and why, to find the right senior living place
for Mom and/or Dad before there is a crisis
David A. Slomovic, Sunnycrest
adult "children" of elderly parents struggle
with the challenge of how to deal with a senior
parent, or with parents, that should no longer
live alone. It is a complex issue that touches
on the very nature of the role reversal that
occurs as parents age and once "routine" matters
become difficult, and sometimes even dangerous.
Usually the adult children avoid the issue like
the plague and wait until there is a fall or
some kind of crisis. This is because moving
a parent is both an uncomfortable topic and
one that requires time for education and research
when there is little time or appetite for either.
people think that their parent is going to be
happier staying put right where they are, living
in a large home they have occupied for 30 years.
So here is the shocker. Most people actually
live much better lives in senior living than
they do staying in the old home. The reasons
are care and socialization. All too often the
senior living "at home" is living alone with
the phone and TV as their main connections to
the world. They wake up alone, eat alone, sit
alone, watch TV, and wait for you to call or
come visit. Days are long and lack stimulation.
It is neither fulfilling nor healthy.
If that seems depressing, consider it from their
perspective. Their whole life they were working
and active and nurturing others. Now they are
not working, inactive, and often alone. They
often have become isolated, dealing with declining
health, and dealing with daily medications that
are confusing. Friends and family may be ill
or have passed, and there are issues with maintaining
the house. We will not even mention them driving
the car that you are becoming terrified of.
It should come as no surprise that in some cases
medical issues, actual or simply feared, become
the focus of their lives.
it does not have to be like that. In an Assisted
Living facility such as my Sunnycrest Senior
Living located in Fullerton in Orange County
California, residents are surrounded by others,
and there is 24-hour staffing at all times.
As is typical of such communities, there are
month-to-month leases of private 1 or 2 bedroom
or private studio apartments. Apartments in
assisted living generally come with emergency
pull-cords, weekly housekeeping, individual
a/c, and cable. They have restaurant-style service
for three healthy meals served daily in a dining
room filled with other people where they interact
to the degree they choose to.
retirement communities have "Assisted Living"
services available with everything from medication
ordering, storing, and dispensing, to assisting
with more private issues with discretion, usually
at an additional fee. Finally, there is also
socialization that occurs naturally as well
as structurally through the Activities Department.
Music, bible study, movies, exercise, singing,
art, and discussion classes are provided (already
included in the rent) on a schedule available
to all. Additionally, for those that do not
bring their car or choose to be chauffeured,
there is usually a van that transports residents
to and from doctor's appointments and to shopping
locations as well. Those that bring cars keep
them in the parking lot. Between the food, the
activities, the van, and the interaction with
the staff, the isolation is eliminated, and
with it much of the fear and anxiety of being
how to choose one place from another? What should
you be looking for? What are the secrets to
getting it right the first time? Having been
in this space for over 12 years I can share
with you the 4 keys to finding the right place.
Food is VERY important. You need to try the
food yourself. If you don't like it, your Mom
will not either. I go to Sunnycrest and eat
the same exact food as the residents, often
with a resident. Also the plates should look
great and the dining room should be clean and
nice. I recommend BEFORE bringing Mom that you
visit each place around lunchtime and ask to
sit and try the food. If they hesitate, run.
You don't want Mom or Dad living in a facility
located on a major street. There is traffic,
noise, and constant dust and dirt. You also
want them to be able to walk around safely,
preferably with a coffee shop and post office
very close by so they can get out and stay active
as much as possible. You also want to be as
close as possible to the best hospital in the
area. If you do that, it likely cuts down on
travel time should there be an issue, and the
hospital is likely surrounded by doctor offices,
thus making physician visits close by and easy.
I recommend finding a place within a few blocks
of a hospital for those reasons. If it is further
than that, drive to the best hospital around
and ask them where they recommend.
Activities are critical. When you visit grab
the newsletter they have at the front desk and
look at the calendar of events. If the events
could be straight from 1965, beware. Find a
place that has flat screens for movies and uses
high tech tools. We recently bought a Wii game
and 30 residents had a blast "bowling." Wii
helps seniors stay physically and mentally sharp,
social, and ahead of the game. This is just
an example of how some consider activities crucial
and some do not. If it is the same old bingo
and making paper hats, move on.
This one might surprise you, but instinctively
you know it to be true. Corporations own the
majority of facilities and often have 300-400
"units" around the country. They are often publicly
traded so their stock price is how they measure
success. They put a pretty face on it but in
the end you are a number on a giant spreadsheet.
Compare that to a family-owned-and-operated
community, where the owners speak with residents,
meet the families, eat the food, and actually
walk the building. It is very difficult to truly
know how your facility is running while sitting
at corporate headquarters located elsewhere.
Family run operations tend to have boots on
the ground, and they measure success by how
happy the residents, and their families, tell
them they are.
worst part, I am told, of getting old is losing
friends and loved ones. The idea of maintaining
independence has been distorted. It should stand
for doing what you want when you want, pursuing
things that interest you, and staying out of
medical facilities as long as possible. It should
not stand for eating microwaved food alone night
after night, straining with labels on pillboxes,
or struggling to maintain a big empty house
alone. Often people get care to come and live
with them, or visit daily. This solves feelings
of guilt, but does not address what the senior
is actually missing. Sometimes seniors, or their
grown children, do not want to admit that change
is needed. The question is where will they be
happier, more social, safer, and lead better
and more fulfilling lives. No place is going
to be perfect, and nothing is going to turn
back the clock 40 years to a different time.
However, you can improve their life and give
them more of what they truly need because you
can't be there all the time for everything.
Time is precious, and quality time is the most
precious commodity of all. The fact that you
read this article until the last line suggests
that for you the time to face this challenge
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