Deciding to move to an assisted living environment for seniors can be a difficult and emotional process. Whether you’re deciding as an individual, a couple or the adult child of a senior, it can be difficult to know when the right time is. Barry Kaganson, CEO of Auria Senior Living – a leading developer and operator of senior living communities in South Africa – identifies six signs that it may be time to consider a move.
(1) Declining ability to manage with activities of daily living
Many older adults are perfectly able to look after themselves, but for many, age comes with a declining ability to manage what we call the activities of daily living. According to a 2019 study by Richard Johnson, a senior fellow and director of the Program on Retirement Policy at the Urban Institute in the USA, only about 8% of adults aged 65-74 require assistance with some ADLs. Of those aged 75-84, about 17% require assistance. After that, however, the figures increase dramatically: 40% of those over 85 years of age require assistance with two or more ADLs. This need for care may also not happen gradually – it may occur because of a sudden onset of illness, or an incident such as a fall.
There may be a variety of ADLs that seniors need help with as they get older. They may stop cooking for themselves, stop eating properly, forget to take medication or neglect their personal hygiene, among other things. Senior living environments such as Auria communities provide support for activities of daily living in a sensitive but supportive manner. “Proper balanced nutrition, exercise programmes and carers who are on hand to assist with basic daily activities are all on hand in our senior living environments,” says Kaganson. Appealing and balanced meals prepared by Auria’s chefs ensure regular nutrition.
(2) Safety concerns
Mobility and general safety are also important to consider, with falls being of particular concern. The World Health Organization reports that falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide, and that each year an estimated 646 000 individuals die from falls globally. Adults older than 65 years of age suffer the greatest number of fatal falls, and 37.3 million falls that are severe enough to require medical attention occur each year. “While falls are not the only safety concern, they are significant enough to warrant attention. In our communities, we provide exercise programmes focussed on agility and fall prevention for all our residents,” says Kaganson. “Residing in a senior living community also means that people have much readier access to assistance and emergency response in the event of a fall. A swift response generally results in a better outcome.”
(3) Trouble with admin and home maintenance
“As one ages, it understandably becomes harder to keep up with the demands of home maintenance. It can also become overwhelming to handle administrative tasks such as managing bills and banking, especially in our increasingly complex and busy world,” says Kaganson. If you notice that your loved-one seems to be struggling to keep their home clean and well maintained, or that they are becoming overwhelmed by administrative tasks, this is a sign that they would benefit from living in an environment where much of that concern is removed.
(4) Isolation or loss of interest in activities
Increased isolation, reduced contact with friends and family, or a loss of interest in social activities, exercise or creative pursuits can also be warning signs. Isolation in particular can be a risk factor for early mortality, and can be exacerbated by a person’s difficulties with mobility, hearing or cognitive decline. It has been shown that older adults who regularly have the opportunity to socialise, take part in stimulating activities and who feel part of a community, experience better overall health. This is one of the considerable benefits of living in a senior living community, where programmes for exercise, social contact, crafts, hobbies and other activities are in place.
(5) Carer stress
When a spouse, adult child or other carer is finding it impossible to meet the many needs of a senior without considerable stress to themselves, it is time to consider moving. While many caregivers and families make every effort to keep their loved-ones in familiar and comforting environments for as long as possible, many of the above factors can put undue stress on a single carer and would be better handled by a team of professionals. This doesn’t have to mean being consigned to a ‘nursing home’. “We are highly conscious of the need to preserve quality of life and operate with the philosophy that people deserve dignity, love and understanding at all stages of life,” says Kaganson.
(6) Signs of dementia
Each of the above, along with other factors, can contribute to or be caused by progressive dementia. There may be behaviour changes such as aggression, irritability or confusion. A person may become disoriented, forget things or even wander off and get lost. With older adults being a greater risk for dementia (25% of people over age 80 suffer from some form of dementia), it is highly likely that some of these symptoms could point to dementia in a senior. In addition to getting a diagnosis, it is important to make sure that the person is placed in an environment where their needs can be fully met without compromising their quality of life.
No need to compromise
One of the factors that may prevent couples from moving to an assisted living environment sooner is the fact that one spouse feels their independence may be compromised – which is in fact not the case at all. “This is where continuing care retirement communities provide such an attractive option. One partner can still be fully independent while the other receives the assistance they need: their differing needs can be equally catered for in the same living environment,” says Kaganson. Because these living environments are structured as vibrant communities which cater for a range of needs, the spouse with better health is not compromised. “It is important to think ahead about how both partners’ needs will change, especially if one partner may need assistance in the not too distant future. One of the best ways to set your mind at rest is to visit a senior living community, ask questions and find out what kind of care continuum is available,” says Kaganson.
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About Auria Senior Living
Auria Senior Living (Auria) develops, owns and manages a portfolio of senior living communities throughout South Africa.
Auria is setting a new benchmark in continuing-care community living for the over 70s, providing for the intellectual, emotional, social and physical needs of its residents, in attractive and well-located environments.
The company’s flagship is San Sereno in Bryanston, and it is currently upgrading and renovating Melrose Manor in Melrose, due to be completed by mid-2020. Its latest project, Royal View, is a 122 apartment senior living development on the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington golf course, due to open at the end of 2021, with sales commencing in mid-2020.
For more information on Auria Senior Living visit: www.auria.co.za, or contact 087 654 8833.
Tel: 079 438 3252