Dear Donna:

My 91-year-old great-aunt lives nearby. She has outlived her husband and her daughter. While she seems very spry for her age, I do worry about her living alone. My wife and I convinced her to give up driving several years ago after she experienced a few fender benders. We have been her primary sources of transportation since then.

Recently, I’ve noticed some changes that leave me wondering if it might be time for her to move to an assisted living community. I think she might be receptive to the idea, but I’m not sure how to tell if this is the right choice. Do you have any suggestions?

Steven in Saginaw, MI

Common Signs a Senior Needs Assisted Living

Dear Steven:

When a family member first notices physical or behavioral changes in a senior loved one, it’s natural to wonder if it’s normal aging or a red flag for something more serious. One factor to keep in mind is your aunt’s generation is known for being independent and reluctant to admit when help is needed. Asking for help or admitting she might need to make a change may not be easy for her.

So, how can you objectively assess if she needs to transition to an assisted living community? While many signs may be subtle, here are some common red flags that indicate a senior loved one needs help:

  • Lack of housekeeping: Is her once-tidy house beginning to look a little rough? Are dirty dishes piled up in the sink? Is the kitchen trash overflowing? Is spoiled food in the refrigerator? Does the home just look messy in general? Odors are another clue a senior is struggling.
  • Change in personal appearance: A change in an older adult’s personal appearance can be another warning sign. Clues to look for include disheveled hair, body odor, and clothing that isn’t clean or is inappropriate for the season.
  • Lack of interest: Other worrisome behavioral changes include withdrawing from favorite activities, skipping church services, or losing interest in friends and family. It might be a sign of depression. Isolated seniors are at increased risk for it.
  • Evidence of falls: While research shows falls are the leading cause of disability in older adults, many believe the numbers are much higher. That’s because older adults don’t always inform loved ones when they suffer a fall. Look for scratches or bruises, especially on your aunt’s arms and legs. Another sign might be if she sticks close to her favorite chair and isn’t up and about as much as usual.
  • Unintended change in weight: A noticeable and unintentional change in weight can signal potential problems. She might be having difficulty preparing healthy meals. Or it could be a host of other problems, such poor appetite from a medication she takes, ill-fitting dentures, or depression. Weight change is an important issue that should be discussed, possibly even with her physician.
  • Mismanaging finances: Keeping household finances on track can be tough at any age. If your aunt is paying some bills twice while neglecting others entirely or seems to be spending more money than usual, there may be something wrong. She may have fallen victim to a financial scam or identity theft.

While these are some of the most common signs a senior might need assisted living, it’s important not to overlook the many benefits communities offer. They range from making new friends to having dedicated caregivers to provide support around the clock.

If you have questions about assisted living or would like to set up a personal tour, we invite you to call the Heritage location nearest you.

Kind regards,