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9 Signs It’s Time for Your Elderly Loved Ones to Downsize

If you gathered with family this holiday season, you may have noticed some signs that it’s time for your elderly loved ones to downsize into a smaller home—or perhaps move into a retirement community. 

The decision to move your elderly parents (or other family members) out of their current home isn’t one to be made lightly. Knowing which dangers are serious enough to require action can be the toughest part for everyone involved. 

Here, we’ll explore 8 of the challenges your elderly loved ones may face in their current home and address whether these dangers warrant a move or if there’s a way to resolve the issue so they can remain in their current home. 

Let’s get started.

1. Difficulty with stairs

Struggling to get up or down the stairs is a common problem as we age. But the difficulty with stairs may doesn’t necessarily mean you have to consider downsizing or moving your parents into a smaller home or a senior housing community. Fortunately, you have some options:

  1. Install a stairlift: Depending on the size and shape of the staircase, stairlifts range in price from $2,000 – $10,000. Straight stairlifts are typically under $5,000, while curved ones will cost more. Still, the cost to install a stairlift is often worth it if it means that seniors can stay in their homes longer. 
  2. Make everyday items accessible on the main floor: When you eliminate the need for your loved ones to use the stairs multiple times a day, you minimize their risk of injury by reducing the number of times they’ll need to go up or down the stairs. Consider making space for the main floor bedroom and laundry facilities, and make sure heavier or frequently-used items are accessible on the main floor.

If neither of these options is doable in your situation, it might be time to talk about moving to a more accessible home or a senior living community.

2. Slips & falls

Slips and falls are a hazard both in and outside of the home. A slippery bathroom tile or icy porch can cause a dangerous fall, but these hazards may not warrant a move. Here are some quick and easy ways to prevent a slip or fall in and around the home:

  1. Install grab bars in potentially dangerous areas, like the bathtub, entrances, or beside the bed. 
  2. Add non-slip grips to bath and shower floors, as well as stairs and other potentially slippery areas. 
  3. Reinforce existing stairway railings—inside and outside—to make sure they’re nice and secure. 
  4. In colder climates,  salt or sand will minimize ice or snow buildup on decks, front stoops, stairs, walkways, and driveways. If you are unable to help clear snow and ice during weather events, you may want to find a neighbor or plowing company that can be relied on to come over and take care of the situation.
  5. There are a number of medical and safety alert systems on the market. Do some research and purchase a system that works for your seniors’ situation. That way if there is a fall, they will be able to access help immediately. 

If you find your loved ones are still having frequent slips or fall despite your preventative measures, it’s probably time to talk about moving to a long-term care community.

3. Failing to pay bills and keep up with finances 

There are many reasons why your elderly loved ones may begin to fall behind on bill payments. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • Dementia or other mental declines (such as Alzheimer’s or depression)
  • Vision issues or other physical ailments (such as hand tremors or severe arthritis)
  • Lack of organization or simply losing track of time
  • Financial troubles
  • Loss of a spouse who once “handled the finances”

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help:

  • Designate a bill payment area stocked with envelopes, checks, pens, etc. 
  • Set up automatic bill payments online
  • Mark due dates clearly on a calendar
  • Assign a trusted family member to become power of attorney (POA)
  • Look into a local service that provides bill payment services on behalf of individuals

Sometimes, managing household expenses and upkeep is simply too much for elderly people, and designating a POA isn’t a viable option. Under those circumstances, you might consider moving your loved ones to a long-term care community.

4. Weight loss or changes in eating

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, 15-20% of seniors experience sudden weight loss. The key is to identify the cause. There are many reasons why seniors lose weight, not all of which are causes for alarm. However, it’s advised to rule out potentially serious issues, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s or dementia (forgetting to eat)
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive metabolism)
  • Depression (loss of appetite)
  • Substance abuse
  • Medication side effects
  • Financial difficulties

If mobility issues are getting in the way of meal preparation, there are services you can hire to deliver pre-made meals, or you can have someone come to the home daily to prepare meals. Another affordable option is to have a family member prepare individual meals that can be frozen. That way your elderly loved ones have a nice variety of home-cooked meals they can simply pop in the toaster oven or microwave.

When your elderly loved ones become unable or unwilling to keep themselves properly nourished, whatever the reason, consider a long-term care community. 

5. Poor memory or difficulty communicating

Forgetfulness is common as we age, but serious memory issues can affect important day-to-day activities, such as driving, paying bills, preparing meals and taking medications. 

“Normal” forgetfulness due to aging might include:

  • Misplacing the car keys
  • Missing a bill payment
  • Confusion about what day it is

When cognitive issues become more serious, you may notice your elderly loved ones:

  • Failing to recognize you
  • Having difficulty communicating
  • Experiencing personality changes

When severe mental issues take hold, it may be time to talk about moving your elderly parents to a senior housing community to ensure their safety.

6. Trouble keeping up with personal care

A change in your loved ones’ personal hygiene could be due to mobility or mental health issues. In either case, it may not mean they have to downsize or move into a senior housing community. Instead, you might consider hiring a personal support worker (PSW) or other in-home healthcare professional to offer assistance with things like:

  • Bathing or showering
  • Shaving
  • Dental hygiene
  • House cleaning and laundry
  • Meal preparation

If your loved one needs daily care, it may make more sense to move them into a retirement community. 

7. Neglecting the house & yard

Is the grass overgrown and the garden full of weeds? Seniors often need a helping hand with yard work. Particularly in colder climates, it’s important to make sure front steps and driveways are properly cleared and salted to avoid a dangerous slip or fall. In the summer months, weekly grass cutting and occasional garden maintenance may be needed. Landscaping and snow removal services are fairly easy to come by, and won’t necessarily break the bank.

Inside the home, you may notice basic housekeeping issues, such as:

  • Dishes piling up in the sink
  • Floors needing to be swept and/or vacuumed
  • Dust and cobwebs accumulating on surfaces and in corners

Again, this may not be just cause for moving your parents into a senior housing community. There are plenty of services you can hire to come in and help with the basic housekeeping chores. 

If none of these solutions is an option for your loved ones, however, downsizing or moving to a senior living community may be the best alternative.

8. Depression

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 15% of adults over the age of 60 live with some type of mental disorder. Depression is the most common. Unfortunately, it can sometimes go undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.

In younger people, the most common sign of depression is sadness. However, depression may present a little differently in elderly people, including symptoms like:

  • Irritability
  • Complaining about aches and pains
  • Insomnia

Depression can be difficult to diagnose in seniors because the more common signs are easily misinterpreted as simply being part of the aging process. If you suspect your elderly loved ones are suffering from depression, contact your medical professional right away to determine if in-patient care is the best solution.

9. Loneliness

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one third of all seniors live alone. Senior isolation and loneliness are common and can be dangerous, especially since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic—more than double the number of seniors say they felt isolated in June 2020 compared to the same poll conducted by the University of Michigan in 2018.

Loneliness can have mental and physical effects, including:

  • Increased stress
  • Bad health habits such as smoking, excessive drinking, and neglecting physical activity
  • Increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Higher risk of elder abuse
  • Poor outlook on quality of life

If your loved one is struggling with the effects of loneliness, moving to a senior housing community can provide more social activities, help them meet others with shared interests, and increase their sense of belonging.

Is it time to downsize or move to a senior housing community?

If you’ve noticed more than one or two of these signs, it may be time to start thinking about downsizing or moving your loved ones out of their home and into a long-term care community. When you’re ready, Moves for Seniors offers a complete range of moving and downsizing services tailored to suit the unique needs of your family.

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Have questions? Talk to our senior moving specialists today; call toll-free 1-800-227-0515. We’re here to help.