Senior woman and her grandson

When Is Assisted Living The Right Option?

Some people are planners – they plan ahead, making decisions about getting older early on. Other people tend to wait until a move is necessary or even when the move is overdue. If a senior has made the choice to downsize to a lower-maintenance style of living, such as a condominium or retirement apartment, it is possible that an additional move may not even be necessary.

Let’s say you’re living in a condominium. If you need assistance with chores or activities, you may want to consider arranging for in-home care services. If you’re living in a retirement apartment, the senior living community may offer in-house assisted living, allowing residents to age in place. Even within retirement communities, it is an option to arrange for in-home care from an outside agency.

If an older adult is living in the family home, daily activities and home maintenance may become overwhelming for the senior and their family. At some point, services in the home may be needed – or a move to retirement or assisted living may become the best option.

Assisted living offers support and some care services in an independent-style living arrangement. Residents have their own apartments, affording a level of privacy most of us are accustomed to. Even individuals who aren’t that outgoing and social can benefit from living within an assisted living community. Many activities occur that don’t require people to be highly participatory; such as picking up the mail or chatting with someone in the dining room. These could be enough social interaction to meet the needs of the older adult. Assisted living communities offer planned activities and arrange special events to encourage a sense of community among residents, family members and staff.

Assisted Living is likely a good option for you if:

  • You are a couple and one or both of you needs more care than you can offer each other on your own.
  • You are a couple and one or both of you is no longer able to maintain the home, complete chores such as grocery shopping, or if driving is becoming a concern for you.
  • You aren’t eating properly or drinking enough water or getting enough exercise; this lifestyle will likely enhance your life.
  • You are single and you feel lonely or fearful; assisted living will offer you a good solution to connect with people.

Assisted Living offers a desirable lifestyle to many older adults, though there are some people for whom assisted living may not be a good fit. Here are personality types or specific care issues that may not work well within an assisted living community:

  1. Highly private and reclusive people: Even though residents have their own, private apartment where they can still maintain their privacy, if a person feels highly uncomfortable around groups of 20 or more people (to the point they are physically uncomfortable) assisted living may not be the best answer. Arranging for in-home care within their current residence or a move to a smaller setting, such as an adult care home, may be a better match. Call CHOICE at 800-361-0138 for guidance.
  1. Visually challenged or sight-impaired: People who can’t see well or can’t see at all may be able to do just fine in assisted living. The appropriateness of assisted living depends upon how independent a person can be when they have limited sight. Assisted living does not offer one-on-one care; a person must be able to be self-sufficient for extended periods of time, or the older adult must be capable of pressing a button to notify staff that they are in need of help. Some assisted living communities specialize in memory care and may, in fact, offer care that anticipates resident needs and can meet the needs of someone who has random care needs throughout the day or night time.
  1. Some assisted living communities may offer specialty care for people with memory loss; other providers do not. Memory loss and dementia are complex issues requiring much more extensive information gathering and care on the part of the assisted living community. Fifty percent of individuals age 80 or older have some type of memory loss. Having memory loss does not necessarily prevent a person from moving to or remaining within an assisted living community. Specialty dementia care programs exist within some assisted living communities, and some communities are specifically designed and operate to care for people with dementia.
  1. A person prone to falling or with mobility issues: Assisted living may or may not be the best answer. Regardless of where a person lives, the risk for falling will always exist. Balancing out the individual’s need for independence with the possible risk of falling is critical. Having access to an emergency response call button or in-house monitoring and a safety system are of help to people who are not steady on their feet. Technology also now exists to detect when an older adult falls. This technology can be implemented in any type of living arrangement.
  1. A person with random and unpredictable needs: Assisted living may be a questionable option. In most communities, caregivers are assigned to care for a certain number of older adults. Within a caregiver’s day, they have allotted time to help specific residents with personal grooming, managing their day and supporting residents in planned and specific ways. For this reason, a person who has random needs may not have their needs adequately met, as the caregiver would be occupied helping other residents. If a person has care needs which can be scheduled and specific, assisted living is a tremendous option. For instance, if a person needs help with a bath or shower every other day at 8AM, this is a scheduled and predictable event and can be easily managed by staff within assisted living; whereas, if a resident has mobility issues and needs help getting in and out of a chair, this individual may not do well having to wait for a caregiver to come and assist with making a bathroom visit at a specific time of day.  There are a limited number of assisted living communities which staff in a way that can accommodate unpredictable needs of residents.

Each assisted living community is staffed in a different way. Some communities use standard staffing models such as:

1 caregiver per 15 residents during the typical awake hours
1 caregiver per 40 residents during sleeping times

Licensed assisted living communities staff based on specific resident needs, so one caregiver may be responsible for fewer or more clients, depending upon the unique needs of all of the residents in their care.

Discussing your specific needs is an important part of determining if assisted living is a good short-term and long-term match for you.

CHOICE Advisory Services is a FREE senior care referral agency.

We help define the options that will be of greatest interest to you.

Call 7 days a week: 800-361-0138 or email us at