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Elder Care Essentials: Living Arrangements

Boomer Magazine


Boomer Magazine

When caring for an aging parent or loved one, we’re often faced with decisions about living arrangements. With so many options, it can be difficult to determine what’s best for your loved one – and for you. Usually, the first thought is to move an older person from their existing home to another place, often a nursing home. But the fact is, only roughly five percent of the elderly population requires skilled nursing care. So what are the other alternatives?

1. Staying put. The first place to start is the current living situation. It’s my goal to keep seniors living independently, in their own homes, for as long as possible. It’s far less expensive than moving them into a professional facility, and invaluable in terms of preserving your loved one’s independence and sense of history and community. Think it’s not possible? You’d be surprised by how many gadgets are out there that can make that happen. From grab bars in the bathroom, to increased lighting throughout the home, to adapted furniture and equipment, you can easily and inexpensively transform your older person’s living space into a safe haven.

If it’s clear that living at home is no longer an option, it’s time to consider the alternatives – and there are quite a few.

2. Moving in with you. In many cultures and societies, it’s a tradition to move your elder into your home when they reach a certain age. I think it’s best to keep your elder in a familiar, loving environment if he/she must be moved. Most people feel that this is the socially appropriate and best economic solution. This can be a very difficult choice, especially if your spouse never got along with your elder. But, you should consider it, along with the impact on everyone concerned.

Can your living space be adapted to accommodate an older person’s needs? Can your loved one maintain his or her privacy? How will your schedule and priorities need to change? Ultimately, open, clear communication with your family and your elder is the key to ensuring that this move is rewarding for everyone involved.

3. Adult communities. You’ve seen the 55 and older communities popping up across the country, with independent homes or apartments alongside shared facilities and common living spaces. These can be a terrific option for an older loved one who is still self-sufficient, but can’t stay at home or move in with you. It’s attractive because other people who are your parent’s age live there, and they often share common interests and histories. Some of these homes provide meals and care on site, others do not. Community activities keep the members of the community engaged and social on a regular basis.

4. Assisted living. Assisted living is the next step up in care. Older people can still maintain a strong level of independence, come and go as they wish, and have visitors, yet still live in a “protected” environment that may include 24/7 nurse or aide supervision, medical care, and meals. There are also recreation activities, expeditions to events, malls, restaurants and movies, as well as regular bus service and other transportation. There’s often a waiting list to get into an assisted living facility, so be sure to ask when inquiring for your elder. It can be a great option, but it’s very costly. Most assisted living facilities cost more than $5,000 per month. Ask about all additional costs, as they can add up quickly. And be sure to choose a place that’s easy for relatives to visit, to avoid loneliness and “transfer trauma.”

5. Nursing homes. If your loved one requires a significant amount of care, nursing facilities are an important option. They can be expensive, but seniors who are unable to function independently can benefit greatly from the mental, physical, and emotional services available on-site. When choosing a facility, make sure to visit the location. Take the tour. Check out at least three facilities before you select the right one. You can get a list of local facilities from the National Association of Nursing Homes/American Healthcare Association. Trust your gut, and bring siblings or other relatives along to help with the decision. I always encourage caregivers to pop in at nursing homes at unscheduled times as well, to get a sense of the place as it really is. Watch and listen to other residents, and how the staff interacts with them.

No matter how you choose, make sure to involve your parent in the decision-making process – so they can be fully on board with whatever you decide.

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