If you and your relatives have your hands full caring for an elderly loved one, you may be wondering when it’s time for a change. Here are some tips for knowing when to consider an independent living, personal care, or assisted living environment.\nUPMC has facilities to fit the activity level and care requirements of every senior. Learn more about UPMC’s Senior Communities.\nWhen Is It Time For Personal Care or Assisted Living?\nBefore considering moving your loved one to a care facility, it’s important to know there are different types of resident facilities for the elderly, says Lori Greer, the regional administrator for UPMC’s Senior Communities Personal Care and Assisted Living.\n“The difference is that assisted living facilities enable the residents there to age in place,” says Greer. \u201cWith assisted living, services are provided in the home setting so that you can maintain those people’s lifestyles for a longer period of time.”\nIn Pennsylvania, some facilities are personal care and others are assisted living. The primary difference is having an assisted living license that meets the licensed requirements for space and facility support.\nThere are only a handful of licensed assisted living facilities, four of which belong to UPMC Senior Communities. Both options are available at UPMC Senior Communities and both provide excellent services.\nDetermining the best time to start the conversation with your loved one is tricky. Greer recommends looking at the situation objectively. “Ask yourself: ‘How is their quality of life being compromised?'” she says. “For some residents, it’s typically a physical limitation, like their range of motion, balance, abilities, something like that. For other residents, they’re in physically good shape, but cognitively, socially, or emotionally, they’re having challenges.”\nAn example of a huge challenge for elderly loved ones if grief. “Usually this population is experiencing a lot of grief because they are losing spouses, children, friends, and family members,” she says. “So they start to feel very isolated or alone. And if grief is overtaking their quality of life, then their activities of daily living are compromised.”\nOther challenges may include diminished self-care. “Are they not taking their medications consistently?” asks Greer. Make sure they’re eating and bathing regularly, too.\nWhen Daily Tasks Become Difficult\nWatch for a change in everyday activities. When tasks become disruptions, it’s time to consider other options. Examples include:\n\nHousehold appliances left on\nNeglected grooming and laundry\nExtreme anxiety\nTrouble taking medications\nUnpaid bills or other evidence of financial negligence\nSocial isolation\nTrouble navigating the home\n\nGreer says these signs rarely start as serious. At first, they’re usually small inconveniences. But when they start to add up, it’s time to seek out caregiver help.\nDo Your Research\nLearning the differences between each option will ensure your family members are taken care of at the level they need:\n\nIndependent Living: This is for seniors who appreciate freedom and privacy with on-call support. This arrangement could be perfect for aging relatives who still can function independently but would benefit from social and emotional support creating a network of friends and an easier life style with eating, cleaning, transportation and social needs.\nPersonal and Assisted Living: These are usually apartment-style facilities that include help for daily routines and various social activities.\n\nOnce you’ve researched the different options relevant to your situation, you may feel prepared to make a decision. However, you should take one more step. “Schedule an appointment and go visit the facility,” Greer says.\nAccording to Greer, indications of a quality facility may not be as obvious as you’d expect. “There are a few things you can observe right off the bat,” she says. “First is the cleanliness. How does it smell?”\nTrust your gut when you visit and assess the spirit of the community. “How does the staff interact with you? If people don’t want to be bothered or they’re annoyed you’re there, that’s going to tell you something, as opposed to someone who’s available, willing to answer questions for you, give you a tour, show you everything, welcome your questions, and welcome you into any part of the building,” says Greer.\nIf you have trouble formulating questions, consider evaluating a real-life example. “Most places have a model room where you can go in and everything is set up,” says Greer. “But you want to see beyond that. When people come to our facility, we will show them, with their permission, a current resident’s room. Because it’s not the ideal setting, it’s the real-life setting.”\nWhat to Expect\nBoth you and your aging relative naturally want to dismiss the need for help. But Greer says if you anticipate denial, then you can work through it together. Mutual fears are the most important topic to tackle. Acknowledging concerns will pave the way for a smooth transition, whether you make the decision tomorrow or in a few years.\n“When they get into a community setting, they have a lot of choice \u2014 they can participate in one or all the activities, and some residents do,” says Greer. “Others may only socialize for three meals a day, but at least during that time they get some connection with peers and the staff keeping an eye on then.”\nUltimately, this will be a fruitful, invigorating decision for your loved one. “So many of them start to come out of that isolation, and that’s always exciting to see … when someone sort of blooms and comes alive again,” she says. “It’s very rewarding.”\nThe discussion about transitioning to a care facility is one that should start early and be ongoing. It’s nuanced, but with these tips, you know you’re starting on the right foot.\nUPMC has facilities to fit the activity level and care requirements of every senior. Learn more about UPMC’s Senior Communities.