Recently, I had a chance meeting with one of our families outside of the work environment and we got to talking about a variety of things. One of the points of conversation that was most interesting is the process that families go through when looking for a senior living community for their parent(s). More times than people realize, decisions to make a move in to an assisted living community are based out of necessity. We all talk a lot about services and amentities or features of our properties that seperate us from everyone else, but that isn’t what’s really important, and something they probably won’t remember when they get home to make their decision.
As providers, we have to remember that when someone reaches out to our communities, that we take in to consideration all of the emotions that this family member is going through. Many times, as family members, we go out to visit our parents over the weekend and realize that something isn’t quite right and begin our search/fact finding mission. This is very difficult time for families. Imagine for a moment that you are out for a normal visit to your parents and realize that my parents are getting older. Sometimes it can feel as though it happened overnight. In those instances, families that are coming to visit us are in an emotional state. It’s incredibly important to realize the stress they are going through. They have called your community, or walked in the door to have us help them solutions and answers.
Most of the time, our parents are never going to let on how they are feeling….really feeling. So many people I talked to had their parents tell them things were going great at home and it wasn’t until they visited that they realized something was wrong. The Mayo Clinic posted about the 5 warning signs of health problems for aging parents.
- Have your parents been losing weight? As we age, we begin losing our tastebuds and with that our desire to eat. Eyesight begins to deteriorate and we have trouble seeing whether or not food has expired or it becomes difficult to cook our own food.
- Are your aging parents taking care of themselves? Pay attention to your parents appearance. Combing hair, how they dress, do they appear disheveled? Also pay attention to the way their house and yards look. Are things becoming overwhelming with the amount of tasks that need to be done?
- Are your aging parents safe in their homes? Before one of my relatives made the move, we visited and saw hand prints on the walls where he had held himself up as he rounded the corner in to the living room. We also saw how difficult it was to get up and down the steps of their older home. It would have been too easy with the narrow steps and steep grade in to the basement to trip and fall.
- Are your parents in good spirits? The loss of friends or neighbors can be very deperessing for our aging parents. Sometimes they no longer get around as much as they used to and stay home more – especially in the winter time. With that comes the loss of socialization. Just being around other people with things to do can be a great uplifting feeling. When that is no longer possible when in the home environment, our spirits can be dampened.
- Are your parents having difficulty getting around? As we age, driving becomes more and more difficult. I’ve heard of really great drivers at 90 years old and I’ve heard of just ok drivers at 90 years old. To continue driving is a very personal decision to our aging parents. All the mobility you’ve had in life; to get groceries, go out to see a movie, get your hair cut, visit friends; all of those are very important to us as well. Also think about how they are getting around the house and out in the yard. As I mentioned in above, physical wear and tear on the house in key places sometimes show us how difficult a time they are having at getting around.
For the complete Mayo Clinic article, click here.
If you’ve made the decision to start looking at your options and don’t know how to start the conversation with your parents, I have a great book suggestion. A good friend of our’s, Dick Edwards, a retired Mayo Clinic Edlercare Specialist, has written a book called “Mom, Dad…Can We Talk? – Insight and perspectives to help us do what’s best for our aging parent“. It’s a fantastic read and one that we have available in all of our communities to loan out to families who are beginning the process.
Getting back to my original conversation with the family member. Their suggestion was to start your “looking around” process early. The worst time to make a decision for an aging parent is when there is an emergency. Visit with providers, talk to them about what benefits their community can bring to your parent and to you. While each assisted living community can provide care to your parent, making the decision of which one will care for your parent is something that should be done when you have the time to really look and ask great questions.