As individuals prepare to age, many of them choose to live at home. But, aging in place isn’t an option for everyone, or at least a very sustainable situation.
According to Heather Freemont, regional director of operations and vice president of marketing at Maplewood, which has locations throughout Ohio; Schonda Grays, executive director at Rose Senior Living in Beachwood, which is scheduled to open in April 2020; Janet Kodrich, vice president of sales and marketing at Montefiore’s The Weils in Bainbridge Township; and Nancy Sutula, vice president of residential services at Menorah Park in Beachwood, the senior and their family should weigh their options in the event of health or lifestyle changes.
Freemont said these discussions usually happen in the event of a health decline.
“Also, when safety has become an issue or they find themselves having difficulty managing their affairs and day-to-day activities,” she listed.
However, it’s key for these discussions to occur long before any changes occur, Sutula said.
“This is one of the most difficult things because it is already a difficult question for them to decide to move from their long-term home into a senior facility,” she said. “We encourage people to think about it before they’re ready because there is not a ‘right time.’ But, what we do want to do is get people to move into facilities where they can engage in the community.”
Kodrich said, “Start looking when you’re healthy and mobile before the needs arise – the sooner the better. Empower yourself with the knowledge of preferences, costs, services provided, amenities, clinical care and then convey to your spouse, family and friends how you see yourself in these situations.”
If a senior is forthcoming with these changes, Kodrich said it’s then easier to convey one’s wishes when they’re still able.
“But, when you start exploring options before you need the services, the process is not a ‘rushed decision’ and you can take your time and discuss options with others,” she explained. “Having input in your care empowers you to live an abundant lifestyle of your choice.”
Signs to watch for
More often than not, many seniors aren’t keen on expressing changes in their health if it means they need to move out of their home. In those situations, there are a few signs family members should look out for that show it’s time for a move.
“They need to pay attention to if it is harder for their loved one to maintain their home, or if it’s harder to get to the places they used to go to,” Grays noted. “That can be a motivator too. They can tell it’s taking them a lot longer to keep their home in the condition it used to be. At that point, that is something we can help with as they go through their aging process.”
Families might even notice changes in sleeping habits, Sutula said.
“Maybe they are more tired during the day because they’re up all night,” she said. “The family might also see they aren’t socializing as much, they don’t do what they used to do. Also, if they go over to their house, they may notice there is not as much food in the fridge or it’s not good anymore.”
Along with other changes, Kodrich added isolation is a big indicator that an aging loved one needs to make the move.
“Isolation not only isolates the person, but it can contribute to the decline of the individual, especially if the person lives alone or the spouse has recently passed away,” she explained. “During any transition, the support system that is built and put into place before a crisis or change is crucial to the health and well being of all individuals, regardless of age and living arrangements.”
Find options that fit best
Regardless of who notices the change in needs and lifestyle, Grays said knowing senior communities are an option tends to make the decision a little less stressful. Many individuals tend to confuse senior communities and care facilities, which adds to the apprehension associated with these moves, she added.
“It’s about convenience and a more carefree lifestyle,” Grays said. “There needs to be more education. A lot of people don’t realize that senior communities do have an independent lifestyle, they don’t think about that carefree living.
“A lot of it, with many adults, there is the aspect of denial. Aging is something you have to learn how to accept. It’s something everyone struggles with.”
Sutula added there is a notion that people move to senior communities only to “waste away and deteriorate.”
“It’s the exact opposite,” she explained. “That’s why so many communities have ‘senior living’ in the title. It’s about bringing in the element of still being engaged. Because you have the social element, it allows them to stay connected.”
But even if a senior is experiencing changes, it’s important to note there is no set time frame to make a move.
“This decision really depends on if the person has a support system and a family that is going to watch them closely,” Freemont said.
Grays said, “It’s a fluid thing. The right time is really based on the person and their experience. But, generally, people start thinking about it once they retire and their children have moved away.”
All in all, Kodrich drove home that these kinds of considerations need to happen before it becomes an emergency.
“Be diligent and proactive,” she advised. “Know what challenges the person is having. Moving to a community can open up the door for knowledge, socialization and experiencing life all over again with new friends and a sense of enjoyment and community.”