going to be.”
While some people may still picture an assisted living community like Oakmont of Santa Clarita as a “skilled nursing” home with seniors lining the halls in wheelchairs, Veis stressed that this is not the case.
“It’s a community, it’s a social model, it’s seniors that are choosing this alternative lifestyle — some more willing than others,” she said. “But I think adult children need to come in and look so that when they present it to their parent, at least they have an understanding.”