You’ve come to the realization that Mom or Dad (or both) are going to need more help – maybe sooner rather than later. Now, it is time for you to become Inspector Clouseau (minus the hat and silly mustache) and determine, objectively, what Mom or Dad can do for themselves. Once you have this information, you can better negotiate the labyrinth of assisted living.
It is as important for your sense of well-being as it is for your parents’ future to focus on what your parents can do, NOT what you think, remember, or wish they could do. So, if you can’t be completely objective, then ask a spouse or a trusted friend to help you. I would recommend looking at four main areas: their environment, their routine, their health, and their support system. These four areas cover the most typical services that you can expect in an assisted living residence.
Let’s start with the environment: the home in which they currently live. Remember to observe everything from the street to the curb, to the driveway, to the stoop, to the entryway, to the floor plan on each level. You should be noting all potential fall or tripping hazards. Find out how many steps it is from the curb to the front door? Are there railings and what condition are they in? Is there a welcome mat, and how thick is it? How many stairs are in the house – especially note the number of stairs, railings, or turns from the master bedroom and the bathroom? How many area rugs are scattered throughout the house (include each bathroom) – As an aside, my mother loved to place what I referred to as “toilet sweaters” in each bathroom. You know what I’m talking about: those chenille or cotton “U” shaped bath mats around the toilet. All of these things, which you and never think about, could be potential risks for your parents. Now, watch your parents as they navigate all of these areas. How steady are they walking? Are they using a cane or walker, and if so, is it helping or hindering their maneuvering? Do they avoid certain entryways because they have difficulty? My father would pull into the garage and enter our house by going up only one step. He said it was more convenient, and it probably was, but the other “truth” was that he was no longer able to climb the porch stairs (there were 5 of them) because he would be out of breath by the time he made it into the hallway. See what I mean, parents are sneaky.