How do you decide when your parents should move into an elderly assisted living community? This is always a difficult decision to make, and never a pleasant one.

When Should Elders Consider Assisted Living?

Elderly assisted living is designed to help seniors to live life to as full an extent as is possible, given their health and mobility limitations. It is not the same as moving into an old-age people's home. Assisted living gives the individual or couple the maximum amount of independence and privacy, while providing the security of having someone on call 24 hours a day, just in case.

If your parents live more than a twenty minute drive away, if they are becoming forgetful or have health problems or if they need more social contact then Assisted Living is one option that solves a lot of problems.

As our parents become older they lose the mental acuity that they and you once took for granted. You need to recognise this deterioration as a natural part of the aging process.

Assisted living is designed for older people who need the reassurance of having help close at hand. Many communities have community facilities where frequent social gatherings are organised. Regular coffee mornings, talks and outings are all optional, but they help to slow down an older person's mental deterioration. Women and men both need more social contact than they find living alone.

Your parents will need to have all their mental facilities because they will have to sign legal documents and may need to sell their own home. It is a fine line to judge, but if someone is no longer capable of making decisions then they will need more help than is available in an elderly assisted living apartment complex. In this case you will need to consider a residential home for the elderly, which will cost a lot more because of the higher staffing requirements.

What Do Assisted Living Apartments Provide?

There are different levels of assistance available even within the same facility. This accommodates the changing needs of residents as they become older, as a partner dies or as they need more help with day-to-day living.

Most assisted living communities include apartments for couples as well as for individuals. Facilities within apartments will vary but always include a bathroom, a small kitchen and a living area, as well as a large bedroom.

Every apartment has an alarm button, sometimes one in every room. Residents are given alarm buttons to wear around their necks, so in case of a fall they can still summon help.

Choosing an Elderly Assisted Living Option

Consult a social worker, a charity or local authority for information on the different elderly care options available to you. They will probably include apartment blocks with a live-in carer and hotel style blocks of suites or apartments.

In some areas you will find groups of houses where individuals own their home and pay a charge to cover a carer on call. The houses can only be owned by seniors over a certain age, so it is effectively a retirement community of couples and individuals living in their own homes.

Decide which options will best suit your parents' care needs and eliminate any that are unsuitable. You need to face some tough decisions regarding your parents' health, both now and over the next few years. Higher care needs mean higher charges and you need to consider how the rent or care charges will be met. If your parents own their own home, then it can be sold, which will provide some capital, but this will soon disappear, especially if you need to consider a residential home because your parents need more care than assisted living usually provides.

Once you have your list make phone calls and arrange to visit each one on your own. You can go back with your parents once you have drawn up a short-list. You will find these visits stressful, but your parents will find them much more so, because they are being forced to consider their own mortality.

Look for helpful staff, staff members who respect the people in their care, as well as the different facilities on offer.

A communal room is very important. Communal games, television rooms and gardfen areas are the ideal Find out the daily program and visit with your parents while a coffee morning or something similar is happening. This will let your parents meet residents and provide reassurance that they will be treated well and that they will continue to be respected as individuals.

Ask staff questions on your first visit about night alarm calls and staff qualifications. Check what happens if one of a couple dies; the usual procedure is that the survivor moves into a smaller apartment, but this is not very desirable. It is better if the surviving parent can stay in the larger apartment, though the higher rent would still need to be paid.

Ask residents casual questions when staff are not present and try to develop a realistic appraisal of each facility.

Who Runs Elderly Assisted Living Homes?

Local authorities do run some elderly assisted living apartment complexes but most homes are run as businesses for profit by companies, so expect a commercial attitude rather than a charitable one. Staff are generally poorly paid and may have poor levels of English.

How Much Independence Do Elderly People Get in Assisted Living Apartments?

Residents can have as much independence as they choose. In a retirement community where couples own their own homes their independence is total. In an apartment complex for seniors trips and meetings will be organised but individuals can choose whether to attend or not.

Assisted living is for older people who can cope with most household tasks themselves and is designed to allow residents to keep their independence.

This model of elder care is not suitable for everyone. Individuals suffering from senile dementia or who cannot be left alone safely need the greater care levels that a residential home offers.