In the early days of aviation, “flying by the seat of your pants” meant the pressures a pilot felt on his backside when clouds blocked his vision and he couldn’t tell if he was climbing, descending, or turning.
Today, technology has replaced pilot backsides, and flying by the seat of your pants has come to mean haphazard, improvised, last-minute responses to a situation. When trying to find a new home for a senior parent, you don’t want to “fly” that way.
Perhaps your aging parents are still able to maintain their home, see to their needs, and maintain a full life. You may ask if it is really time to start preparing for the eventuality of them leaving their home for a senior community or to live with family members.
The answer is yes.
It takes time to prepare – to assess what may be needed, sort through financial, emotional, family, medical and personal issues, and select the best place for your parents to go. It is also best to do it when your parents are able to express their wishes without being under the duress of a suddenly worsening medical condition, or struggling with the onset of cognitive issues.
As you plan, understand situations will evolve and change. However, it is a good idea to sit down with family members as well as your parents and discuss possibilities. Everyone will learn the role each person is willing to play in the moving process.
Decisions on who takes responsibility for which role will need to be made based on many considerations – financial, medical, personalities, preferences, and willingness to cooperate.
If your parents are showing signs of physical or cognitive decline, a review of the home’s safety hazards, comfort, maintenance requirements, and overall viability needs to be reviewed. In addition, in consultation with the parents’ physician, the future needs of the parents regarding care should be part of the assessment.
The financial capabilities of the parents and family members who may contribute to it need to be considered. Any investments, insurance, benefits, and other sources of income should be determined as well.
Families can do assessments on their own, but a care coordinator or geriatric care manager, who is trained and experienced in senior adult needs and issues, can provide valuable information on items like health needs, insurance, benefits, moving, and the resolution of family conflicts.
Your parents have probably accumulated a lot of treasures over the years. When they move, it will most likely be to a smaller home or apartment.
Start cleaning out drawers and closets. Perhaps you have a family member or friend who is gifted in sorting and organizing that can help. Consult seniors and family if there are special items (a piece of furniture, a set of dishes, a vase or some photos) that can be given to a loved one or friend. Be sensitive to the fact that downsizing can be heart-wrenching for them. What to you may be just “stuff” is, to them, priceless memories.
When determining where the new home for your senior parent will be, make sure to measure the space they will have available and the items remaining in the house. Is the old, 6-foot long, stereo going to fit against the wall in their independent living apartment?
Also, as soon as the location and date is set for the move, be sure to contact the moving company to secure the date. It will also help to label boxes and containers as to their contents, and be there when they are unloading in the new home.
One option for senior parents is to move into the home of a family member. This has many positive and negative possibilities. On the positive side, loved ones are gathered together, sharing their lives in a multigenerational experience. In a negative context, loved ones are gathered together, sharing their lives in a multigenerational experience.
A shortlist of things to consider:
- What will be the additional costs, and who pays for them?
- How will the move/the cost affect spouses and children?
- Is there enough space?
- Will one of the spouses have to quit work to care for the parents?
- Will there be issues with pets, smoking, drinking or other items?
- How will the lives of everyone change?
- Will the house have to be physically altered to meet the needs of the parents?
If these issues can be worked out, the benefits of cost savings, bonding, and enjoying each other can be tremendous. However, also realize that situations change as people age, and the amount and type of care needed by a senior may require more skills and time than can be provided in the home.
A senior living community is another possibility. Today, many senior communities offer an attractive environment, a wide array of social amenities, medical care, security, opportunities and activities. When checking out one of these communities, there are some things to observe and do during your visit:
- Does the community offer a continuum of care from independent through skilled care and memory support?
- Is the community clean and well maintained?
- Talk with residents there. Ask their opinion of the care provided.
- Ask visiting family members of residents about the community.
- Watch how staff respond to residents. Do they call them by name?
- Tell the administrator about yourself and your parents’ situation.
- Are the residents properly dressed, wear jewelry, have their hair done?
- Are there sitting and common areas with multiple sources of entertainment?
- Are residents up and active in the hallways and common areas?
- Ask to see the activity calendar.
- Does the staff make accommodations for individual resident preferences?
- Inquire about the medical supervision and the scope of therapy services.
- Are religious services held?
- Is the family welcome to attend activities in the community?
- Visit the dining area. Check the menu. Visit when meals are served and taste the offerings.
- Does the community have an on-staff dietitian?
- Are outdoor areas easily accessible to residents?
- Are there well-shaded sitting areas and walking paths conducive to those using walkers and even wheelchairs?
Finally, ask yourself if you would be satisfied to live in the community’s environment?
Have I Forgotten Something?
As a family member, finding a new home for your senior parent may be almost as emotional for you as it is for your parents. Perhaps their home was your home for your entire childhood.
As a caring person, it’s natural to ask if you did all you could to make the move successful. Please be assured, if you put together a thorough plan in advance and worked through it, you greatly improved the likelihood that your parents will find a new home in which they can thrive.
For more information on moving a senior parent, whether into a smaller home or senior living community, you can find helpful tips on our blog. Please schedule a tour at one of our senior living communities in St. Louis.