The Journey of Aging
The search for a retirement home is often precipitated by major change, a season of transition. When seniors and their families walk into our homes, emotions are running high.
To help you decide whether the time is right for Senior Living, particularly Assisted Living, we offer this decision guide. Retirement options are brighter and wider than ever before in history. Yet all those choices can sometimes just lead to confusion. So our first advice is to clearly identify what you’re trying to solve, with an eye not just to next year, but to the next 5-10 years.
Assisted Living is a relatively new idea. In the late 1990s, our culture realized that the town “nursing home” was often a dour choice. Institutional. Depressing. No real home at all.
We also realized many seniors didn’t require a nurse—just a little help with daily living. And as our nation’s treasures, they certainly deserved not just to survive, but to thrive amid fine dining, libraries, fitness centers and creative programs. Built on a European social model, Assisted Living is a new paradigm in wellness and engagement.
Tapping our Expertise in Senior Living
Melissa Dillon, dementia care expert at MorningStar Senior Living, was a guest in May 2017 on a weekly podcast hosted by Mark Lewis of “The Perfect Companion” in Phoenix, AZ. The topic under glass was how families can best navigate the many decisions involved in senior living. Melissa’s counsel as a care professional was wonderfully augmented by Dr Terry Simpson’s perspective as a physical and as the son of a MorningStar resident.
How do I know it’s time to move to Assisted Living?
Simply said, it’s time to move to Assisted Living when the transition will ease the stress of either the senior’s life or the family caregiver’s.
Assisted Living is the best choice if your parent or spouse needs more personal care than he/she can get (or afford) in the home or in an Independent Living community, yet doesn’t need 24-hour medical care and supervision. Consider these further determinants:
- Any recent falls?
- Driving mishaps?
- Bruises or cuts he/she doesn’t want you to notice?
- Prone to wander?
- Leaving the stove-top on?
- Struggling with failing eyesight?
- Poor balance?
- Wearing the same clothes day
- Struggling with personal bathing and toileting?
- Dishes not getting washed?
- Home looking less tidy and more cluttered?
- Unopened mail accumulating?
- Losing weight?
- Spoiled or no food in the refrigerator?
- Unable to get to the grocery store?
- Calling/seeing friends infrequently?
- Alone more often than not?
- No longer attending church or other regular social activities?
Is it Alzheimer’s?
Changes in cognitive abilities, executive function, and behavior could signal the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. However, some of these same symptoms are also indicative of other forms of dementia. While only a neurologist can make a diagnosis, the following could be warning signs:
- Difficulty with familiar tasks
- Slipping competence
- Language difficulties
- Confusion of place and time
- Lack of judgment
- Trouble with abstract thinking
- Misplacing and hiding objects
- Mood fluctuations
- Changes in personality
- Lack of initiative
Finding the Ideal Senior Community
Ah, Google. There you will find more senior living choices than you can imagine. Too many, really. So first narrow the field geographically, then limit yourself to 3-4 candidates within the needed category: 55+ community, continuing care retirement community, independent living, assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing.
The adult child (or healthier spouse) is typically given the initial legwork. We recommend you tour no more than two communities in a day (or risk becoming overwhelmed).
On an initial tour, expect a lot of details. Take notes (download our Senior Communities Comparison Chart. But try to focus on the overall ambiance also. Begin to weigh value against cost.
If you like what you see and hear, return to your top two with your loved one for a more social tour. Revisit your preferred choices at different times of day on different days of the week.
Consider a trial stay to take Senior Living “for a spin and see how it feels.”
Starting the Conversation with Your Beloved Senior
Pick a time and place that’s relaxed. Gather important family members. Then start slow. This is not a once-for-all conversation; it often comes in stages. Still, you might be surprised. Perhaps your loved one has been thinking about this very thing for some time. Don’t forget to include the benefits for the whole family in your discussion.
For as much as we all resist change, we know from near continuous experience, that change also brings invigorating new relationships, joys and adventure. The structure and society offered in Assisted Living communities can bring a return of healthy routines and healthier lives. Our “Conversation Guide” goes into even greater depth (ask for your copy). Download our Monthly Expense Comparison to study current living expenses against proposed living expenses.
Talk it Up
Speak with friends about Senior Living to glean from their experience and advice. Consult with trusted advisors: physician, attorney, stockbroker, pastor, in-home health providers and others who have already guided you through major life decisions.
Who Should Make the Decision?
This often comes down to a consensus among several family members. The senior him or herself, even if suffering from dementia, must be given a voice.
Afterall, we’re talking about their new home. Their new adventure. Yes, they may be losing some capabilities, but our human spirit craves dignity, independence and choice.
When It’s All Said and Done
In the end, don’t let the complexities of this decision mask the fact that your instincts are to be trusted. One place will just feel like home. And the staff will feel like family. You’ll know it straight away.
We hope that one place is MorningStar.
Tools to Make Your Lifestyle Shopping Easier
Ask us for a copy of “Senior Life: How to have the Best Conversation Ever with Your Elder Parent,” which offers an explanation of the relational and psychological constructs of aging and legacy.