Taking Action: When an Older Person Needs Help

This is the third installment in a three part series on the three “A’s” of helping an aging loved one. The three “A’s” are Awareness, Acceptance, and Action.

When my mother was in her late 70’s she was living independently. Over the course of a year, we began to have some concerns. Mom had a few “fender benders”, some issues with medication mismanagement, and a couple of health problems. My (seven!) siblings and I had disagreements about what was happening and what should be done. Some of us thought she should stop driving altogether, others wanted to wait and see – fearing the very real consequences of mom being grounded.

Then Mom fractured her hip-requiring surgery – and had a difficult recovery. At that point it became clear that Mom’s current living arrangement was not going to work. This led to a crisis and the need to make decisions about the future. Fortunately, however rocky our early conversations had been, they led us to do some homework so we felt somewhat prepared. We had talked about various options.

Here are some of the things we took into consideration including pros and cons of each:

  • Live in her own home with help: We discussed different “models” to make this work-from kids taking turns checking in and driving Mom where she needed/wanted to go – to hiring in home help.
    • Pro: Remaining at home in familiar surroundings, which was Mom’s preference.
    • Cons: Complicated- with juggling schedules of busy adult children, some living out of town; expensive to hire help-especially when coupled with existing home owner costs, Mom’s needs were often unscheduled so hard to know when she would need help; risk of isolation without the ability to drive.
  • Live with one of the children: This option was discussed and dropped pretty quickly. While any of us who were able would have welcomed her, Mom did not want to burden her children and no one had the right set up to accommodate her needs.
  • Move to senior living: Mom had visited a couple of communities prior to the need arising and had a somewhat typical reaction – the residents seemed old to her (they looked pretty much like her – but she did not see herself that way), and she was reluctant to leave the comfort of her home.
    • Pros: Help readily available for unscheduled needs, more cost effective when all expenses taken into account, peace of mind for the family, social connections and stimulation, help with medication, on site health care such as therapy.
    • Cons: Not Mom’s first choice, required a disruptive move, everyone had to give up Mom’s home as a place to enjoy family gatherings.

As a family we discussed variations on all of these options over the course of a few months. In the end we chose an independent living community with some supportive services. Mom was a part of the discussions, though in hindsight probably not as early and often as she should have been. We planned her move quickly and expedited the packing with not enough input from her. I believe this hindered her adjustment, as she often repeated the phrase, “you kids moved me in here so quickly…” That is a lesson learned and one that I pass along to you.

After making the adjustment, Mom lived comfortably at her senior living community for 7 years before she passed away. She enjoyed the staff who loved and cared for her, the daily meals, the many opportunities for engagement, and the companionship of other residents.

Whatever your situation with an aging loved one, the lessons here are clear – prepare now for the eventuality of change. Recall that 68% of all older adults will need help at some point – and involve the older person all along the way so when the time for action comes everyone is prepared.

For more information about options for an aging loved one visit Brookdale’s Senior Living Solutions page or call one of our National Senior Living Advisors at 855-444-7658.

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