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When is the right time to put a parent in a home?

One of your parents already passed away, leaving the remaining parent living at home alone. At first, it's not a problem. Soon, though, it becomes clear that your parent needs more assistance. Living alone is difficult and even dangerous.

You love your parent, and you know how hard it will be to move out of the house, but you can't avoid the issue. When is the right time to put them in an assisted living home? How do you know if it's time to make the move or if you need to give them some more time on their own?

It's a sensitive subject, to be sure. Your parent may not like you weighing in on it at all. But you have to do what is best for them, even when they don't know what that is.

Home safety

The first thing to look for, as noted above, is a lack of basic safety in the home. Maybe your parent has dementia, and you worry that they're going to accidentally leave the gas on when cooking on the stove. Maybe they have physical disabilities, and you worry that they're going to slip in the shower. When you have significant safety concerns and you can't be there yourself, it may be time for a move.

Too much for caregivers

One intermediate step is to have a caregiver in the home. This could be a family member. It could be someone you hire to help out. This person can drop by once a day to help with things -- shopping, cleaning, cooking, showering, etc -- that your parent can't do anymore. This may work for a time, but when it becomes too stressful and too much for the caregivers, the only other option is a home.

Agitation and aggression

As mental difficulties get worse, elderly people may begin to change. Someone who has been kind and compassionate could become aggressive and easily agitated. These changes mean that the disease is getting worse and professional care may be needed. This is especially true if unofficial caregivers -- like you and your siblings -- feel threatened and overwhelmed.

Wandering

One of the most dangerous things for elderly people with mental disorders like dementia is when they start wandering. An elderly person may feel fine, walk to the store, and then have an episode that causes them to forget where they live. They can get lost, something that is very dangerous and potentially fatal. When a person starts wandering, they need around-the-clock care.

Your role

As you deal with your parent's living situation and estate, be sure you fully understand all of your options and the steps you need to take.

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