Planning for senior living involves all kinds of rational decision making. It also involves a lot of emotional letting go. No two people face their own aging in quite the same way. Plus, some people age faster than others, or in different ways. And no two families are the same, either. Economics, belief systems and living situations vary greatly. What works for one family is impossible for the next.It is also good to realize that your family is not alone. In the United States, over 12 million Americans are making senior living decisions right now. That number increases every year. In fact, by 2030, over 65 million Americans will be facing retirement and senior living decisions. So consider yourself on the leading edge of a new trend. And give yourself a break: there is no such thing as the "typical situation." Everyone, every family has a unique set of circumstances that must be weighed. The worst thing to do is to compare and judge your family's decisions based on what other people think.
THE RIGHT TIME FOR CARE
When is the right time to consider a senior living arrangement? Again, it all depends. Knowing how to recognize the right time comes down to the kind of living arrangement that is needed. Some seniors choose to stay at home. Others require some kind of specific care. While others consider senior living solely on their changing lifestyle, such as escaping the upkeep of a house, or being with others who have similar interests. Once you recognize your circumstance, it is easier to assess the options.
COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY
"They'll never get me into a home."
"Who is going to take care of me when I grow old?
All too many families know the fear and drama behind conversations like these. That's because making senior living decisions is hard. It represents an enormous change for everyone involved. How do you face leaving your family home? How do you suggest to a parent or loved one they may be better off "somewhere else?" How do you balance love and necessity?The only way to work through feelings of fear, uncertainty and guilt is to talk about it. This can also be hard, but it is far better than to avoid the conversation. Once it's clear you are acting out of love and consideration— out of what's best for everyone— the dialogue may start to get easier.
SENIORS & FAMILIES: PARTNERS IN THE PROCESS
Any decision about senior living, whether it's a senior thinking about moving, or an adult child considering help for a parent, should include the entire family. These conversations require a leader or organizer (the one who starts the dialogue); and usually the person who most favors the change should be appointed. It's best when everything is "put on the table:" support, finances, timing, choices.
START WITH THE BASICS
Once you decide to explore senior living alternatives, the first consideration is geographic. Exactly where is the right place to live? This could vary based on weather, a dream location, or closeness to special relative. But once you decide this, everything else starts to come into focus. The next issue is all about services and care needs. Do you need someone to cook meals? Administer medication? Help with dressing and bathing? Or just a more social lifestyle?The third consideration is financial. What can you afford? This can be a huge question, as you have to consider things like retirement savings, your estate, outside assistance and other family financial needs.Finally, there's comfort. Just what feels like home? Within the spectrum of senior living, there is a lifestyle for every taste. At the end of the day, home is what we make it.On this web site, we provide profiles, checklists and other thought-starters to help you identify the right next step.
You're not alone
How senior care is taking its toll on American heads of family:
Source: Family Circle and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- 37% are worried about juggling care giving with other responsibilities.
- 25% about are worried about having enough time for nuclear family.
- 38% are worried about maintaining their own health.
- 34% of workingwomen miss work due to caring for an aging parent.
- 24% of workingmen have missed work as a result of elder care.
Many of my elderly clients who were trying so hard to maintain their independence by living alone at home actually maintained nothing more than an isolated existence punctuated by the occasionally call or visit from friends and family. This type of isolation was also coupled with medication errors or abuse, self-neglect and unsanitary housekeeping.
A person living in this situation will often “bloom like a flower” in the right retirement facility environment. It is amazing what three hot meals a day, social interaction, clean sheets and regular administration of medications can do for a person’s mind, body, and spirit.
A person who lives alone is more likely to fall and lay alone on the floor for days without being found. A person who lives alone may make poor choices such as keeping (or worse, eating) spoiled food in the refrigerator. If a person lives alone, there are many signs of illness that no one will notice during sporadic short visits. Medical appointments may be missed and prescriptions left unfilled.
Many people feel that they are honoring their aging loved one by letting them live alone, even though all the tell tale signs of self neglect are apparent. There is no honor or dignity in being found on the floor after one has lain in his or her own excrement for three days. Unfortunately, many families will wait for this type of incident before insisting on either home health care or facility placement.
If an elder is physically or verbally abusive to family and caregivers, they are much more likely to be left alone to make their own decisions, regardless of how dysfunctional their situation may be. Elders with difficult personalities are many times more likely to be abused by caregivers living in there own home. They need more supervision, not less.