While many of us are coming in to the New Year vowing to get healthier or improve our finances, others are facing major life changes. For some those changes come in the form of caring for an aging parent. If your family is in that season of life, you are not alone.
At Brookdale and in senior living as a whole, January typically brings an increase in inquiries from older adults and their family members looking for a solution to an aging concern. After spending time together over the holidays, family members have become more acutely aware of changes in an aging loved one, and had time together to discuss these concerns.
My family faced this with our mother a few years ago. There are a few things that I have learned both from that experience and my work in senior living that I would like to share with you… things I wish I had known when we faced some decisions for my mom.
If you are considering senior living for a parent, have them live as close to you as possible. When we were looking for a place for our mom there was one that we thought was great, but it was 30 minutes away from any of her children. In the end we chose one that was a 5-10 minute drive for us. Mom lived there for 4 years and having her that close meant that we could “stop by” or be there in a hurry. That became very important especially as her condition changed in the last months of her life.
If you have a parent who lives many miles away, consider having them move close to you. I recently spoke to several Brookdale residents and each of them said they had moved from another state to be close to their children-in each case at the urging of the child. Without exception, the older person seemed to perceive these requests as loving gestures on the part of the kids.
The need to remain as independent as possible is inherent in all human beings. Keep that in mind as you consider solutions for your loved one. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that living alone constitutes maximum independence. In fact, if the older person is struggling to live alone, their independence is in jeopardy. There is a paradox in that when we have the right amount of dependence it actually makes us freer. Consider the modern day dependence on electricity which allows us many freedoms. You get the point. Help the older person to understand this. And, have them as involved in the process as possible.
My recent discussions with residents made clear that the hardest loss of independence comes with giving up driving. While this may be necessary for safety reasons, be very aware of the need to help an older person with this transition. When I asked one lady how she dealt with it she said, “I read more.” I took that to mean that she found a way to be fulfilled within the confines of her new normal. Help your loved one do the same.
Find the right person to help you through this time. Start by getting in touch with local community resources such as senior centers, Area Agency on Aging, and health departments-some of which have visiting nurses and social workers. Also a geriatric care manager will help you look at all options. You can find one at Aging Life Care, the national organization for geriatric care managers.
If you are considering senior living, or just want to ask some questions about what to do next, you can call and talk to one of our senior living advisors at Brookdale at 855-350-3800. We are here to help as a solutions provider. And remember-you are not alone!!!!
Be Well on Purpose!