5 Signs It’s Time to Consider Assisted Living

Posted on: January 29, 2024

Adult children can feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Their parents have been calling the shots, either directly or subliminally, since birth. But now, as grown children with aging parents, there is often a time of role reversal, which is understandably confusing and perhaps more than a little frightening!

On one hand, we prefer parents to remain as independent as possible and live their own unique lives with dignity. Yet as much as we wish for that to happen, we cannot help noticing the erosion of their ability to maintain life as usual.

How can we know when to step in and when to leave things alone?

Activities of Daily Living Assessment

Professionals typically perform an assessment to understand how well an older adult can perform day-to-day activities, commonly referred to as “ADLs” (Activities of Daily Living). This includes evaluating how capably individuals can manage these tasks:

  • Bathing (cleaning themselves in a bath or shower)
  • Dressing (getting dressed and choosing appropriate clothing) 
  • Toileting (going to the bathroom)
  • Transferring (the ability to get in and out of bed)
  • Continence (bladder and bowel control)
  • Eating (feeding themselves, including handling utensils, swallowing, proper nutrition)

However, to truly be safe to live independently, adults also must manage some basic functions such as grocery shopping and preparing meals, cleaning the house, paying bills, driving or otherwise accessing transportation, and maintaining social connections.

So, how will you know if it’s time for assistance?  You might ask yourself (or your loved one) a few simple questions.

Related: The difference between independent and assisted living >> 

5 Signs It’s Time for Assisted Living

Poor Hygiene

Observe whether clothes have spots or stains or if it seems that towels and sheets have not been laundered.  Check for frequent messy hair or body odor, dirty hands, and nails. Is your parent neglecting their body or their hygiene?

Messy Home

Check to see whether the dishes, laundry, magazines, and newspapers are piling up. Does the kitchen or bathroom look dirty, and has the vacuum been run? Are there obstacles that create a fall risk? Are the foods in the refrigerator or pantry past their expiration date?

Unpaid Bills

Look for the pile of bills and other mail, which can be overwhelming for some older adults. You may need to ask: are credit cards, utilities, and insurance plans paid up-to-date? Are there signs that late fees are being added to accounts?


Has your parent been out of the house and spent time with friends or social organizations? Are they still attending concerts or worship services if they did so in the past? Isolation is an epidemic and a serious health risk for older adults.

Frail or Declining Health

Is your parent dealing with a chronic medical condition, and are they taking their medications as prescribed? Is there a persistent illness or a cough that just doesn’t go away? Do they struggle to move around the house and get out and about as needed or arrange for transportation? 

When You Notice a Pattern

A key concept to keep in mind is pattern. Everyone has off days, and you likely know what’s normal for your loved one and what’s not. Keep an eye on any areas that concern you and see if they persist. You can also enlist the help of other family members or friends to see if they notice anything that warrants further discussion. 

If you do uncover a pattern showing that your loved one is struggling to care for themselves at home, it may be time to investigate the benefits of assisted living. A senior living community like Otterbein can provide the full spectrum of long-term care services, daily activities, socialization, and much more.

Learn More about Assisted Living

This blog was originally posted in January 2022. It was updated in January 2024.