Helping Parents Make a Change

 In Community Living

Helping Parents Make a Change

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dult children may come to realize it is time to consider senior housing options for their parents. Perhaps they are noticing more and more how Mom struggles with simple tasks that used to be second nature to her such as sorting laundry, paying bills or taking her medications. Or perhaps the front yard used to be the envy of the neighborhood, but now Dad has to hire lawn service because pushing a mower across the front yard is too physically demanding. Maybe the once outgoing and active couple are becoming more reclusive and depressed, their social circle dwindling and the thought of making new friends feels both overwhelming and frightening. Whatever the individual situation, making the choice to move to a senior living community is an emotional process for both children and parents. As adult children and parents work through the process, here are a few things to consider.

Parents may feel that by moving into a senior community they are giving up their independence, so first and foremost, it is very important that they feel they are part of the decision making. Remember that deciding to leave a home they have built a life around can feel like a loss to parents. A good senior living community will encourage them to be as independent as possible while providing them with safe, comfortable surroundings, and also honor and respect them as adults, even if they have some cognitive or physical challenges. While the community should offer a variety of recreation and activities, ultimately the choice about whether to attend should remain in their hands. The point of moving them out of their house is to give them a more maintenance-free lifestyle, not to enroll them in a ‘program.’

While amenities are important, seldom will one community meet every need and desire of parents, so it is important to tour several places. Rather than focus on amenities, look for a residence where parents can enjoy previous interests, discover new ones and develop friendships. The environment should be one that fosters a sense of community because at the end of the day, there is a difference between finding a place they can stay, and finding a place they won’t want to leave.

While touring different places, the adult children may encourage their parents to imagine themselves living there. Talk about how they might arrange their furniture, or on what wall to hang their favorite painting. It is also important to watch how both the staff and residents interact with each other.

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Do they seem relaxed and at ease? Are people smiling and friendly? Home should never feel like a business or system, but rather a place where you feel valued and free to be yourself. It is a place you can make your own, so if there is any doubt about the culture of a community, it may be best to cross that one off the list of options.

It can be a frustrating and tedious process for the adult children who see the necessity of moving their parents to a senior facility. For the parents, they may know in their hearts that it is time to make the move, but negotiating the details seems overwhelming. Parents may express all kinds of doubts and objections, even nit-picking at the tiniest flaws they see at any given location. That is why it is important to remind them that they have already done the hardest part by making the decision to start the process. They’ve begun the investigation while they have time to consider their options rather than waiting until a move has to be made quickly. Offer them gentle encouragement and advice. By empowering them to make their own decision you are giving them reassurance that they are still in control. In most cases, though the process can be challenging, once the move is actually made, the result is a satisfied parent who is no longer burdened with the work and worries of maintaining a home and now has the chance to discover what it means to live life to the fullest.

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