When Is It Time to Put a Loved One in a Retirement Home?

Nobody particularly wants to have the conversation about moving into a retirement home with an aging parent or grandparent, but sometimes, a move is necessary and may be the only safe option for your loved one. Here, we will cover information on the different types of accommodations for seniors and signs that the time has come to make a decision.

Types of care facilities

There are many different kinds of elder care communities, according to Interim Healthcare. These are:

Independent living. An independent living community is designed for seniors who are still capable of enjoying an active lifestyle. This will be an age-restricted campus and may be designed like a typical neighborhood or as a condominium or apartment building. There will almost always be a central location where residents can gather to eat and enjoy communal spaces for games and activities. A senior may be a good candidate for an independent living facility if they do not require assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing.

Assisted living. An assisted living retirement home is a step up from independent living in terms of available services. Maryville University explains that assisted living is a hybrid approach to senior care. Set up like a high-security apartment complex, an assisted living program provides seniors with more in-depth assistance. They might, for example, be administered medications or receive hands-on help with personal hygiene. Seniors choosing assisted living have access to many amenities, including on-site dining with nutritious meals that can be catered to their unique dietary needs. There will also be ample structured activities, including arts and crafts and exercise classes.

Skilled nursing facility (nursing home). A skilled nursing facility provides a comprehensive selection of personal care and health services. Among these are 24-hour supervision; occupational, physical, and speech therapy; and nursing care. A nursing home is often a permanent living arrangement, although seniors who are admitted due to accident or illness may recover and return to assisted or independent living. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) asserts that nursing homes primarily focus on medical care.

Memory care. Memory care is a specialized service for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia. This type of arrangement is similar to that of a nursing home, with a few distinct differences. The doctors and staff will be specially trained and highly experienced in cognitive impairment. The building and/or unit will be designed with extra layers of security, including enclosed outdoor spaces and audible alarms at every exit to reduce the possibility of wandering.

Continuing care community. A continuing care community offers the best of all of the above. You can think of it as a living arrangement that grows with the senior’s needs. They might, for example, start out in an apartment, and progress through assisted and skilled nursing care as needed.

Signs of the time

If you suspect that your senior loved one is no longer able to properly care for themselves, do not wait to bring your concerns to their attention. Although they may be unwilling to admit that their days of complete independence are coming to an end, there are clues to look for.

First, your loved one may begin to lose — or gain — a significant amount of weight. This might indicate that they are unable to provide ample nutrition for themselves. This can be due to arthritis, which makes it difficult to cook, or they may no longer have the dexterity to hold utensils. Weight loss is also a key symptom of depression. Further, some seniors find it more difficult to eat if their dentures do not fit correctly. Certain medications can also trigger extreme and sudden weight changes.

Self-neglect is another significant issue, and one that must be addressed either with in-home care or entry into a retirement home. The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) explains that self-neglect is a safety concern. A senior who is unable to attend to their hygiene or clean their home may live in squalor, which can increase their chances of falling. Seniors who cannot take care of themselves cannot continue to live alone safely.

What you can do

If you believe that it is time to find a retirement home, the first step is to talk to your senior loved one about scheduling a geriatric assessment with their doctor. Here, they can discuss their needs, and their physician can point out health or mobility issues that compromise the senior’s safety. Their doctor may also suggest an in-home visit by an individual that specializes in senior living issues.

Next, discuss your concerns with other close family members, such as your siblings or those of your parents. They may have also seen signs that something was wrong, but were afraid to bring them up for fear of angering the senior.

If they refuse to discuss leaving their home, be patient. Keep in mind that they may not need around-the-clock care, and a few modifications to their home and lifestyle may prolong the process. This can allow them to live independently for a few more years. Look for local volunteer services, such as Meals on Wheels, and invest in technology to help keep your senior safe. A wearable alert bracelet or video-enabled home security system will help you keep tabs on your loved one and identify changes to their routine that might signal an alarm. The Aging-In-Place Remodeling Checklist from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is a wonderful resource that can give you a better idea of the types of upgrades that might be needed.

The choice to put your elderly parent or grandparent into the care of someone else is deeply emotional, but remember, as a caregiver, your job is to make sure they are cared for, and this may not align with what they want. If you aren’t able to provide the things they need, you may have to push the issue. It may help to visit a few senior care communities and talk to residents. A tour of the campus may excite your loved one once they see all that will be available to them.

Retirement care costs

No matter which type of retirement home you choose, you should be prepared for a hefty price tag. Costs vary from location to location, but plan to spend about $4,000 per month on assisted living. WhereYouLiveMatters.org puts this at a little less than hiring a home health aide, which may also be an option if your loved one does not need care throughout the day and night. A nursing home can cost close to $100,000 per year, or around $8,360 per month.

Despite the seemingly high price tag, independent and assisted living and skilled nursing care may be affordable, but you will need to determine how to pay for these expenses. If your senior receives Social Security, this may help offset some of the cost, but it will likely not pay the monthly fees entirely. Medicare does not pay for independent or assisted living. If your loved one has long-term care (LTC) insurance, contact their agent to verify their benefits. The sale of real property, along with savings and other assets, may be necessary.

Remember, your goal is to ensure that your senior family member has a safe place to live out their golden years. While they may prefer to stay in their own home — which may be an option for a while — moving into a retirement home is a smart option that provides a safety net for your loved one. They will have access to medical care, will never be alone, and can participate in activities that improve their health and well-being. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. They may be more understanding than you give them credit for. Above all, do your research, visit the facility, and talk to the people who live there already.