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Is it the right time

Caregiver with senior and family member

How do you know it’s the right time for senior living?

Planning for a parent’s retirement years is a multistep process. But before you can even embark on the journey, you need to know when to start.

Recognizing when to have a conversation as a family about living arrangements and exploring your options can be tricky. To help complicate things, there’s rarely one big, waving, red flag of a sign that your mom or dad needs senior living. Instead, little things, like moving more slowly or fading strength are telling developments.

When your parents’ quality of life, happiness and need for social support is at stake, there’s no greater responsibility than helping them plan. Here’s how to know when it’s time for senior living, and how to start a discussion that leads to the best possible outcome for your parent.

Pile of clothes on the floor

Declining Housekeeping and Appearance

Cluttered houses may not just be an eyesore, but also a sign that your parent could benefit from a transition to a senior community. Homes not kept in the best condition hint at a lot more going on beneath the surface of stacks of magazines. For one, it may be painful for your parent to pick things up.

After years of taking care of the entire home, age may finally be catching up and making household chores like cleaning more difficult. Home neglect may also point to more serious mental dissatisfaction that isn’t easily expressed to loved ones.

Another telltale sign is a generally disheveled appearance, including dirty or tattered clothes, greasy hair, or body odor. Any change in appearance can be cause for concern, as well as the impetus for broaching the topic of senior living. Be sure to notice if your once-fashionable mom comes to the door in a disheveled robe or if your always clean-shaven dad starts neglecting his routine grooming rituals.

Two bandages crossed over one another

More Frequent Injuries

Everybody takes a knock here and there in life. Likely enough, your dad has had his fair share of stubbed toes, sprained ankles and trips over playthings left on the floor, and yet always hopped back. But injuries like these, even minor bruises and bumps, can have serious repercussions in older age, and may indicate issues your parent is facing.

If every time you see your parent they have a new nick or cut that is explained away, take some time to really engage in what’s happening. Frequent falls or run-ins with furniture can point to mobility trouble that’s exacerbated by a big home.

thought bubble with lightning bolt

Bad Mood

Changes in appearance are hard to argue with, but sometimes your parent may not see things the same way. Even if your mom’s been a feisty soul all her life, or your dad’s always been pretty stubborn, if they start taking arguments over little things to a different level or become easily agitated for unclear reasons, it may signal more serious complications on the horizon with memory and cognition.

Stubbornness in older adults may just be a natural hardening – doing things differently after decades isn’t always fun – or it could be the beginning of the realization that more care may be needed to keep your parent safe and healthy.

Always talk to a doctor if you’re concerned about these sudden changes. Fluctuations in mood and attitude are not symptoms to take lightly, and when they occur more frequently or to a greater degree than before, it may be the cue to hold a conversation.

broken piggy bank

Poor Financial Management

According to True Link, a financial services company, an estimated $36.48 billion is lost annually due to elder financial abuse, including phone and email scams. But the worst share of losses were due to “deceptive but technically legal tactics” used to exploit seniors.1

Given the scope of financial fraud your parent may be susceptible to, it may be time to take a look into finances to be sure they’re competently managing their money. A few splurges on personal items may not be much to worry about, but consistent contributions to questionable organizations or telemarketers may raise red flags.

Although financial mismanagement isn’t a definitive sign of mental decline, it could suggest a more suitable and protective environment like a senior community should be on the table.

Sad face

Lack of Social Activity

Even if your mom or dad has slowed down a bit, it’s likely they’re still itching to go out on the town or at least meet with old friends and see family often. Humans are social creatures, and that fact doesn’t carry any less weight in older age.

So, if you see your mom or dad staying in more than usual and declining to go out for events, gatherings or family functions, a change may be needed. The social opportunity presented by senior living could be just that. You can only be around so much, and though the dedication is there, your parent could need a new environment to spark a renewed interest in being more social.

How to Broach the Subject

When you begin to see one or more of these symptoms, discussing senior living options becomes inevitable. Yet, even when you know it’s time to bring it up to your parents, finding the right words can be challenging.

The best way to communicate with them is through genuine dialogue, not a one-sided conversation. Positive ways to move the conversation forward include:

  • Framing it as a collaborative decision that everyone has a say in.
  • Having the facts and figures in front of you; that way there’s no uncertainty or “what-ifs.”
  • Letting the discussion happen at its own pace, provided there’s no medical-related rush needed.

Here are some examples of good ways to talk with your parent.

“I’ve seen the trash beginning to pile up, do you need help taking it out? What else around the home could you use help with?”

“Property taxes are going up and we wanted to know how you’re feeling about the home. Is a community an option you’re comfortable with?”

Types of Senior Living

Once your family agrees that senior living is the best option, you and mom or dad will need to choose which type of living arrangement makes most sense in terms of care, costs, and comfort. Naturally, whatever circumstances prompted your senior living discussion will also play a big role in your family’s decision.

Family Toolbox

We are here to help.

  • How Do You Know It’s the Right Time for Senior Living?
    Caregiver with senior and family member

    How Do You Know It’s the Right Time for Senior Living?

    There’s rarely one big, waving, red flag of a sign. Instead, little things can be telling developments.
    5 Signs That It’s Time for Senior Living
  • What’s the difference between types of senior care?

    What’s the difference between types of senior care?

    Once you know you need more support, it’s time to find a place with the services and environment that best fit your needs.
    Understanding the Difference Between Senior Care Options
  • How do I find the right fit for my family?

    How do I find the right fit for my family?

    It’s good to have options – but it can also be daunting. Here’s how to simplify the process of evaluating them all, and feel confident about your choice.
    8 Key Factors to Evaluate When Touring a Senior Community
  • How much will senior living cost vs. staying at home?

    How much will senior living cost vs. staying at home?

    Use this worksheet to get a side-by-side comparison of home living expenses and the rates at senior living options you are considering.
    Senior Living Cost Comparison Calculator
  • How can senior living benefit health and well-being?

    How can senior living benefit health and well-being?

    See how research shows senior living often leads to improvements in terms of health, happiness, independence and even financial well-being for the majority of residents.
    9 Proven Benefits of Senior Living
  • Once I’ve decided to choose senior living, what’s next?

    Once I’ve decided to choose senior living, what’s next?

    What should you pack? Who needs to know your new address? Find out everything you need to do to make your move go smoothly – and when you need to do it.
    Senior Living Move-in Checklist
Caregiver with senior and family member

How Do You Know It’s the Right Time for Senior Living?

There’s rarely one big, waving, red flag of a sign. Instead, little things can be telling developments.
5 Signs That It’s Time for Senior Living

What’s the difference between types of senior care?

Once you know you need more support, it’s time to find a place with the services and environment that best fit your needs.
Understanding the Difference Between Senior Care Options

How do I find the right fit for my family?

It’s good to have options – but it can also be daunting. Here’s how to simplify the process of evaluating them all, and feel confident about your choice.
8 Key Factors to Evaluate When Touring a Senior Community

How much will senior living cost vs. staying at home?

Use this worksheet to get a side-by-side comparison of home living expenses and the rates at senior living options you are considering.
Senior Living Cost Comparison Calculator

How can senior living benefit health and well-being?

See how research shows senior living often leads to improvements in terms of health, happiness, independence and even financial well-being for the majority of residents.
9 Proven Benefits of Senior Living

Once I’ve decided to choose senior living, what’s next?

What should you pack? Who needs to know your new address? Find out everything you need to do to make your move go smoothly – and when you need to do it.
Senior Living Move-in Checklist