It is challenging to observe a loved one struggle during their senior years. Sometimes, older people can make adaptations in daily life to remain at home. However, when the efforts to sustain independent living are not enough, it may be time to consider assisted living. Making the decision to seek assisted living is difficult. Often, it feels like a step away from independence and freedom, which is a challenging transition to accept. Family members can help facilitate the decision-making process compassionately. It is important to consider the factors that may indicate that your loved one needs additional help.

Signs of Need

Aging can be a complex process, and each person experiences it uniquely. Some of the risk factors for seniors include falls, existing health conditions, memory lapses, and sudden-onset health crises such as stroke. Active older people who have a relatively good health profile can often live independently for a longer period, but sometimes, even healthy seniors can struggle with chronic pain or other challenges from aging.

It can be difficult to know when to make the decision to relocate to assisted living. It may be wise to seek the advice of a physician who is familiar with the senior’s health as you think about long-term options. Seniors who live alone may face greater risk, as emergency medical care may not be alerted if they are incapacitated or unable to make the call. If an elderly person is at risk of harm by living at home, either due to medical or memory problems, or cognitive issues, it may be a good idea to consider assisted living.

In her blog, organizational business consultant Ava S. Butler provides a link to her book about life with her late husband who had Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. Her book outlines their story and struggles when the illness became severe. Caregiving a loved one is the ultimate act of love and compassion, but it is also exhausting. For caregivers of elders, it is important to consider how sustainable it is to maintain them at home as part of the decision-making process. Discussing the possibility of assisted living may be difficult, but it is important to start the conversation to find out what your loved one thinks before making plans.

How to Have the Talk

As you start to think about discussing the idea of assisted living, make sure you present it in an open-ended way and give them time to process. As tempting as it may be to fill any silence that may ensue, let it be. When people are presented with new ideas, particularly ones that are life-changing and difficult, often they need mental and emotional space to think.

Try to be open to all the thoughts and feelings that may emerge, whether it is sadness and tears, anger, relief, or ambivalence. Imagine that you were in this situation; how would you want it presented to you? Allow your loved one to talk it out and vent their feelings without judgment. If you talk it over and decide to opt for assisted living, there are ways to help alleviate the cost.

Paying for Assisted Living

Long-term care and assisted living facilities are often very costly. There are three ways seniors can pay for their stay, self-pay, government subsidy, or through purchasing long-term care insurance. Often, seniors work their entire lives, paying into Social Security and retirement, and still cannot afford to pay for long-term care out-of-pocket. Fortunately, governmental programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ benefits can help.

Seniors who own a home may wish to sell their property to pay for assisted living. Because of COVID-19, homes are selling rapidly, so it could be a good time to sell. With current technology, realtors use 3D tours, virtual walk-throughs, and virtual open houses, which may prevent a lot of people from walking through the home. Seniors who are thinking of selling can get the ball rolling by contacting a Realtor and starting the appraisal process. Many older adults will also need to start the process of downsizing their belongings.

The decision to move into assisted living is significant. When seniors and their family members are making this challenging decision, it is best to do so thoughtfully and with compassion.

This article was kindly prepared by Lydia Chan of Alzheimer’s Caregiver.  Thank you so much Lydia! She is absolutely right that caregivers are heroes.  The Alzheimer’s Caregiver website is  You can reach Lydia directly at


You will find my book Parkinson’s: A Love Story with Dementia for Dessert on Amazon. Your feedback and reviews are most welcome.

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