Nurses assisting elderly people at retirement home

When to put an elderly parent into a nursing home

Deciding to move your elderly parent into a nursing home can be a contentious, guilt-inducing, woeful consideration and decision. Having said that, it is key to the health and welfare of your loved one that you recognize the signs that it is time for higher-level care and can be a very positive and transformative move for all concerned.

It is a bittersweet process that comes with conflicting thoughts and feelings but one that is required when you start to notice declining changes with your mother and or father. Changes such as physical, mental and behavioral are the indicators that it might be time and suggest the inevitable.

Maybe you know already because it’s been on your mind. Maybe you have started to see the signs and your intuition is telling you something.

In reality, many families end up waiting too long to even start the discussion let alone make plans. It is essential actually, to monitor the situation, not just their well-being but for yours too.

Really, the answer to the ‘when’ is…. “sooner rather than later”.

It is not a straightforward matter and requires much discussion, planning and research.

Before exclusively considering a nursing home, one thing you can also look into is at-home care. It’s a good idea to consider this option first if you haven’t done so already. If the situation will allow for a period of at-home care, it might be a good starting point and possibly a more comfortable option for your parent entailing no immediate changes to their environment just their routine.

The question is, how can you make a difficult choice easier?

Here are some sure signs and clear-cut reasons that they need an assisted living facility.


  • Sudden injury or unexpected onset of a debilitating medical illness.
  • Your loved one needs more than you can give and their need for care is escalating and beginning to feel overwhelming, so much so that the important daily routine chores are starting to be neglected.
  • They can’t take care of themselves and they need help with eating, using the bathroom, standing/walking/laying down, personal hygiene routines.
  • Mental decline – causing personality changes and wandering, forgetfulness, aggression, agitation and these hard-to-handle behaviors may pose a real danger to your loved one.
  • Professional care is required.
  • You don’t live nearby.


Perhaps your mother/father has a number of bumps and bruises or has even broken a bone or sustained other injuries recently that are the result of a fall, losing balance or walking into things.

You notice too that your parent is not staying on top of bill paying, seeing to the mail, forgetting appointments, becoming withdrawn, or even becoming a risk on the road.

Maybe you don’t have enough financial support or help from other family members to continue caregiving on your own or you can’t afford more hours of professional in-home care.

An equally justified reason is that perhaps caregiving is taking its toll on you. Your own health is declining as a result of your caregiving, or you are drained physically and emotionally. Maybe you need more assistance and can’t get it? Or the time you are spending as a caregiver is straining other important relationships.

It is more than ok to acknowledge your limitations. You are not a qualified or professional caregiver and feeling the responsibility of another person is an enormous amount of pressure. Having said all of that – don’t forget to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate that you are doing the best you can.

If your parent has a cognitive disorder like dementia and needs care that requires the skills you don’t have, then it is also probably time for long-term residential care.

The criteria for a place in a nursing home calls for an order for admission from your parent’s GP and an assessment test (a state requirement).

On the matter of ‘having to’ put your parent into a nursing home – if it gets to that point – and they absolutely and adamantly refuse to go, then you have to ‘legally force’ them with a court-approved guardianship. A tough affair but one you might have to take into account.

Remind yourself of the initial reasons why you are considering assisted living for your parent – besides the fact that you are doing this out of love. The advantages of a nursing home offer you and your parent peace of mind when it comes to the convenience and aid of 24-hour support, daily management of healthcare needs and skilled nursing services; customized treatment plans and medication management; healthy diet and regular eating plan and social activities.

Initiate your plan of action ahead of time, realistically accessing your options. Talk to your mother/father, work with your siblings or relevant family members on the plan and get input outside your circle and from those in the know or experienced in such matters. Learn about assisted living, have a solid understanding, visit and evaluate your options.

If your mother/father still has the ability to contribute, get their input early on in the process so they don’t feel ‘backed into a corner’ with this potentially tricky subject. And, sell the ‘benefits’ of a nursing home to them. This includes increased safety; better physical care; fewer responsibilities; greater social connections and easy access to activities; more opportunity to make friends and meaningful and enjoyable family interactions.

Finally, two further considerations regarding the matter and the decisions you have to make in the days to come are – does the nursing home of your choice have a waiting list and does your mother/father/family have the necessary funding to finance this plan of action.

Whether you are in need of a fast decision or one that you can ponder, remember to give yourself and your loved one the space to let it all sink in and give yourself the chance to deal with the guilt you may be feeling and other emotions.

In closing, whatever you decide your agreed final plan to be, when putting your loved one into a nursing home, make the transition a smooth one. After all, it is life-changing for all involved and adjusting to the change that it brings can be difficult for the elderly, especially those with declining cognitive ability and dementia. Ensure you provide ongoing love, care and support so they don’t feel ignored or forgotten.


Information source & further reading:

Shield Healthcare

Great Senior Living

Aging Care

A Place for Mom




Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *