As parents and loved ones age, the inevitable conversation about living arrangements arises. Finding a residence that is safe and healthy without infringing on a loved one’s independence and dignity is a delicate balance.
So, how do you know when it is time to begin the conversation, and where do you look for resources to start planning a smooth transition that makes everyone happy?
Evaluate the situation
It may be difficult to differentiate normal aging from signs that something may be wrong and require intervention. This is especially true for adult children who live far away or do not see their parent regularly. There are several indicators, however, that more immediate intervention is needed. A few telltale signs include:
- Mail and bills pile up, and the simple act of opening and filing mail or managing a checking account becomes overwhelming.
- The house is cluttered or unkempt. Cleaning becomes too strenuous and tiring.
- Food in the refrigerator is uneaten or spoiled. Shopping and cooking are too much. A parent may eat enough just to get by, but suffer nutritionally.
- A parent wears the same clothes over and over or starts to develop other personal hygiene concerns. This could be because doing laundry has become physically challenging or they may fear falling in the tub or shower.
- Repeated phone calls at odd hours to family and friends may be a sign of memory loss or a cry for help—a sign of depression or isolation.
Open the conversation
Ideally, it is more comfortable for all involved to start a conversation with your aging parent or loved one before any critical issues arise. Communication is key to ensuring your loved one can talk openly about their feelings, needs and desires. Listen to their wishes and gather information about resources so you can work together to create a realistic plan of action.
The Caregiver Resource Center, an online clearinghouse of information and resources for caregivers of seniors, states that while it’s natural to become scared or concerned about an elder and jump in to “fix” a problem, this can actually make the situation worse. Unless faced with an emergency that threatens the senior’s safety and well-being, it is best to take time to gather information and properly assess the situation.
When considering where to live, seniors have many options nowadays. More active and self-sufficient seniors may choose an independent living environment such as a condominium or apartment where they have the freedom to live on their own, along with a community of activities and social gatherings, but where there is less home maintenance than living in a house.
Those on the older end of the aging scale who require—or may soon require— some assistance with daily or weekly tasks such as bathing, cooking, cleaning, and medication reminders may want to consider assisted living.
Memory, specialty care or skilled nursing communities are wonderful places for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s or who have specific cognitive needs from a long-term illness or stroke. Qualified staff are on hand around-the-clock to care for your loved one, giving them—and you—peace-of-mind.
Life Plan Communities (also known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities, or CCRCs) offer an aging-in-place option that may encompass these types of living environments. By setting up a plan to age in place at a Life Plan Community, your loved one is assured continued care from independent living through specialized care.
Resources to get you started
In this digital age, there are a plethora of online aging resources at your fingertips. Some places to start, include:
- Senior Citizen’s Guide is designed to help older adults and those with aging parents or spouses find health resources; local housing information; services such as financial advisors, internet service, transportation and employment; and senior-specific activities such as cultural arts and attractions, libraries, senior centers and volunteer opportunities. Information is organized by city and categories.
- Caregiver Resource Center touts itself as the “concierge of case management and advocacy” for the elder population. This site offers a plethora of resources and helpful information for the caregiver. Topics range from when to offer help, the cost and stages of caregiving, eldercare planning, all the way to helping personally with professional referrals and developing an individual care plan.
- aarp.org – This comprehensive site is one most people know. It is chock full of articles, videos, senior activities, games, caregiver resources…you name it, it is probably there.
- The Administration on Aging provides services and programs designed to help aging adults live independently in their homes and communities. Their website includes information on supportive and caregiver services, nutrition and health programs, elder justice, adult protective services, long-term care and more.
- The Life Care Services Blog is a searchable blog written by Life Care Services (LCS), a company that manages and supports many senior living communities nationwide, ranging from Life Plan Communities (also known as continuing care retirement communities) to rental communities. LCS serves more than 33,000 older adults who live in communities that they manage. They draw on a variety of internal and external sources to create relevant content to keep seniors and their loved ones up-to-date concerning senior living trends, changes, societal events that impact senior living and even tools that will help them make a more confident decision.
- Where You Live Matters (WYLM) is another wonderful resource for information that will help you or your loved one make an informed decision concerning senior living care. Where You Live Matters is endorsed by the American Seniors Housing Association, a group comprised of more than 400 organizations that contribute to WYLM’s helpful collection of resources. The WYLM multimedia library allows users to explore information in a variety of formats, and the user-friendly website allows viewers to compare senior living options to contribute to an informed decision.
The golden years are a wonderful season of life, with so many new adventures and time for seniors to focus on themselves. Planning for future care and living arrangements just means your loved one—and you—will have much more time to enjoy those precious moments instead of worrying about what’s next.
Whether the transition to a retirement community begins with a planned move to independent living, or the need for assistance is sudden or specific, we are here to help. Check out our community, where seniors can age in place with caring, professional staff, numerous amenities and activities, and assistance every step of the way.