Like me, many of my friends and neighbors have elderly parents or grandparents. As such, the topic of when is the right time for someone to make the transition from their long-time home to some level of senior community often comes up for discussion. There are many considerations and obstacles that arise and, of course, many unknowns.
When I think of some of the difficult changes that I have made in my life, I can only imagine that facing this one would be one of the hardest. After all, sometimes tackling even small changes can prove challenging as most of us are creatures of habit and procrastination can feel like the comfortably greener side of the fence. I have also spoken with elderly friends regarding this issue from their perspective and experience. Throughout all of these conversations with varied individuals, there have been some common themes.
Though the need to make a move can seem obvious to others, it is often not so for the individual concerned. Some come to the realization easily and even quickly on their own, while others can find even the mere thought of it daunting. Beyond the basic facts of the situation, emotions and attachments can have far more bearing on the timing of taking those first steps. One lady said she wrote down the positives and negatives side by side and that helped her to look at it rationally and hence solidify her need to move forward with gathering information and creating a plan.
Loss of spouse
One of the primary reasons that cause one to assess their living situation is the loss of their loved one. Whether sudden or not, it is a life-changing occurrence like no other and is often a catalyst for expediting the decision-making process. Grieving can further complicate this as it only exacerbates what is, under the best of circumstances, a significant decision.
Another major variable is emerging, long-term or unexpected health issues. From arthritis or heart disease, to cancer and dementia, many conditions can hinder or inevitably prevent one from living in their current home.
Level of self-sufficiency
Even if one does not have severe health concerns, the ability to meet the many demands of ongoing, pesky home maintenance can be diminished as one gets older. One friend shuttered at the thought of her father teetering on a ladder cleaning out the gutters or trimming tree branches. Personal mobility can be restricted as well, which impairs the quality of life while trying to stay in one’s home.
Location of family members
Being able to stay located close to immediate family, or move close if currently far away, was a very important consideration. The closer to family the easier it is to maintain bonds and interaction.
Weighing the costs
Hiring necessary services to facilitate staying put can add up very quickly. Some things to consider:
- Routine yard work such as mowing, trimming, weed control, fertilizer, fall cleanup, snow removal, flower bed planting, mulching and pest control.
- Routine external maintenance such as staining, painting, retaining wall repair, driveway repair, window cleaning, screen replacement, gutter cleaning and chimney sweeping.
- Household help such as weekly house cleaning, seasonal cleaning, laundry and cooking.
- Medical assistance can range from a part-time aid a to a full-time nurse, or even memory care.
- Transportation in and around current area if one can no longer drive.
- Transportation costs to visit immediate family if one is currently not living close to them (moving close to family eliminates long treks alone on the road).
Sense of community
There is a very big difference between being in a senior living community and being alone in one’s home or an ordinary apartment building. Some of the benefits:
- Partaking in onsite group activities or outings keeps one engaged and active.
- Building new friendships with others within a stable community environment.
- Residents tend to be very invested in looking out for each other and helping out.
Whether you or a love one is on the front end of services needs or the back end, waiting lists are a reality. My own experience with elderly parents and discussions with many others has led me to the conclusion that the sooner the process begins the better. Trying to frantically research, assess and make decisions in the midst of a medical emergency or the death of a loved one only adds stress on top of trauma.
Bringing up difficult subjects can be hard, but at the end of the day, having a sincere discussion is often the best medicine. Whether it is the elderly person themselves, or a concerned relative, gently broaching the subject early on can help make it less frantic down the road. Focusing on all the aspects of comfort, care, budget and quality of life is preeminent.
So, stay calm, always respectful and take it one step at time. With a little forethought, some planning and a lot of love, the best possible solution for any and all senior community living needs can be found.