Helping a parent make the move into a seniors’ residence can be a difficult, emotionally-laden process. This will be especially so if the decision has been prompted by the death of one of our parents, or because we’re noticing declining health and memory issues that make caring for themselves or the family home difficult.
Having patience with the process is paramount. You will want to acknowledge it can be an extremely sensitive issue that can cause rifts between family members, resistance from the parent and feelings of guilt in us. In the short-term, it may seem easier to put off the decision knowing the physical move and downsizing could take a monumental amount of work, energy and emotional strength.
Deborah Harsant, Business Development and Sales Support Manager for PARC Retirement Living in Vancouver, reminds us that sometimes it’s not the parent who is against the move. “Sometimes, adult children don’t see their parents as having grown old, or they have misconceptions about retirement communities and think these residences are places where ‘old folks’ sit around in geri-chairs.”
To initiate discussion, Harsant advises that you would never want to spring on your parent that you are going to see a retirement residence, and you don’t want to “tell” them it is time to move or that they are too old to live on their own. Rather, it is best to open the conversation with some questions like: How are you managing the house, Mom? Do you wish you had more people around during the day to socialize with? Are you comfortable moving around the house on your own? “It’s all about asking questions about how they feel about their life and living conditions at the moment, and if they would like something to be different,” says Harsant.
She emphasizes this is a major lifestyle change for most seniors, and probing into how they feel about their life is critical because, otherwise, it is more likely the parent will shut down emotionally and refuse to discuss the idea if they feel pressured. Harsant also clarifies it can be helpful if the family is fully engaged with the parent's decision. In the end, the final decision should be left to the parent.
When the decision has been made to move, do your research and make a shortlist of available residences. The good news is there are far more options today than there were even 10 years ago (thank goodness with all of us baby boomers hurdling towards our senior years), ranging from independent living to fully assisted residences.
Together with your parent, make an appointment with the residence’s retirement living consultant, go for a meal, talk to their health support services, and get copies of their brochures, which share valuable information.
“We also encourage people to attend special in-house events with our residents, because our residents are gregarious ambassadors always eager to share their homes and lifestyle with those who are in the decision process,” says Harsant. “They have been through it, too!”
During the process, families will also want to stay positive and focus on what will be gained by the move, rather than what’s lost. According to Dave Sinclair, builder and board member for Legion Manor Victoria, these tips can help everybody with the move: remember, the new home is essentially like a condo with the exception that if they need that extra bit of help, it is right there for them; have all family members do a tour of the new residence to put their mind at ease; move in familiar pieces of furniture and pictures from home; and have the family visit as frequently as possible, so they can also become more at ease with the new home.
Obvious benefits to making the move include less housework and yardwork, and medical staff to help your parent with medication questions or health monitoring, which will put the family’s minds at ease.
Gordon Johnson is the Vice President of Operations in Western Canada for Revera, a company that owns various independent and assisted living residences across Canada. Johnson says, “it is important to remember that while moving into a retirement residence is a big change for both seniors and their families, it also represents a new beginning, and an opportunity for seniors to pursue their interests in a dynamic, welcoming community. A benefit of living in a retirement community that seniors and their families may not be aware of is the feeling of revitalization that comes from meeting like-minded individuals and participating in a wide variety of recreation programs in the community.”
PARC Retirement Living’s Deborah Harsant says these are questions a retirement living consultant will ask:
* Does the older parent live alone?
* Has the family noticed the parent is not preparing nutritious meals, eating more pre-packaged foods, or falling into the “tea and toast” syndrome as a meal substitute?
* Is the parent getting “out and about” or are they starting to isolate themselves?
* How physically active are they?
* How is the parent feeling about everyday life; are they lonely, and is there any discussion about moving?
* What is it that makes the family think a senior residence would be a good place to live for their parent?
* Does the parent know the family is making inquiries about senior residences?
* Can the parent still manage independently or will the parent require nursing services as in assisted living or dementia care?
For more information, visit:
Legion Manor Victoria: www.legionmanorvictoria.ca
PARC Retirement Living: www.parcliving.ca
Revera Retirement Living: www.reveraliving.com
FEBRUARY 2016 INSPIRED SENIOR LIVING
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