We’ve been asking ourselves this question.
Would Mom be better off in a different community?
My mother in law Alice, is now 91. She lives alone in a 2700 square foot home that she enjoys. It’s in a retirement community with lots of amenities. But, you have to drive everywhere.
She is a bit isolated unless she gets in the car.
Fortunately, she is still able to drive. She cares for herself independently. But we’ve noticed some changes in how she handles problems lately. It’s harder for her. When a pipe breaks, she gets very impatient with the repairs. It’s harder to bring in the groceries from the car. Maintenance takes time she doesn’t want to spend . Her knees are a problem at it’s harder to walk any distance.
My husband, Mikol, partner with me at AgingParents.com, is a wonderful son. He calls Mom every day. He talks to me about his concerns. One of them is that Mom living alone in her house is getting to be a problem and he thinks it’s time to introduce the idea of a smaller place with more help available.
He’s a psychologist and very skilled at making suggestions in a tactful way. So, here’s what he did.
First, the research. He looked on the net for all the assisted living facilities in Mom’s area. He knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. He narrowed the search to two places. He told Mom he was coming for a visit to help her with a few things she needed. She was thrilled. He got on a plane and made his visit with the agenda in mind that he wanted to take her to see the places he though could work for her. Meanwhile, he did the minor repairs and computer maintenance she needed done.
When he gently introduced the idea of giving up the house, he did it in a kind and loving way. She didn’t balk. Alice is a very practical woman. She knows it’s hard to live alone in a big house as she ages and that it makes sense to think about alternatives. We’re very lucky that way. Some parents will tell you to take flying leap if you even mention this. Mikol told her about his research and suggested that they go see a couple of places. She said, “Let’s go”.
She took the tours and decided that one of them was better than the other. She weighed the pros and cons. This all has had some time to sink in now, a few weeks later. No one has pressured her or told her she should move. She has arrived at that conclusion all by herself. When I talked to her, she told me all about the spot she picked out and said she had made the decision that she’s going to do this.
There are lots of details to work out. We’ll help her of course. She can take a lot of her things and it will feel familiar with them around her, even in a new setting. Alice has chosen to go to what is called a “continuing care retirement community”. That means they have independent living in apartments (that’s what she’ll do), assisted living in different apartments and skilled nursing beds in another part of the campus.
She will be in a community with many other widows like herself and it is likely that she will benefit from the increased social contacts. In many ways, Alice is an ideal candidate for this setting. She reaches out to others often, likes to socialize and works at making friends. The benefits are numerous. One doesn’t have to dine alone. There are organized card games, outings, entertainment and events. Yet, if she doesn’t feel like doing any of them, she can be in a nice apartment where someone will bring what she needs. If she stops driving, she will have access to transportation without having to work at it.
Her friends, her doctor and her family all think it’s a good idea. This provides the support and encouragement she needs to give up a home full of happy memories that she shared with Dad for many years. It is not going to be easy for her. She is courageous enough to face that, bless her.
Mikol and I realize that this is a marker. She’s aging and will need more help in the future. Having her in a secure place with that help nearby will give us greater peace of mind about her safety and her happiness as well. I think Alice is going to have a gang of new friends soon. There are men there, too, though very outnumbered by the women. But you never know. Maybe a new guy could surface in her life.
Keeping our fingers crossed.
Until next time,
We’ve been asking ourselves this question.