Moving to senior living is not an easy over -dinner decision that is an easy choice to make. This decision is difficult and scary for seniors as well as for their family members. The fear of the unknown is a lot of the struggle between making a move or deciding to stay in their home longer and just waiting for an emergency to happen to think about doing something.
Passive: Families who have acknowledged there may be an issue in mom and dads home but are not ready to have a conversation with mom and dad.
Active: Families who have had the difficult conversation and have everyone on the same page that something needs to happen. This does not mean everyone is going to be on the same page with what decision needs to happen just that a decision that this same path cannot continue.Usually this happens after proof or an emergency has happened with mom and dad and all children have been faced with the cold hard facts usually from a professional that this cannot continue.
Or the other stage- Choosing to Not make a decision, there are too many moving parts and don’t want to think about it. Knowing there may be a problem but choosing to wait until there is an emergency situation or multiple emergency situations before being forced to make a decision.
Every family is different, each person is unique. The difficulties of aging creep up on everyone and often there is a negative stereotype associated with senior living. Children say “I promised never to stick mom and dad in one of Those facilities” or the parents often refer to “I will never be one of Those old people in a home”. Of course the goal often in families is to stay at home the longest possible and wait until an emergency happens. The key to being successful and facing aging is to look at all possibilities before an emergency forces you to make a quick decision with scrambling around, stress and depression for all involved with having to make a life altering decision based on stress. Often thoughts begin forming that are overwhelming, we must sell the house first, senior living will cost too much, I have to downsize, what about all of this, etc. There is help I promise!
My advice is this- seniors have gone through constant change in their lives, the fear of the unknown is the scariest. The fear of losing what they do have left. So to help relieve some of that fear is to become open to possibilities. What happens when the other spouse is gone? What happens if mom and dad start to exhibit signs of depression. Depression is one of the largest factors in making a move into senior living, depression often causes isolation separation, personality changes, mood changes, often happens with loneliness even couples living in the same house day in and day out without having daily stimulation that the TV cannot provide, often will fall into depression. Often unhealthy diets, eating a lot of microwave dinners, meals no longer being a social aspect of their lives i.e. joining friends out or having people over any longer. As seniors age, the message they get even from their own doctors is stay home as long as possible. The disservice of this message often reaffirms a lot of peoples negative thoughts related to senior living. I worked in senior living for years, and heard this daily, “I wish I had moved in sooner”. Or from the children’s side ” I wish I had moved mom and dad in sooner, their lives would’ve been much happier and healthier if I had done this sooner”.
Research has shown seniors who move into a community, often find a sense of purpose again, they are often less stressed, they have lower levels of depression, often due to making friends, talking to people daily again, having someone take care of their daily needs so they don;t have to worry about what meal to make, care and upkeep of a home, the fear of not having someone around in case of an emergency etc. Often seniors thrive in a healthy environment where they feel cared for and acknowledged as individuals.
My challenge to families, begin having the difficult conversations, start out small, tour 1-2 communities after children have done a pre-tour before bringing parents, if you as a child does not like it, neither will your parent. Look for friendly, home feeling, can you see mom and dad enjoying it here or making friends here? Talk to other residents, do you like it here? Do you like the food here?
For a lot of seniors being out from under the stress of owning their home and having to maintain a home is a huge stress relief. For most seniors they have gone through the depression era and seeing their home needing some repair and they are unable to do it themselves is a difficult daily stressor for a lot of seniors. Seniors take pride in the look and care of their home and if they can no longer do as much as they used too, it may be the time to begin making a plan as a family everyone can be on board with.