Jul 19, 2016 - 02:16 PM
In broad terms, I think you answered the underlined question – you will likely need assisted living when you are no longer capable of managing your life, driving and handling your affairs. The question is what to do if you don’t see – or if you deny – any signs despite them being there. On the physical side it will be more obvious to you: trouble shopping or cooking meals, trouble getting in/out of the shower, doing the laundry, etc. But if you are having trouble because of memory, that is easier to deny and harder to spot because the changes happen slowly.
The main signs you should watch for are recurring falls, inside or outside the home. Or subjective memory issues you may have. Both of those deserve attention from your doctor. They don’t necessarily need assisted living, but it could go that way over longer periods of time.
A few other signs to consider are your driving, your social activity, your dependence upon caregivers and your input from others. Does it seem like your frequency of accidents, close calls or dents on the car are on the increase? Has your social activity declined to the point that you rarely get out of the house, engage in activities or even talk to others? Are you wearing out the caregivers you require to help you manage your health or daily activities? And what do those people closest to you recommend regarding your living arrangements?
Here’s something to consider doing. Ask a trusted friend or extended family member to do an annual observation and assessment of how you are doing, and look to see if anything is noticeably changing. Every year you could drive to the store with them in the car, have them ‘shadow’ you while you shop and cook a meal, or let them observe you paying your monthly bills and balancing your checkbooks. Talk with them about the tasks you’re doing while you do them, and let them listen and look. Then get their honest feedback about whether anything’s changed since last year. If you talk about this kind of thing with your doctor, you could ask the friend or family member to write down their observations and send a copy to your doctor directly. (They might be scared to tell you if they see something like memory loss.)
Finally, don’t forget your doctor. He or she will have a good idea about those health signs you should be looking for, and involving them in the decision making early is very important. It will take more than one set of eyes on you to ensure you stay home as long as possible, have the support you need, and only transition to assisted living when the time is right and for the right reasons.
Best of luck and thanks for writing.