Is assisted living an option without a formal dementia diagnosis?

3 answers | Last updated: Nov 10, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My seventy-six year old mother-in-law lives alone and has had significant memory problems/confusion for about 4years now. She also has experienced some unpleasant personality changes and a long history of chronic depression. She sends desperate emails asking for help with getting out of her single home because being a homeowner overwhelms her. However, whenever we find a condo, apartment, or townhouse for her she says it's too overwhelming to move now. Is an assisted living facility an appropriate option without a formal dementia diagnosis, since she refuses to be worked up medically for her memory dysfunction? Thanks for your help.

Expert Answers

Donna Quinn Robbins is the author of Moving Mom and Dad and On the Road of Life, Drive Yourself. She helps individuals, families, retirement communities, and corporations make successful transitions through her company, Ultimate Moves. Robbins is an active public speaker on the topic of senior transition services and has appeared on NBC's Today Show.

Your mother may not be eligible for an assisted living community. They can take people with very slight cognative issues but if they have unpleasant personality changes as you suggest she may not be accepted. My suggestion would be to visit an assisted living community that has a section for dementia patients. Many communities now have 2 levels of demen tia care. She may qualify for the first level. It doesn't sound, either way, that she should be living alone. Thank you, Donna Q. Robbins

Community Answers

Poppacas answered...

Seek legal advice----I say this so much one might be led to believe I am attorney. Am not, but the legal problems one may find themselves involved in can be very stressful.

Make haste slowly when dealing with these matters.

Blessings, peace and love----poppacas ~†~ Love Is The Answer ~†~

A fellow caregiver answered...

Thank you for bringing up this issue. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, finally, a year ago. Six years ago, my mom married her high school sweetheart, and the Alzheimer's really seemed to start setting in about a year later. I moved in with mom and "dad" over a year ago when he developed some health issues that required lengthy hospitalization followed by rehab. He has been hospitalized two additional times in the past year. At that point nobody in the family really understood the extent of my mother's illness or realized that "dad" could not care for her on his own any more.

Prior to the diagnosis and my now year plus stay, my siblings had had been taking them to visit assisted living facilities. They still think that this is an option and used "connections" to place them in respite for a couple of weeks so I could get out of town for awhile. Assisted living is not appropriate for my mother, too much responsibility would be placed on "dad" on a daily basis that is not good for him. Yet, my siblings seem to think that this would work. They are not here to see what occurs on a daily basis. One spends about 4-5 hours with her on weekends, the other, about 3 hours maybe every 6 weeks or so. Yet they think that they are equipped with the information and knowledge to determine what is appropriate. Mom needs a secure facility if that ever occurs. My intent is to stay with them as long as I possibly can, mom will do much better in her own home. Her disorientation while in respite care was so extreme that she was medicated on a nightly basis which is only necessary at home several times a month.