Is It Time for Assisted Living Care?

Signs that suggest the change is needed

When facing the decision of placing a loved one in a assisted living or nursing home facility, caregivers consistently wonder if there are certain signs that indicate when the time is right or if there are clear factors to acknowledge. If you're starting to feel that the challenge of balancing everything in life might be too much, consider that it might be time for assistance.

Elderly man at assisted living center

Leading With Emotion

Families often experience guilt and anxiety related to the very thought of care-facility placement. They may have even made a promise years ago to their loved one that they would never put them in a home. Even more, they may feel like it’s their duty to care for their loved one(s) in their own home.

Others may have had a bad experience (or heard of one) with a care facility and are fearful of making the decision. They're either concerned that their loved one will not be cared for as well at a facility as they are at home, or worried that placement in a facility will cause a faster decline in functioning and quality of life.

Out of Your Control

Occasionally, there are sudden situations when it's clear that the time has come to move to an assisted living or a long-term care facility. These can include:

  • Severe illness
  • Injury
  • Hospitalization/death of the caregiver
  • Hospitalization of the person who needs care
  • Dementia

These abrupt changes often necessitate immediate facility placement. Sometimes, individuals even end up in facilities almost overnight, with very little time to research all their options.

When It's Actually Time

Outside of the above sudden changes, how do you know when you should make the move to an assisted care facility?

Here are 13 signs to consider:

  1. You’ve hurt your back or fallen when trying to lift or move your loved one.
  2. Your loved one's Alzheimer's disease has progressed to the point where they try to hurt you or exhibit other challenging behaviors, such as paranoia or frequent anger.
  3. Your family member has wandered outside and become lost.
  4. You’re dropping the ball with other life responsibilities.
  5. You display several signs of caregiver burnout. For example, you recently lost your temper when your loved one was resisting getting dressed or was following you everywhere you went inside the house. 
  6. Your own health (either physical or emotional) is declining. This may include conditions such as high blood pressure, arrhythmia, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, and/or depression. 
  7. Your most important relationships are significantly suffering.
  8. You have surgery or another planned medical procedure coming up.
  9. Your healthcare provider has said that it’s time for assisted living placement.
  10. Your loved one has care needs that you really can’t handle well, despite your best efforts.
  11. You've had friends or family members repeatedly express concern for you and encourage you to look into the option of a care facility.
  12. You have tried other options and resources to keep your loved one at home but they just aren't providing enough assistance.
  13. Financially, assisted living is more feasible than paying for the amount of in-home services that would be needed to meet your loved one's care needs.

If one or more of these signs sounds familiar, it may be time to go forward with planning a move to a care facility. Be sure to talk with others around you who are familiar with the facilities in your community and who can help make a recommendation.

Dropping in on facilities to visit can also give you a feel for the place. Researching your options is key to choosing a good care facility for your loved one.

A Word From Verywell

Thinking about care options for your loved one can be stressful. Although sometimes it feels like you can manage it, there may be other times when you feel like you're just not able to do it all.

Some people even describe feeling as if they are drowning in the responsibility and the burden of the caregiver role. Acknowledging these feelings, however, does not take anything away from the love you have for the person you're caring for.

Keep in mind that if your health or emotional well-being suffers too much, you won’t be much help to your loved one. Planning well can help you continue to be there for your loved one, so you can keep providing the support he or she needs during the challenges of this journey.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Alzheimer's Association. Guilt and grief when moving your loved one to a care facility.

  2. Xiong C, Biscardi M, Astell A, et al. Sex and gender differences in caregiving burden experienced by family caregivers of persons with dementia: A systematic review. PLoS ONE. 2020;15(4):e0231848. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0231848

By Esther Heerema, MSW
Esther Heerema, MSW, shares practical tips gained from working with hundreds of people whose lives are touched by Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.