When is the time for a parent to move to assisted living? My father passed away four months ago and since then, my mother’s health has steadily deteriorated. Her depression has led her to an almost solitary existence except for the caretakers and my visits. She lives in a retirement home which has limited assisted units available and one has just opened up. It is a studio unit – much smaller than the two bedroom apartment she is living in now.
I know that change can be very difficult for older adults. However, her additional care in independent living is very costly and she is running through her savings at an alarming rate. Assisted living seems to offer better care and includes many of the extras she pays a premium for now.
I hesitate to be the one to make the final decision and desperately want her to “buy in”. She really doesn’t want to make the decision. I am torn between my feeling of responsibility to make sure that my mom is well cared for and my reluctance to become the bad guy – the one who forced her to make a move she really didn’t want to make. How have others dealt with this decision? written by Laurie in Tennessee
My dad is 96 years old and still lives in his own home. He does his own cooking, etc. and has a housekeeper once a month. I go to visit him once a week (Dad only lives 12 miles away). I do his grocery shopping and take him to doctor appointments etc. My dad has a bum knee, uses a cane and can’t walk too far. He has macular degeneration very bad in one eye (and is going blind) but otherwise is in good health. My problem is that my husband & I are snowbirds, (we live in Washington) and have a place in California. I don’t feel like I can leave him alone in case something happens to him. I think it would be too traumatic for my dad to have to move and I don’t have room for him. Do I go to California for just a month or stay home with him? others have same problem? written by Gladys
Finding a balance over the holidays always seems like a challenge. No matter how many years go by, trying to find a middle line between visits, gifting and holiday meals for “his side” and “her side” sometimes seem to obliterate any feelings of seasonal comfort and joy. His mom is in her mid-80’s, recently widowed and lives in a retirement home in the same city we do. My Mom is in her early 90’s, was widowed over 10 years ago and lives independently in another state. Our grown kids and grandchildren live half way across the country. So who do we spend time with and when, during this month full of family get-togethers? We had his mother over for Thanksgiving and did a phone-in to my Mom, which left me feeling guilty afterwards. We will be with my Mom for Christmas, leaving his mom wishing (very vocally) that the whole family was together. It could be a last holiday season for either or both moms, who are in frail health and unable to fly. Meanwhile, we really would like to see our kids and grandkids, but it is too expensive and far for working parents to fly with little ones. What’s to celebrate? It’s a never ending conundrum and makes one want to hide from November through January! Do you share this issue? Let me know so I feel better, OK? Submitted by Doris in Texas
A recent Cornell study published in Psychology and Aging points to loneliness speeding up the aging process, according to Senior Housing News. Seniors, who choose to stay in the familiar setting of their own residence, should take a second look at moving into a retirement community where the health benefits of social interaction may outweigh that of saving money.
“The social pain of loneliness produces changes in the body that mimic the aging process and increase the risk of heart disease, according to the study, and while heart functions change as a normal aspect of aging, loneliness accelerates the process.”
I see the toll of loneliness in my own parent’s health. They have become reclusive and in doing so, their health seems to have rapidly declined. Within the last four months, my father who prided himself on standing tall and rarely used a cane, has become stooped over and now cannot walk without aid. My mom has become increasingly obsessed with the small annoyances that come with daily living and each becomes a huge, nearly life threatening disaster which she broods about for days. While I visit them twice a week, they obviously need interaction outside of the family.
According to Dr. Dawn Marcus, “researchers in Australia followed senior citizens for 10 years. In people 70 years old and older, the risk of dying decreased by 20 percent when people had a strong network of friends.”
Encouraging seniors to talk to friends and neighbors is crucial, for both good mental and physical health. Moving into a living situation with social activities may far outweigh other perceived benefits and contribute to a longer, healthier and much more fulfilling life. How can I talk my parents into understanding the benefits of social interaction, while lessening the burden on me???
When my mother died last September, I changed her forwarding address to mine (at the post office). This was going to solve two pressing problems: enduring trips to her old residence to pick up the important mail I needed to execute my duties as trustee of her estate, and avoiding all the junk mail she got, including piles of catalogues!
Mom, what’s left of her physical self, is residing in my home. I often pass by her spot on the shelf where she is surrounded by the dog portraits we framed together, to ask her a question or inform her of some new development in the lives of her children or grandchildren or just to say hi. But here’s the weird thing: she is receiving her catalogues again – her name on them and with her new address (mine)! How did they know?
First Mom got her J. Jill, Soft Surroundings and Chico’s catalogues. Of course, she is not wearing, much less buying, clothes any more – except for her Giants cap. Then came catalogues targeting seniors – firstSTREET, Easy Comforts and Fashionable Canes and Walking Sticks that offer grab bars, step stools, walkers and magnifiers that might make Mom’s life easier. But her life is over now & I’m hoping she is free of the impediments that require those things. Many times I have had to go to Catalogue Choice to rid my mailbox of reminders that my mom is not with me. Yet another sad job for the executrix.
The catalogue people are trying a new tack now. Recently Mom has received Road Scholar – a list of educational Elderhostel trips to far off places – and right after that a travel catalogue, Magellan’s. I’m beginning to suspect that my mom is actually managing her own catalogue choices so that I will notice. It can’t be exciting sitting on the shelf in her old, albeit favorite, soup tureen wearing nothing but her Giants cap. Perhaps Mom is trying to tell me to pack her up in one of those nice roller bags from Magellan’s along with a new sun hat and sandals from Chico’s (for me) and a magnifier from Easy Comfort (for small maps) and take her with me to the Galapagos where I can release her into the warm clear waters where she can befriend sea turtles.
I’m liking this idea, Mom. How did you know? Does any one else have “signs” from their parent? written by Ellen in California
A prior post titled “the river denial” prompted me to think about my own experience in dealing with my elders. Denial is far more than a river for my family. It’s a destination residence clung to with a tenacity that makes a pit bull look like a pocket puppy. My grandmother is in a nursing home with advanced dementia. My Mom is in poor health (aggravated by a life time of poor choices) and starting to show signs of mental deterioration. My Dad died 7 years ago as a result of his own poor choices. I’m an only child and live all the way cross country–probably not an accident (if I am really honest). I’m good at organizing and taking care of things that need to be done. I’m not good at catering to someone’s distorted views of reality. I feel like a terrible daughter. Is it really reasonable for a parent to be unwilling and/or unable to care for themselves AND be mean spirited and uncooperative when someone tries to help? And what is “help”? If someone has had a life time of making bad choices, is it “helpful” to try & make good choices for them when they need someone else to be involved; or is this just meddling? Do you make the choices that are “best” for them? Or the ones that they would most likely have made for themselves? It is just one of those days I am questioning my role as their daughter and only child. Has anyone else had this dilemma?
Submitted by Joan in Alaska
As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it if I choose to read or play, on the computer, until 2 AM or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70′s and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And, I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one or when a child suffers or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But, broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.
I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day,if I feel like it.
Here’s to growing older with grace! How about you?
Submitted by Toby
WRITTEN BY ANDY ROONEY
I’ve learned…. That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
I’ve learned…. That when you’re in love, it shows.
I’ve learned…. That just one person saying to me, ‘You’ve made my day!’ makes my day.
I’ve learned…. That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
I’ve learned ….That being kind is more important than being right.
I’ve learned…. That you should never say no to a gift from a child.
I’ve learned…. That I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him in some other way.
I’ve learned…. That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
I’ve learned…. That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
I’ve learned…. That simple walks wi th my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.
I’ve learned…. That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
I’ve learned… . That we should be glad God doesn’t give us everything we ask for.
I’ve learned…. That money doesn’t buy class.
I’ve learned…. That it’s those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.
I’ ve learned… That under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
I’ve learned…. That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.
I’ve learned…. That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
I’ve learned…. That love, not time, heals all wounds.
I’ve learned…. That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
I’ve learned…. That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.
I’ve learned.. That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.
I’ve learned… That life is tough, but I’m tougher.
I’ve learned…. That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
I’ve learned…. That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.
I’ve learned…. That I wish I could have told my Mom and Dad that I love them one more time before they passed away.
I’ve learned…. That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.
I’ve learned…. That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
I’ve learned…. That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you’re hooked for life.
I’ve learned …. That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
I’ve learned…. That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.
As the year comes to a close think of those close to you & all that you have to be grateful for! Please share what you have learned.