Elder Care Los Angeles - Smoothing Transition to an elder care communityby Amy Shouse
Dealing with the difficult questions around a move to an elder care community
In the next four decades the U.S. population is expected to grow from 310 million to 490 million, with baby boomers accounting for accelerated growth in the senior population nationwide. Within the next 20 years, nearly 1 in 5 people will be 65 or older, creating a greater need for assisted living for the majority of these older individuals.
For families of elders, the decision to move an aging parent into an elder care living situation can be filled with confusing and sometimes heartbreaking questions; however, with planning, preparation and open dialogue, it is possible to create a smooth transition for everyone involved, especially the person most affected—the elderly loved one.
When Naomi, a married mother of two, noticed that her own 80-year-old mother, who lived above her family in an apartment, was bathing less and not eating as much as she used to, she broached the subject with her sister. Together they toured several buildings and realized that assisted living would be the best place for their mom to thrive.
“It became clear to me that my mother was very lonely,” Naomi says. “At first we tried finding volunteer opportunities but then I realized that what she really needed was a lot more structure than I could give her—having meals cooked and having someone do all her laundry. We realized she was at a point where elder care assisted living made sense.”
After presenting this option to their mother and taking her on a tour of the building they thought best suited to her needs, Naomi’s mom saw the upside of making the move. The idea that she would be able to live independently in a clean and friendly place appealed to Naomi’s mother, and she is now getting ready to make the transition.
According to transition counselor and realtor Dr. Ann Meyerson, Naomi and her sister followed the optimum path for a low-stress move. “The most important thing is to do your homework before you’re in a crisis situation where you have to move, because the transition goes much more smoothly—it’s not a forced decision,” says Meyerson.
Meyerson focuses on what she calls the AAA of Moving: anticipating the move, accepting the move and acting on the move. Naomi is a good example of doing all the right things in anticipating the move. She noticed changes in her mom, and Meyerson stresses the importance of this.
It’s vital, Meyerson advises, to be aware of what is going on with an elderly person. Can she still bathe herself and is she bathing regularly? What is the reality of her living situation? Can he cook for himself? What is his financial situation? These are all things to take into account when you’re assessing the life of an elderly person living independently.
Karen Wiley, an RN case manager and former director of an assisted living facility in Kansas City, Missouri, says she used her expertise to handle a worrisome situation with her great aunt, who was living alone in a senior apartment complex. She started to notice that her aunt was wearing the same clothes over and over again, and eating only one meal a day.
“I just sat her down and told her I had noticed several things that had me worried, and I went over each issue with her one by one, telling my aunt that I thought she would be safer if she weren’t living alone,” says Wiley. She presented the idea of assisted living and, after touring many of them herself, took her aunt to two or three in order to involve her in the decision-making process.
Which goes back to one of Meyerson’s As: acceptance. Many people are in denial about their need to make a move, so she recommends working with them emotionally, sitting down and having an open discussion about the possibilities and realities of making a move, as Wiley did. Once you can get the senior on board with understanding that the benefits outweigh their trepidations (which are usually deep fears about not wanting to lose control and independence), what could be a very stressful period can become less anxious for everyone involved.
“I urge people to consult with the professionals,” advises Meyerson. “There are elder care advisors, financial advisors, placement counselors and many different websites that offer a great deal of help and guidance.” She goes on to say that during the transition period it’s very important for the caretakers (most often the children) to take care of themselves so they can focus on offering emotional support to their elderly parent.
“It’s important to let the professionals do their job so you can do your job, which is to be the son or daughter.”
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