It’s a moment we all dread, and it stirs alarm when it arrives. We’re referring to the first inkling that a family member of advanced age may exhibit early symptoms of dementia.
Perhaps it is when a mother repeats herself, forgetting the nearly identical conversation she had with you the day or week before. Or when your father exhibits personality or behavior changes.
It can be challenging to distinguish between a normal “senior moment” of confusion and a symptom of something more serious. Family may react with concern toward potential early warning signs of dementia, fearing that the disturbing development is just the first act of a progressive condition that marks possible trouble ahead. Such events can be very subtle and vague.
It is usually these moments that prompt a senior or his/her family members to question whether the time has arrived to seek extra help to do everyday tasks. Is it, they wonder, time to begin considering moving to an Assisted Living community like Regency Senior Living? In this month’s blog, we look at strategies to assess a senior’s needs and make the process of transitioning to the next stage of life easier.
A senior does not necessarily have to exhibit symptoms like memory loss, disorientation, mood disorders, and so forth for the move to a retirement community to happen. Many people happily leave empty nests and enjoy the newfound freedom and leisure that come with having no more dishes or clothes to wash, a yard to mow, etc. That’s the best way for moving from the home to a shared community to happen.
Unfortunately, instead, there’s often an inciting event that leads to an unpleasant confrontation that might cause a parent to get pressured to seek help out of necessity.
The catalyst may instead be poor health rather than dementia. Poor vision, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, COPD, cancer, and strokes give us plenty else to worry about affect a mother or father’s ability to remain self-reliant. Illnesses can result from years of obesity, poor diet, smoking, or a combination thereof. If family caregivers can’t step up to keep a closer eye on mom or dad, checking into Assisted Living moves the whole clan toward a heightened peace of mind. The senior may not recognize what everyone sees and become confused, suspicious and withdrawn.
Experts recommend slowly looking into Assisted Living as something to eventually do in the future rather than an immediate change to be forced upon them against their will. “Shop around” and “weigh options” for future needs. Arrange visits to check out your local retirement communities – the senior may find comfort in speaking to residents about their daily experiences and be relieved that the cold, clinical nursing home setting that they perhaps expected is not what awaits them at all.
It’s also important to consult the senior’s doctor to eliminate treatable conditions that can have similar symptoms to dementia. If the physician examines the senior and finds that the events are, indeed, likely the early signs of Alzheimer’s, this can often give them a nudge toward accepting what might otherwise be dismissed without a professional assessment.
As stated, many seniors are pleasantly surprised to discover the gap between Assisted Living and nursing home care.
There’s really no need for expensive around-the-clock medical care for someone who simply needs a little help with the activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, and grooming.
Facilities can range in terms of the level of personal care offered and available resident amenities. Living spaces may depend on how independent the senior is when arriving. For many, an apartment with a kitchen included may strike the right balance, while others may want or need to rely completely on prepared meals served in a common dining area. As with anything in life, the living situation depends on what the senior and his/her family can afford.
Assisted living residences may vary greatly in size, appearance, cost, and services offered, but most will include basic housekeeping and medication reminders. Concerns about the senior’s ability to safely drive are alleviated by furnished transportation and certain health services that eliminate the need to get out as often for doctor’s appointments.
Assisted Living usually strikes a balance between the need for privacy and freedom vs the security of 24-hour supervision.
According to the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the average assisted living resident is 87 years old. Of course, that also means that half of residents are younger than that. Most residents are female and Caucasian. Most assisted living residents previously lived independently according to a Centers for Disease Control report: 70% of new residents move from a home or apartment to the community.
One of the hardest things a person will ever do is force an unwilling parent to move into a senior living facility. Even after the move is completed, the loved one may experience feelings of intense grief. The website WorkingDaughter.com recommends the following to make things easier:
• Allow 3-6 months for the senior to adjust to the new living arrangement. Just like those homesick feelings we experience during our first year of college, it’s natural for a new resident to struggle to make friends and fit at home in a new place. Scheduled activities and encouraging participation in group activities can ease this time. Anticipating setbacks as normal and expected makes them easier to overcome.
• Visit the parent frequently so they do not feel abandoned or lonely. Regency makes this easy with opportunities for shared dining.
• Acknowledge the senior’s feelings. “Listen to their fears and concerns and acknowledge them. Then help them get through it. They will be more likely to listen to what you have to say if they feel like you’ve listened to what they had to say,” the website reads.
• Limit the New while Inserting the Familiar. Downsizing before a move can mean parting with a lifetime of possessions. As much as possible, the new space should be decorated with familiar furniture with photographs of family and friends, photo albums, favorite books, and a familiar piece of artwork following them to the new living space. At the same time, the website advises “Don’t overwhelm your parents with a new phone or remote control for the television, or a fancy new coffee maker. Limit the amount of new things they need to learn.”
Convincing mom or dad to willingly trade in their home for what they imagine will be an “old folks’ rest home” is rarely easy.
Some people are considerate enough to spare their families future hardship by prearranging their funerals, creating a Living Will, and other wise getting their affairs in order, but most do not. The same can be said for those who react with stubborn resistance to the whole idea that planning an eventual move means taking steps closer to death.
Many of our residents at Regency Senior Living find the exact opposite to be the case. Their move represents an exciting new stage of life where they enjoy a more carefree existence and make new friends. It’s nice to know there’s freedom to be alone, but also lots of chances to enjoy company as well.
Looking into the social aspects of a good assisted living community while stressing the peace of mind gained from increased safety measures will make you both feel better about the move.
If Mom expresses sadness that she never gets visits from her friends anymore, take the opportunity to suggest Assisted Living as the solution.
The website AgingCare.com suggests checking around to “see if anyone you know has a loved one who is already thriving in a local assisted living community” because it can offer great comfort to have a familiar face around. Many of our communities offer a financial incentive if a senior refers a friend to join us.
A move to Assisted Living, under ideal conditions, starts with research and a tour of facilities BEFORE any disturbing signs of cognitive decline. Seniors and their families should take the time to learn what’s ahead and make sure the parent’s wants and needs factor into what happens next – when the time arrives.
If you’re a senior looking for a great community to begin the next stage of life or the family member of someone who could benefit from living with us, please get in touch with us so we can schedule a tour with no obligation. Meanwhile, learn more about our assisted living communities on this website.
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