Let's Talk About Assisted Living

Signs that your parent is struggling with aging issues may be subtle at first. Your mother always enjoyed cooking a healthy dinner but now has a freezer full of frozen meals. Your father says he’s too busy to have coffee with friends, but he spends most of the morning alone in front of a television set.

Falls, forgetting to take medications, weight loss and recurring infections follow.

Your parents love where they live so you pitch in, often from several states away, to help them age in place. You install grab bars, hire a home care agency to help with meals and personal care and try to coordinate medical appointments with family, friends and social service agencies. But medical emergencies continue, along with loneliness and malnutrition, and the stress of caring for your aging parent has become a 24/7 responsibility for you.  

Maybe it’s time for you to have that talk with your parents.

What is Assisted Living? What is Personal Care?

As the name applies, communities that offer assisted living “assist” residents with daily activities such as bathing and medication management while fostering independence and personal well-being.  While “assisted living” is a common term for this type of long-term care, Pennsylvania communities typically have a license called “personal care”.   

According to the National Center for Assisted Living, services and activities generally include:

  • 24-hour supervision
  • 3 meals a day in a group dining room
  • Personal care services (help with bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.)
  • Medication management, or assistance with self-administration of medicine
  • Social services
  • Supervision and assistance for persons with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and disabilities
  • Recreational and spiritual activities
  • Exercise and wellness programs
  • Laundry and linen service
  • Housekeeping and maintenance
  • Arrangements for transportation

Some assisted living or personal care communities take a more holistic approach, offering enhanced activities such as gardening, music and art activities, lectures and other lifelong learning programs, and volunteer and community opportunities.  Others offer secure memory care housing for those with more advanced dementia.

Back to that Conversation

You and other family members may have decided that the best path forward for your mom or dad is for them to move to a community where they can receive assistance with tasks for daily living, but they may not see it that way. Their plan was always to grow old in their current home, surrounded by memories, comforts and a familiar neighborhood.  

U.S. News Staff Reporter Ruben Castaneda writes that although there’s no playbook for how to talk to a parent about moving into an assisted living or personal care community, experts recommend five strategies:

  1. Have the conversation sooner than later, preferably before a crisis occurs;
  2. Look for an opportunity to broach the subject, such as after a minor fall;
  3. Listen carefully to your parent’s concerns;
  4. Don’t issue orders, because unless your parent is mentally incapacitated it will be his or her decision;
  5. Tour assisted living and personal care communities together and utilize the expertise of the staff to help your families make this difficult decision.

The sooner you start the conversation, the more time you will have to prepare for the move. Moving to a smaller space means downsizing, selling the family home, getting finances in order and finding an assisted living or personal care community that is the best fit for your parent. Plus, the community on the top of your list might have a waiting list.

Another housing option might be to either move in with your parents or move them into your house, but think carefully before doing so, experts say. Along with space issues, consider who will help your parents when you are at work or unavailable and what impact such a move will have on your family and personal life.

Think you might be ready for Personal Care?


See if Barclay Friends has a level of care that is right for you.