When it comes to assisted living, sooner is better than later.

Q&A with Carillon Oaks’ co-founder Stuart Coleman

Q: Typically, when do families make the decision to seriously look into assisted living or memory care?

Every family’s situation is different, but there tends to be one common denominator: the decision to make a move follows a concerning event. When there’s been a fall, an injury, some sort of scare—that’s often when families come in.

Q: Other than preventing an unexpected event like that, is there more to be gained by making the move sooner?

There’s a lot to be gained in most cases. That event has often been caused by a period of decline—in health, social life, diet; something has been going on for a while. Typically, the sooner we can get someone into a healthier situation, the bigger improvement we can see.

Q: Is there a rule of thumb in knowing when it’s time?

A physician’s opinion can be extremely helpful, and so can an honest and proactive look at the situation by family members. But as a rule of thumb, it’s never too early to at least start the conversation. If you come to the conclusion that assisted living or memory care isn’t going to be beneficial yet, it’s far from being a waste of time. It’s chance to have a talk about your loved one’s wishes and concerns in a positive, proactive context.

Q: What are some of the benefits of making a move sooner rather than later?

There are a lot of areas where we can make a bigger impact early on. Diet and nutrition, exercise and activity, for instance. This can get harder and harder to monitor and make an enjoyable experience. When you have professionals who can tailor meals and activity to your loved one’s needs, the benefits can be tremendous.

Q: What about socialization?

It becomes more and more important—and more and more challenging—with time that special attention is paid to social community, to a loved one’s interests and sense of engagement. Equally important is the importance of balancing those healthy outlets with proper rest. The impact on quality of life with constant social opportunities and engagement is a real opportunity here, and even more so when addressed early on.

Q: What other health and quality-of -life implications are important in making the “when” decision?

The health and quality of life of the caregiver. This is extremely important. When children begin to take on the care of their parent, they often don’t realize the effect on their own health and overall wellness. Caring for the person who once cared for you is uniquely trying. It can take a tremendous toll on your mental and physical health. That, in turn, can negatively impact the very person you’re caring for.

Q: So when does a caregiver know it’s time?

Their own exhaustion is often a good sign—and best caught early. The loved one benefits tremendously when their child or other caregiver is able to visit them in an atmosphere where things are taken care of. The focus goes back to the quality of the time spent together—and that can have a huge impact on everyone.

Q: Are there other specifics to keep in mind—signs that it might be time?

Other signs to look for include the loved one’s increasing difficulty with daily needs. If they’re not changing clothes regularly, having trouble accessing the toilet, shower or tub, for instance. Changes in diet are important: is your loved one skipping meals or not drinking enough water? Are they forgetting to take and refill medications—or to dispose of expired drugs? Changes in social life, memory, keeping up with household chores and finances, or a marked increase in the loved one’s level of worry are all good reasons to begin the conversation and move toward making a proactive, informed decision—and an overall healthy move.

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