Getting older comes with several aches and pains. There is a lot of stress and hard decisions to make.

Experts suggest that senior citizens and their children make a plan and make those stressful decisions in advance.

Executive Director Debbie Hudson Brookfield Assisted Living in Claremore spoke about why people should consider assisted living as an alternative to living at home or in a traditional nursing facility.

In particular, she looks at assisted living as an intermediary step between the two.

“Assisted living is that little bit of extra that you’re missing at home,” Hudson said.

Most assisted living facilities give you your own apartment, which you furnish with your own furniture and belongings from home. You have your own bathroom, your own kitchen, and nobody shares a room unless they are married.

Unlike home, difficult household tasks are done for you. Meals are prepared, laundry is done, the apartment is cleaned. Assistants remind residents of shows and activities they enjoy, help reach difficult places, organize and administer medication and are around to just sit and visit with you.

The common misconception is that assisted living is only a glorified nursing home.

“Everyone here has their own apartment with their own pictures and furniture,” Hudson said. “We’re the visitors here. This is their home.”

“Most people are surprised when they walk in and see the light and the windows,” she said. “They are surprised to see the people look just like mom and dad.”

Assisted living doesn’t just help senior citizens, but it helps their family too; particularly family caretakers.

“Family gets to go back to being family, because the elder doesn’t have to ask for help,” Hudson said. “There is somebody here 24/7 making sure the elder is having a good day and their needs are met.”

Some signs for senior citizens and their caretakers that it might be time to transition to assisted living include: a decline in mobility, a decline in personal hygiene, a decline in home cleanliness, small house fires or accidents in the kitchen, forgetfulness (especially regarding medication) or increasing bumps or scrapes on their car.

For families, other signs might include a general awareness that things just aren’t working well, like bills not getting paid on time.

Or it may be the realization that the child is picking up more and more of the pieces to make mom or dad’s life work.

Children who are considering moving a loved one to an assisted living home should feel encouraged, Hudson said.

They’ll have more peace of mind knowing their parent will have 24/7 care, they can visit any time and assistants communicate every fall and sore throat with each resident’s contact to ensure nothing goes uncared for or unnoticed.

“Most people do not make the decision to investigate the pros and cons of assisted living until there is a crisis,” Hudson said. People wait until they are at their peak stress levels and then hurry to make a decision within the moment and don’t seriously consider all their options.