What Do You Do When Assisted Living Isn’t Enough?

Perhaps there will come a time when your elderly loved one care needs will grow past what assisted living can do. And when that happens, maybe he/she will be needing specialized care instead. Keep on reading to learn about what you should do when assisted living is no longer enough for your older loved one.

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Assisted Living Isn't Enough
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The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the current 65+ demographic in the country is expected to more than double by 20501. Many seniors and their caregivers are confused about what to do when they or their loved ones require specialized care.

If your older adult has outgrown assisted living and needs specialized care, you have come to the right place. This article provides information on what you should do when assisted living is insufficient.

How To Know When Your Older Adult Needs More Than Assisted Living?

Assisted living communities are ideal for senior adults who need additional support with the activities of daily living or ADLs. In fact, these adults may need assistance with dressing, toileting, showering, grooming, medications, and more.

But what happens when your loved one needs specialized care, including memory, palliative, hospice, and dementia care? This is when you need to consider moving your loved one to a specialized senior care facility such as a memory care facility or nursing home.

Transitioning from an assisted living facility to a nursing home or a specialized care facility is a personal decision. In fact, skilled facilities are designed to meet the complex medical needs of senior adults.

For example, these facilities can handle simple pain management, complex rehabilitation, and everything in between. Seniors in these facilities require assistance with tasks that go beyond the activities of daily living or ADLs.

assisted living isn't enough next steps
Specialized care is needed for certain health conditions of some older adults.

What Are The Next Steps After Assisted Living?

Most of the time, an older adult who moves to an assisted living facility will live out the rest of his or her life in that community. If you have chosen the right facility for your loved one, he or she will age in place and receive the care they need.

But some older adults may develop certain health conditions that require specialized care that exceeds the capacity of the assisted living facility. For example, your older adult may develop:

  • A degenerative memory issue like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • Mobility issues that may reduce their ability to navigate hallways or activity rooms
  • An unstable medical condition such as a stroke or pneumonia
  • Care needs that require a higher acuity of care and services

What is your next step if your loved one has developed any of the aforementioned conditions?

Consider many options if your loved one has outgrown the services provided by an assisted living facility. Here are some of the highly specialized care options to consider when your senior adult has outgrown assisted living:

Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

If your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or any other kind of dementia, he or she may not be able to live in an assisted living facility anymore – unless they provide specialized memory care services to such residents.

People with dementia become disoriented to time and place. They may confuse day for night and wander out without any reason to do so. Assisted living facilities are not enough for such an adult unless the facility provides specialized memory care services to its residents. 

Memory care facilities and assisted living communities share similar staff, including nurses and nursing assistants.

But memory care facilities boast staff with additional training and experience to handle the specialized needs of people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementia conditions.

Staff employed at memory care communities (from administrators to housekeepers) require attending continuing education classes to understand how the brains of people suffering from dementia work.

They master special strategies to mitigate distress and support the residents in the facility. If your loved one has memory issues or suffers from conditions like Alzheimer’s or any other kind of dementia, he or she should opt for memory care than assisted living. 

Assisted living facilities focus on entertaining their residents, while memory care offers dementia-specific activities that are tailored to the unique cognitive needs of seniors suffering from dementia conditions.

In fact, seniors suffering from dementia often express their distress with challenging behavior patterns. Assisted living staff members are not geared to handle such residents.

On the other hand, memory care communities provide an environment that is ideally suited to the safety concerns and needs of seniors suffering from memory and judgment issues.

Assisted living facilities don’t offer these extra measures, making such facilities unsafe for someone with dementia. Dementia will change the patient’s five senses other than his/her cognition and memory.

That is why memory care facilities feature safety measures such as door alarms, one-touch sinks, motion-sensor lights, and more to guarantee the safety of their residents.

assisted living isn't enough nursing home
Nursing homes provide medical care under the supervision of trained physicians or nurses.

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Home Care

The main difference between a nursing home and an assisted living facility is a nursing home provides medical and personal care in a clinical setting while an assisted living facility offers personal care in a social or home-like setting.

Nursing homes offer medical care under the supervision of a trained physician or nurse, which isn’t offered in an assisted living facility. The decision to move your loved one from an assisted living facility to a nursing home is a very individual and personal one.

If your loved one has experienced a marked loss of independence, he or she may be considered for this transition. In fact, many factors affect the choice to transition to a nursing home from an assisted living facility, including emotional readiness, cost, proximity, services, and more.

Here are some of the most common signs that your loved one is ready to be moved to a nursing home from an assisted living facility:

  • A medical condition getting worse or multiple medical conditions at once
  • Chronic or terminal illness that requires 24/7 supervision or care
  • Increases in falls, broken bones, or sprains
  • Worsening emotional disorders, including certain types of dementia
  • Withdrawing from people and society and increased feelings of isolation
  • Difficulty in keeping up with personal hygiene and house cleaning 
  • Increased memory loss, disorientation, confusion, and declining mental acuity 

Nursing homes are places for seniors who need the diligent attention of a medical professional 24/7. If your adult needs treatments or therapies that are only available from licensed healthcare staff, you should consider a nursing home for your older adult.

In fact, skilled nursing homes have designated Medicare beds that are specially reserved for patients who are rehabilitating from heart attacks, strokes, or fractures. They provide long-term care to patients who are living out their lives while receiving skilled nursing care.

On the other hand, nursing homes also have dining rooms, activity programs, and the benefit of social services on site.

Assisted Living vs. Palliative Care

The main goal of palliative care facilities is to improve the quality of life for senior adults suffering from life-threatening or serious chronic health issues. In fact, palliative care focuses on symptom reduction, pain management, as well as physical & spiritual comfort.

Palliative care clinicians are highly trained to help patients and their family members to consider the overall picture of an individual’s health, well-being, and goals for medical treatments.

Your senior adult will benefit more from palliative care than assisted living if he or she suffers from a terminal illness and requires 24/7 supervision and care.

In fact, people who receive palliative care experience less nausea & pain, breathe easier, communicate more clearly, and feel better emotionally. When you are searching for palliative care for your loved one, it’s important to start the process sooner than later.

When you start early, your loved one will find it easier to follow his/her wishes, reduce their stress levels, and boost confidence in the process. Your family doctor is the best person to connect you with a palliative care specialist or a palliative care facility with a skilled team. 

Assisted Living vs. Hospice Care

Hospice care is for loved ones with a life-shortening illness. For example, if your senior adult has only another six months to one year to live, you should consider hospice care for your loved one.

Hospice care mostly focuses on providing high-quality relief for pain, authoritative support for spiritual matters, and compassionate nurturing for emotional needs. In fact, hospice care will let your older adult end his or her with dignity and comfort.

This type of care can be provided in a person’s home or a long-term care facility like a specialized nursing home. There are even dedicated hospice centers out there for you to choose from.

RELATED: Ultimate Guide to Assisted Living

Tips For Discussing The Transition From Assisted Living To A Specialized Facility With Your Elderly Loved One 

  • Do your homework and choose the best facility for your loved one.
  • Recognize the challenges you may experience during the transition.
  • Don’t include your older adult in planning or packing for the move.
  • Align the moving time with your loved one’s best time of day.
  • Don’t pack too many items.
  • Ensure your loved one is placed in the appropriate setting.
  • Work with counselors or managers – if necessary – to ease the transition.

If your older adult has outgrown assisted living and needs specialized care, you have come to the right place. We hope that you now know what you should do when assisted living is not enough for your older adult.


  1. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2014/demo/p25-1140.html

Keep Reading About After Assisted Living

When To Move From Assisted Living To A Nursing Home
A Detailed Guide On When To Move From Assisted Living To A Nursing Home
Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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