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Who Should Go to an Assisted Living Facility?

The goal of assisted living is to make performing the tasks of daily living easier and safer. Living with other folks has added benefits. People find themselves eating better, exercising, and enjoying newfound friends. The social networks that develop are very strong and can do a great deal for Mom or Dad's outlook on life. Plus, your parent's chances of getting exercise and eating well are significantly increased by living in an environment with a bunch of buddies. With staff around to look out for their wellbeing, parents often make marked improvements once they've left the isolated, sedentary lifestyle of living alone.

You and your parents also have the security of being near other people and having a 24-hour on-site staff available in case of an emergency. Assisted living makes sense when Mom or Dad is having difficulty in performing the activities of daily living to such an extent that he or she either has a real hard time doing them or can't perform them at all. It's also reached a point where it's simply no longer safe to leave them totally alone.

If they are having moderate to extreme difficulty in performing two or three of the following tasks, assisted living just might be the answer.

Activities of daily living:

  • Bathing
  • Eating
  • Using the toilet
  • Grooming
  • Dressing

Tasks of everyday life:

  • Shopping
  • Housekeeping
  • Using transportation
  • Taking medication
  • Reading
  • Communicating
  • Cooking
  • Doing laundry
  • Managing money
  • Using the phone
  • Maintaining a home

The activities of daily living are known as ADLs; the tasks of everyday life are known as instrumental ADLs. So, if you want to impress the geriatricians, tell them how your parents are doing with their ADLs!

You'll find that most of the people who live at these facilities are active and basically in good to fair health. They have, however, health conditions or age-related disabilities that make living alone tough and in some instances unsafe. You'll see people there who will be using walkers and wheelchairs, while others are able to move around on their own. They enjoy the social stimulation of meals at the dining hall and remain fairly active. They prefer a catered lifestyle where they don't have to cook, maintain a home, clean, or do laundry (my teenage son obviously thinks he's living in one).

Chances are the assisted living facility will want your parent to have an examination to determine his or her physical and mental health along with the ability to perform activities of daily living. These facilities are rightfully concerned that they might bring someone in who has needs that are over their heads. If they don't seem worried about this—you should!

More on: Aging Parents


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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