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Is It Time To Move? Don’t Wait Too Long.

Ann called and said “I think it is time for my parents to move to Independent Living.”

“Ok” I said, “tell me what is happening with them that makes you think it is time to move.”

“Well, Mom is 85 and in skilled nursing right now, because she had a heart-attack last week. We are thinking she can’t go home, because she has been declining over the last few years both mentally and physically. She barely walks anymore, and she has what appears to be dementia although we have never had a true diagnosis. Dad is 89, and he is her primary caregiver, but we have also been noticing some cognitive change in him as well. So we don’t think it is wise for them to stay at home by themselves.”

I could not agree more. However, it is waaaaay too late for Independent Living. From what Ann has told me, that move should have been made about 10 years ago.

Ann’s parents have done what is typical for so many families…stayed home until their health conditions necessitate actual care, not simply a senior apartment. But they think, “we’re still living at home, so that means we’re independent,” when they are actually getting a LOT of outside support in order to stay there.

Ann stops by their house 2–3 times a week to check on them, brings groceries and supplies, and arranges for home maintenance. So whether Ann realizes it or not, she is providing lots of care.

At the same time, Ann and her family do not realize how Perennials select available senior living communities. When we drive by them, with their nice exteriors and pretty flowers, the communities all pretty much look the same.

It reminds me of driving by school buildings for my kids. Schools tend to have a certain “look” about them that we can recognize before we even see the signs or the playgrounds. Do we pay attention to them? Notice if it is an elementary, middle, or high-school? Not really.

That is, until you have kids that are getting close to school age. Then you notice every school building you drive by. How does it look? How old is the building? What kind of school is it? Suddenly all of this matters, when it didn’t the 3000 times you drove by before.

But in the same way that schools offer different activities to different ages, senior living communities offer different amenities based upon health-care needs and lifestyle. The buildings may look similar, but what happens inside is radically different.

For Ann’s parents, the standard Independent Living community won’t work, because these types of communities are simply senior apartments. They offer maintenance-free living (no having to fix the sink or mow the yard), housekeeping, and meal plans. But none of the care that Ann has already been providing. And now with her mother’s heart attack, they need even more.

Assisted Living is the better option. These communities provide apartments, housekeeping, and meals, with additional health care and support services as needed. These support services include things like medication management and activities of daily living (ADLs) such as grooming, dressing, and personal hygiene.

This type of community will be able to personalize the amount of care given to each of Ann’s parents, (a lot for Mom, a little for Dad) and be able to relieve some of the caregiver burden that Dad has been carrying as the primary caregiver for Mom.

I was able to help Ann navigate the complexities of senior living, since she needed to make a move fast. And while every family situation is different, the decision of when and where to move is always a complex one. You don’t make decisions based on the closest community or the prettiest one, but the one that can provide the best living arrangements and the right level of care for you and your loved ones.

So what can we learn Ann’s experience? Take control of your (or your loved one’s) situation by discussing their health and lifestyle goals with them. Start your search for a community early so that you can be prepared for a healthcare crisis to come along where you have to make complex decisions fast. Investigate the communities, meet the residents, learn what health care services they provide, and get professional assistance from an Aging Lifecare Professional to help you navigate the senior healthcare world.

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How did you know when it was time to make a move to Senior Living? Did you know what the options were? How did you make the decision on which type of care was the right one? Tell me about it on the blog!