Signs That It’s Time for a Senior to Move to Assisted Living


Your loved one likely wishes to continue aging at home. However, there may come a point when that’s no longer realistic.

Assisted living is an excellent option for keeping older adults safe, social, and mentally and physically healthy. The question is, how do you know when your parent needs the support assisted living provides?

When is it time for assisted living?

The rule of thumb is sooner rather than later. It’s time for assisted living when providing care at home no longer seems feasible.

Each senior is unique and may not display clear signs that it’s time for a higher level of care. When determining whether to explore a transition to senior living, consider your loved one’s daily schedule, health status, functional abilities, current and future care needs, and quality of life.

Browse Our Free Senior Care Guides

11 signs it’s time for assisted living: Questions to ask yourself

“When is it time for assisted living?” can be a difficult question for families to answer. There may be a clear sign — for example, if a senior can no longer care for themselves after a fall or a new diagnosis — or there may be many subtle signs.

Asking yourself the following questions next time you visit your loved one can help you get a better read on their health and functional abilities. On their own, some of these concerns can be remedied with home modifications or additional in-home care assistance. However, if you notice your loved one struggling with several of the examples below, it’s likely time for assisted living.

1. Is your loved one keeping up with household chores like laundry, dishes, and cleaning?

We’ve all put off the laundry or left dishes soaking in the sink before. Those lapses in themselves aren’t red flags. Monitor changes in your loved one’s household routine. If they used to sweep daily but you’re seeing dust or spills building up, it could be a sign they aren’t able to maintain former routines. If they were never particularly tidy, signs may be more severe, like weeks of stacked dishes or foul smells in the home.

2. Is your loved one frequently bruised or injured? Have they noted difficulty getting around the house?

As a senior’s balance wanes, they become more likely to fall or bump into things. If you notice bruises or scrapes, getting around the house may have become unsafe, which is something that could eventually lead to a more serious fall or injury.

3. Is your relative taking their medications as prescribed?

Out-of-date pill boxes, stockpiled prescription bottles, or early medication refill requests are all signs of mismanagement. Medication mismanagement can lead to severe health consequences, including side effects, hospitalization, and overdose.

4. If they still drive, are they doing so safely?

Look for unexplained scratches or dents on their car, flattened grass near the driveway, or broken branches. Ask about traffic citations. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s driving, ask if you can take a ride with them.

5. Is your loved one eating well and regularly?

As seniors age, appetites tend to change. Don’t be worried if your relative is eating slightly less than they used to, or if they’re focusing on some favorite foods. However, if you notice serious weight loss or gain, an empty refrigerator, or expired pantry items, these can be red flags.

6. Is your parent able to use appliances safely?

Misuse of kitchen appliances can be dangerous. If you notice burners left on, refrigerator doors left ajar, or trickling faucets, your loved one may no longer be able to use appliances safely.

7. Is your loved one having trouble with hygiene, like bathing and grooming?

If you notice changes in your relative’s appearance, such as unbrushed hair or teeth, soiled clothing, or a lack of regular bathing, it could be a sign that they’re no longer able to maintain proper hygiene. Since everyone’s routine is different, signs can vary.

8. Has your relative’s home become unsafe for them?

Are there grab bars in the bathrooms? Are there rugs, high thresholds, and other trip hazards throughout the home? You may notice that your loved one no longer travels up and down their stairs or avoids certain rooms if they feel unsafe navigating there.

9. Is your relative behind on bills or responding to mail?

If you notice mail piling up on the counter or in the mailbox, it could be a red flag. Your loved one may simply forget, or they may worry that they’re no longer able to correspond due to poor eyesight. Check for overdue bills, concerning bank statements, or unsent checks.

10. Does your parent still engage in activities they enjoy?

Did your loved one use to regularly attend activities at their local senior center, church, or garden club? Have they stopped doing things they enjoyed at home, like painting, reading, or crafts? They may no longer feel confident in their abilities, or they may be experiencing disinterest. However, engagement is important for both cognitive and physical health.

11. Has your loved one become antisocial or withdrawn from friends and family?

Some people are simply less social than others. If your loved one has always been an introvert, staying in may not be out of the ordinary. But if they used to be a social butterfly and regularly visit with friends and family, isolation can be a huge red flag. They may no longer feel confident in their ability to interact with others, or they may simply no longer want to participate in social activities. However, too much isolation can be harmful to a senior’s health.

If the answer to most of these questions gives you pause, or if you’re noticing some of the red flags listed above, then it may be time to begin researching local assisted living communities and evaluating your loved one’s additional needs.

Read: Needs Assessment: The First Step When Moving to Senior Housing

Benefits of assisted living

Making the decision to move a relative is difficult, but it may help keep your elderly loved one healthier, safer, and perhaps even happier. Assisted living transitions are usually smoother when they happen sooner rather than later, but many families wait too long before exploring senior living options for their loved ones.

What to do when you think it’s time for assisted living

In addition to keeping an eye out for the signs above, don’t forget to consider your loved one as a whole person. If you believe some extra assistance could help them live life to the fullest, finding a community can be a clear next step.

After an initial adjustment period, many seniors find that they truly appreciate the higher level of support as well as the added opportunities for socialization, dining, and activities. Furthermore, it means that there’s a care plan in place, which eases the pressure on family members to provide regular hands-on assistance.

Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom, AgingCare’s parent company, can help guide your family through the search for assisted living and other care types, at no cost to you. Learn more about communities in your area, and find the best fit for your loved one.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal, or financial advice or to create a professional relationship between AgingCare and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney, or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; AgingCare does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter