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How do I know when I need assisted living for myself?

It was obvious to me when my mother (who recently passed on at age 97) needed assisted living. But it was not at all obvious to her. I'm 75 years old and live alone. I believe I am perfectly capable of managing my life, driving and handling my affairs at this point. But how will I know when it is time to seek help if I have no children or trustworthy authorities in my life to tell me? What are the signs I should be watching for in myself?
Status: Open    Jun 25, 2016 - 04:54 PM

Senior Living Communities, Senior Health & Nutrition

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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.

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By on Nov 30, 2016 - 10:12 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

Thank you for your advice . This was very helpful

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Jul 02, 2016 - 08:39 AM

I am also 75.I also live alone. I lead a support group for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer's Disease. I retired from the Alz. Assn. I will know when I feel less competent as a driver. I watch my driving skills carefully. I will know when my checkbook is hard to manage, when I can no longer do simple shopping, go to a movie. I have a tax person, a stock broker, a lawyer who has prepared all necessary documents. I talk to all of them periodically. I have two health care proxy's. One of whom is in touch and is aware of my concerns. Both are aware of my end of life concerns. I have explored several continuing care retirement centers feeling that when I feel less competent I will be prepared.

I have an auto immune disease. I had a severe reaction in 2008-20010. I recovered thanks to the NIH. So I'm very aware of my inclination to fall, use a cane and rollater when out in unfamiliar areas. I have no more bones to break! All healed and I am finally less determined to do things I no longer should do alone.

I am trying to make younger friends. Consciously! I volunteer with an end of life group in Westchester, with my political organization and the Alzheimer's Association.I belong to a religious group. These people are not necessarily friends, but regular contacts. Do you belong to a religious group? Most have caring committees who will watch if you let them know of your concerns. A senior center (Ugh)! It's important to let those in your network, whether friends, casual acquaintances and especially your physician that you are concerned about yourself. Keeping this all to yourself is the most dangerous thing of all. Even life long 'loners' have contacts along the way. USE THEM!

Judy W.

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By shawkitty on Dec 01, 2016 - 09:58 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

I am happy that Judy W is able to have those professionals in her life, and I admire that she is able to be involved with her groups. What I find disconcerting is that that there are too many of us out there who do not have the financial means to cover all those bases. Fortunately, at age 77 and a deteriorating body, I am still able to do all the necessary tasks to carry on. I know my time of independence is growing shorter by the day, and do not have family who can assist me. My biggest concern is how I'm going to manage financially when the time comes and how I'm going to be able to pay for an assisted living environment.

By judywank on Dec 01, 2016 - 12:45 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

Not knowing your financial income or resources, you should seek counsel if without any funds or limited resources from your local Senior Citizens government agency. If you do have funds, then I would recommend seeking a financial planner who will certainly charge. Hiring a Geriatric Care manager will also answer your particular concerns. Publications cannot address your particular concerns about the quality of care you might wish for but my suggestions will. In some states, Medicaid will provide funding for assisted living in addition to nursing homes if you are without any substantial funds. Your local Senior government agency can help here as well. Check lists are just that, basic guides. What you are seeking is specific information for you.

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Jul 06, 2016 - 04:17 PM

How wonderful that you are choosing to be aware and responsible for your future needs! One thing you can do is start using some checklists on a regular interval - 1 to 3 months, depending on your health. Comparing these over time, you'll more objectively notice changes in your ability to perform self-care and household tasks, and note mood, behavior, social and cognitive changes. At some point, a close friend, your doctor or a care-giver can help with the evaluation from an outside perspective. Acknowledge the changes you notice, raise them with friends and ask for that trusted outside opinion. Keep in mind that your need for assistance at home or elsewhere can be episodic, and isn't usually linear.

Here are a few sites that have really good caregiver guides and checklists. You are your own caregiver now, and you can plan to bring others on as your needs change.
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By shawkitty on Dec 01, 2016 - 01:33 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

Thank you for your response. I have been "trying" diligently to contact senior agencies in my area (a major city in the Midwest); however, after being put on hold for very long lengths of time with a couple and if able to reach a living, breathing human being, having to be transferred because that agency doesn't handle that area, or hung up on...I have gotten beyond frustrated. The system and how it handles seniors is a joke in my humble opinion and with this next administration I predict things are going to get ugly.

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