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Conventional wisdom says that we all want to stay in our own homes for as long as we can. That is likely how most of our elders feel, but it’s not always in their best interest to do so. How do we talk with them about the realities and dangers of staying at home once their health and/or functional abilities decline? How do we convince them that a move to assisted living could benefit their mental and physical health?
Aging In Place vs. Assisted Living
Professional in-home care and a medical alert system are sufficient for some seniors to remain at home safely for a time. But if they live alone or their spouse is frail, then there’s no one to help them if they experience a medical emergency and can’t push their wearable call button. The familiarity and comforts of home are undeniable, but there are some concerns and drawbacks associated with aging in place.
For instance, as leaving the house becomes more of a hassle and friends develop their own mobility issues, there are fewer opportunities for elders to socialize. Household tasks like cooking, cleaning and laundry grow increasingly challenging, so some seniors may stop eating, completing chores or changing into clean clothes. Older adults experiencing cognitive decline are especially vulnerable and can fall victim to scams, forget to turn off kitchen appliances, and even lapse into self-neglect.
Aging in place is an option for seniors who make proper home modifications, have a robust support system, and are realistic about their health and functional abilities. However, many older adults put themselves at risk by failing to plan for and acknowledge their growing needs. Even those who have done their best to prepare for their golden years may find that their forever home is no longer safe or suitable. What’s more, their family caregivers are often run ragged trying to ensure their safety and well-being while juggling their own lives.
Part of the problem with convincing elders—and sometimes other family members for that matter—to give senior living a chance is that most have never been inside a modern assisted living facility (ALF). They still envision the “old folks’ rest homes” from decades ago, and the move from a family home is considered one more step away from independence and closer to death. This image and mindset are widespread but misleading and detrimental to seniors in need of support.
Contrast this life with living in a well-vetted ALF, whether it’s a stand-alone facility, part of a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), or a private board and care home where only a few seniors live. In any of these situations, seniors can thrive. They don’t have the responsibility of maintaining a home, so they are relieved of the pressure to hire help, tackle household projects themselves or let the house deteriorate. Assisted living is just that--assisted. Seniors maintain more than a modicum of their independence in ALFs, thanks to the added benefit of 24/7 access to trained staff in case they need medical help or other assistance. Nutritious meals and snacks are available in both community dining settings and in residents’ rooms. Perhaps most importantly, seniors have the opportunity to make friends with their new neighbors and an abundance of engaging activities at their fingertips.
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For many caregivers, the benefits of assisted living are clear and all signs point to the fact that Mom and/or Dad need this move. After all, your current caregiving duties are only going to ramp up as they get older. But how do you go about convincing them that it’s time think about moving to assisted living? Use the following tips to help a loved one recognize that the supportive services and amenities available in assisted living communities may be exactly what they need to stay safe, healthy and happy.
10 Tips for Getting a Parent to Move to Assisted Living
Moving Elderly Parents to Assisted Living
This entire process can be very difficult for some older adults. Leaving a home full of memories is an emotional decision—even for seniors who are looking forward to assisted living—and downsizing when you have accumulated a lifetime of possessions is a lot to ask of someone. Be kind, be sensitive and try to make it be about your parent(s) and not about you. It will take some time for Mom and/or Dad to settle in to their new home, but they will probably enjoy the change once this transition period has passed.
EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Minding Our Elders
About Carol Bradley Bursack
Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.