We are born needing autonomy – control over our own life and decisions. Everyone wants and needs it. As we age, maintaining control over our lives becomes an even stronger motivating force. Partly because this stage of life brings a lot of loss that’s impossible to control.
Deciding if it’s time to move to retirement living or assisted living is a huge decision. Many older adults resist the decision because they feel it’s a loss of control. Their adult children agonize about it – wanting their parent safe. Discussions can turn into polarizing struggles.
Here’s 23 questions to help you decide if it’s time to move to a retirement community or assisted living. You can objectively assess the situation by asking the follow-up questions.
Are there concerns that you or other family members have? Talk about them and review the impact to daily life – for both you and your loved ones. These are indicators that extra support may be needed. Please keep in mind that none of the points below are stand-alone issues. They’re all interrelated.
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Is it time to move to retirement living?
Changing health is the number one reason people decide to move to supportive living. Coping with a new diagnosis is challenging. Unmanaged illnesses and medication routines take hard work to control. Chronic progressive diseases such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s and dementia require lifestyle changes and new medications. These diseases usually worsen over time.
Medication side-effects, monitoring, adjustments, and complex dosing schedules often need frequent professional help. Constant doctor’s appointments and medication adjustments can consume an older adult’s day to day living.
When illnesses and medications aren’t managed well, further complications develop. This often leads to frequent hospital Emergency room trips and crises cycles. Life revolves around the disease.
Assess: Questions to ask yourself to assess whether Medical Conditions are impacting your life:
1. How many chronic progressive diagnoses do you have?
2. How many medications do you take?
3. How many medical appointments do you have per week on average?
4. How many specialists do you see?
5. How many falls have you had in the last three months?
6. How many hospital Emergency room visits have you had in the last three months?
There are too many factors contributing to depression for this article to begin to cover. Causes of depression are many, varied and interrelated. Depression’s root causes can be physical, emotional, mental, spiritual – or combinations of all.
Some medical conditions cause hormone imbalances leading to depression (such as Parkinson’s, dementia, etc). Day to day coping with a disease or a spouse’s disease is stressful and can lead to depression.
Some medications can put you at risk for depression. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see what side effects to watch for. Have your pharmacist review your medication list making sure none of them adversely interact with each other.
Caregiver stress takes a toll on body, mind, and soul. Caring for a spouse with a chronic disease is the second most common reason people seek supportive living.
Good nutrition – or the lack of – is often overlooked as a contributor to depression. Without good nutrition, our bodies become weak and mental sharpness declines. Poor eating habits weaken the immune system and cause generalized weakness. A fragile condition leads to falls.
Planning, shopping and preparing meals can be energy consuming. Challenges include limited transportation, poor mobility, vision impairments, chronic illnesses, and economic issues. Many seniors end up nibbling on snacks, cheap carbohydrates, and pre-packaged foods throughout the day. They forgo nutritiously balanced meals.
Being social is being human. Without regular opportunities to engage with others feelings of loneliness develop, contributing to depression.
Older adults often find it takes too much energy to stay connected to their community. They may have experienced setbacks like fractured hips or knee replacements. Life slows down. They don’t get out and see friends, go to church or stay involved with civic groups. Their world shrinks.
Assess: Questions to ask yourself to assess if depression is impacting your life:
7. Is there a disinterest in hobbies you used to enjoy such as playing bridge, gardening, painting, etc.?
8. Is there a general disinterest in housework, self-care, and routine correspondence?
9. Has there been significant weight gain or weight loss over the last 6 months?
10. Have you withdrawn from your social circles?
11. Do you feel lonely?
12. Are you the caregiver for a dependent, ill spouse?
Increased anxiety is closely related to depression, medical conditions, and dementia. In this article, we’re treating it as a separate issue.
Recent studies show that anxiety disorders in older adults are more common than thought. It’s now estimated anxiety issues are twice as common as general dementias. The disorder is often misdiagnosed as dementia because of overlapping symptoms.
Anxiety disorders can present as excessive fear. Fear of poverty, fear of vulnerability and fear of falling are the most common.
Older adults may become so fearful of falling that they limit their physical activity. They become overly cautious, change their walking gait and won’t take a bath without someone present. The fear of falling ironically increases the risk of falling.
Often an obsessive fear takes over after a traumatizing event. A previous fall or incident of financial abuse can trigger a loss of confidence. This can lead to increased anxiety and fretfulness.
Older adults may begin calling their family members and neighbors often. They need a lot of reassurances and encouragement. Sometimes asking repetitive questions isn’t forgetfulness but anxiety.
Assess: Questions to ask yourself to assess if anxiety is impacting your life:
13. Do you find you fret and worry about things more now than in the past?
14. Do you have difficulty sleeping and wake up to brood or dwell on things?
15. Do you have a hard time putting things out of mind?
16. Are you making frequent calls throughout the day and evening to family and neighbors?
17. Are you experiencing unresolved grief over the death of family and friends?
18. Are you experiencing unresolved regret or anger about situations in your past?
19. Do you feel vulnerable and afraid?
20. Are you fearful of falling? If so, what do you do about it?
21. Has someone taken financial advantage of you recently?
22. Are you still driving?
23. Have you limited your driving or feel insecure about driving?
24. Have you had any “fender benders” recently?
Any Concerning Areas?
After answering the questions above how do you feel? If any areas are concerning, it doesn’t necessarily mean a loved one need move. It’s an opportunity to talk and review options. The important thing is to keep as much control as possible over your life decisions. Don’t wait for a crisis and end up with no or limited options. Decide what’s most important to you, what brings real meaning to your life. Make your own decisions while you can.