How Much Forgetfulness is Too Much in Assisted Living?

Does your mom seem more forgetful these days? Are you worried dad’s not eating the food you put in his fridge – but the cookies disappear? And the pill box looks a little jumbled?

Hmmm…maybe it’s time for assisted living.

But, your co-worker, Steve, moved his mom to assisted living. Then he had to move her again within 3 months. It was a nightmare. Steve’s mom had dementia. They thought she was “just a little forgetful.”

Now you’re afraid.

Is assisted living the right choice for someone with forgetfulness?

Assisted living can be a good choice for someone who’s forgetful or has beginning dementia. You’ll find many older adults in communities with mild to moderate forgetfulness. Check your loved one’s capabilities, be aware of potential pitfalls, and optimize for success.

First, start by observing and asking yourself the following questions.

Is your mom able to learn new patterns and routines?

People with beginning memory loss often compensate by becoming routine dependent. They manage ok in their familiar environment, doing the same things, in the same way, every day. But they have difficulty in new places and disrupted routines.


Decide if your parent has enough cognitive ability to learn new routines and patterns. It’s important your mom be able to learn where her apartment is. Staff will help her get oriented. But after a few weeks, she should be mostly independent. She should have learned her way to the dining room and activities.

Does your dad recognize when he needs help?  Will he use the call system to get help when needed?  Is your mom able to learn new patterns and routines?

Assisted living is designed for older adults who value independence and autonomy. Assistance is there to help with daily living needs. Things like medication management, showers, dressing, etc. Most of these services are scheduled. Residents must ask for help with the unexpected. For example, toileting mishaps and illness.


Can your dad recognize when he needs help? Can he find a way to get help (problem solve)? Do you think he’ll remember to use the call bell system, make a phone call, or walk down the hall for help?


Also, evaluate if dad will be safe behind closed doors for 2-3 hours at a time. How much supervision and direction does he need? In assisted living residents have their own apartments. They’re not supervised closely. Caregiver to resident ratio is approximately 1:16.

Is your loved one socially appropriate?

Older adults with mild dementia or forgetfulness can feel anxious and insecure. They often realize they’re forgetful and losing control.


Sometimes it’s difficult for them to plan their day and follow through. Your dad might become withdrawn. Mom might become clingy, looking for reassurance and direction from you or others. Your parent runs the risk of becoming isolated or socially shunned.


Assisted living staff will try helping your parent get involved. They’ll encourage and guide. Staff will try helping them adjust and find a peer group.

Next, Factor in Transition Trauma

After answering these questions, are you ready to consider assisted living? If so, be sure to factor in transition trauma (it’s a real thing).

It’s stressful moving out of your home. And frightening moving to a totally new environment. A major disruption like this will cause extra confusion, anxiety, and possible behaviors.

Usually, with extra support and the right community, your parent will rebound. It may take several weeks. After getting regular meals and social interactions, he’ll likely regain his mental baseline. He may even improve.

If your mom doesn’t rebound, her confusion persists or worsens, consider a higher level of care. Especially if she can’t get oriented and tries leaving the building. Watch for increasing isolation. Be emotionally and mentally prepared with a Plan B – just in case.

The Move-in Process

The good news, most assisted living communities want a successful move for your mom as much as you do. Before letting someone move in, the administrator or nurse usually does an assessment. They’ll assess cognition and memory. If the test score is too low or borderline, they’ll stop the move-in process.

It’s possible that specific community isn’t the right match. Possibly the size, staffing, and peer group make it wrong for your parent. Another assisted living community might work. Or, your parent does need a higher level of care. A professional senior advisor can help you with the options.

The Two Biggest Take-Aways

Choose the right community for someone with forgetfulness or mild dementia.

  • Get professional help from a senior advisor.
  • Get a mental cognition evaluation from your parent’s medical team.

Move sooner rather than later.

  • Optimize your mom’s abilities. Make the most of your dad’s current competency.
  • Ensure the best successful outcome in moving to assisted living.

Free Options Consultation

Still feeling unsure? Wondering which assisted living community is the best match for your parent? You’re not alone. That’s why I offer a Free 1-hour consultation.


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