By Claire Wentz
Is your older mom, dad, or grandparent safe at home? Alone? While they might have an independent streak, senior isolation is a serious problem that can result in a host of consequences. Fortunately, there are many housing options available for older adults. Assisted living is one of these, and it can be ideal for seniors who need help but also want to maintain a sense of independence.
But, how do you know when it’s time to open up the conversation? If you’re struggling to make the decision or don’t feel comfortable talking to the person who may have been your own caretaker in childhood, keep reading for a few quick tips and advice.
No two seniors are alike, but there are a handful of common warning signs that can indicate a problem. Let’s look at cognitive impairment. According to the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, approximately 25 percent of older people are affected. Mild cognitive impairment will result in things like forgetfulness, language issues, and a shortened attention span. Your senior loved one might forget to pay bills or routinely make mistakes, such as leaving water to boil until the pot is dry.
Mobility issues are another significant red flag, and seniors that experience a falling accident can easily suffer from broken bones, contusions, and severe sprains. Because of their age, their bodies don’t heal as quickly from trauma as, for example, a 10-year-old child. Women are especially prone to significant injuries because of the high prevalence of osteoporosis in post-menopausal females. Look for signs that your parents cannot lift their feet off the floor, have trouble with their vision, or have a number of unexplained bruises.
An often-ignored concern is senior isolation. The University of Virginia explains that senior loneliness can be triggered by physical deficiencies, a lack of transportation, and lifestyle and economic factors, such as sexual orientation and income. Seniors that are routinely isolated may experience depression, dementia, and delirium at a greater rate than their socially connected counterparts.
Paying for Care
If you believe that it’s time to transition your senior to assisted living, it can help to have your proverbial ducks in a row before you start the conversation. You might, for example, research different facilities in the area to determine which ones have amenities that would be of interest to your loved one. Similarly, you’ll want to take the issue of finances into consideration. Chances are, the cost of assisted living will need to be paid for by private funds, such as home equity or personal savings.
Life insurance is one option to help cover the expenses. Many policies may be converted to cash as a “life benefit” that can be used while your senior is still alive. Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance Company offers advice on how to determine if your loved one has life insurance if they cannot remember. Tips include doing an online search and calling your local state insurance commissioner’s office.
When It’s Time to Talk
When it’s time to talk, it can help to open up the conversation first by praying to your higher power. Next, approach your loved one with a sympathetic heart. Let them know that you are coming from a place of love, and that their well-being is your only interest. Know that they will likely push back, at least at first, so be gentle, compassionate, and understanding until they are willing to listen.
Making the decision to put your loved one into a brand-new living situation is difficult. But when things like cognitive decline, depression, and the potential for injury outweighs their desire to remain completely independent, it’s time to make preparations. Remember, get organized before the talk and maintain compassion throughout.