Being prepared for the future is one of the most important reasons to begin discussions with aging parents long before their health declines. If Dad is adamant about living in a nursing home or an assisted living facility with “a bunch of strangers,” and Mom wants to age in place forever, their children – with their own careers and families – must huddle up and band together to create a plan that ensures the right course of action is taken when parental care is necessary.
Home + Community = Identity
By what means will children provide the best level of comfort and care, knowing one or both parents are determined to stay where they are until they cannot, and, most likely, when Mom becomes the surviving spouse? A geriatric care manager (GCM) could be the real all-star addition to the caregiving team. Their expertise in senior care can provide much-needed solutions that the children might not have known about.
The children must seek answers to “Can Mom continue to live at home without Dad? Is she safe?” Similarly, if Dad is the surviving spouse, “Can Dad take care of himself without Mom? Is he safe?” After all, the keys to the family car may have already been taken away from Mom or Dad due to diminishing cognitive abilities, which is a loss of independence and control. No one wants to leave his or her home and their familiar surroundings, so it is more about the degree of independence and control that becomes the focus.
After their husbands die, wives become part of the nearly 700,000+ women widowed annually who, at some point, might need supervised care. Moving her out of her home and out of her community, where she feels safe and protected even when deemed medically necessary, is challenging but necessary.
Create a Safe Zone for All to Speak Freely
In many families, the alpha child initiates the action. Sadly, unintentionally, confrontational approaches are off-putting to Mom, often shifting her defense mechanisms into overdrive to prevent her from shutting down. It is at that point when emotion has replaced reason.
So here are some general suggestions to help you through the issues that neither you, nor your parents want to talk about, at all:
- Start your discussions early
- Empathize with his or her feelings
- Practice good communication skills
- Allow your parent be part of the decision-making process
- Include other family members if you can
- Agree to disagree
- Strive to honor and respect your parent(s). Always.
Perhaps you can sit and talk about the situation over a cup of tea or coffee. Be calm and be honest about the possibilities and the pros and cons of what living at home versus what assisted living offers. You often hear about aging in place because it is an important first step in the conversation. When you move a parent, it not only changes his or her life and routine; it deconstructs his or her life and routine. And change is disruptive.
Parents want control of their lives, freedom, and to be part of the decision-making process. Experts say this might be the best advice ever: Never argue and correct a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia at any stage. They are neither right nor wrong.
Listening to parents’ feelings and fears is the logical and respectful way to plan for their future. Resistance comes from the unknown, and new surroundings can be difficult to maneuver as one ages. Reputable assisted living facilities know this. They offer residents a new quality of life, safety and peace of mind, exercise, cleanliness, enjoyable activities and more – including medical help nearby. Amenities go a long way to helping seniors feel comfortable, secure, and thinking positive about their lives.
How to Convince Ever So Gently
Aging in place at home has been a positive experience for many people, but not for all. Unfortunately, some people are prone to loneliness, isolation and memory loss – often called unhealthy isolated living conditions – and while some people may start out at home, and some might have an in-home caregiver, they eventually must move to a care facility.
“Isolation can take a toll on seniors living alone at home,” says Chris Harper, for The Arbor Company. “Loneliness can lead seniors to be more depressed and can even speed up the progression of dementia. In fact, perceived loneliness has been linked to cognitive decline.”
Fortunately, a senior living community is never lonely. With friendly faces and neighbors just down the hall, residents can actively build a support system of peers. The challenge, however, is getting a parent to actually get involved with others. Their kids should monitor their parent’s social skills at making friends and their progress in becoming a joiner.
Normal Aging is Subtle and Gradual
“Try to understand a person’s fear about getting old,” says Donna Cohen, Ph.D., clinical psychologist. “In general, seniors don’t understand how and why they are suffering from certain bodily malfunctions, such as cognitive impairment. Cohen says parents believe their loved ones, even their children, are incapable of understanding their troubles emotionally and physically.
However, their children must drive the process by consulting with their parents’ Hefren-Tillotson financial advisor and elder care attorney. Children and parent(s) should know where the financial documents are, how they are titled, and what steps will protect their parent(s) regarding finances, investments, debts, burial and legacy wishes.
Remember, it doesn’t start or stop with your parents. If you haven’t planned for your senior years, now is the time to get started. We would be happy to help. Contact us today for more information.