“My mom, in a retirement home? No way. Not her.”
It’s hard to picture your mom or dad as people, and not just parents. Parents are strong, seemingly immortal in our minds. Sure, they might need an extra hand now and then, but they love their home. Besides, even if you thought a change might be a good thing, they’d never go for it. Lose their freedom and independence? Leave their home? No way. Not them. And definitely not now.
I hear you. It’s hard to imagine a parent as vulnerable or lonely, or somehow lacking in care and support. You do your best to make their lives better. They get lots of love – that’s what family is for – and the last thing you want to do is impede their independence. But here’s the thing: a lifestyle change, whether it’s a move into a retirement community or any other form of care, is often the spark needed to rekindle their independence, not hamper it.
What is it that your mom or dad needs most to live well? Is there something getting in the way? What brings them the most joy? The biggest frustration? These are the things that matter most to them, and they’re your starting points when exploring options.
“Caring and being a caregiver is about enabling a person to do what they value, which is easier said than done,” says Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, an international NGO with its headquarters in Toronto. As we grow older, there is often an uncertainty and vulnerability, and sometimes a hesitancy to ask for the ordinary or the extraordinary. Being around older people is a privilege, so take the time to consider a person’s wants and desires, and not just their needs, Dr. Barratt says. “It’s not about telling them what to do or how to think, it’s about giving them space to have a voice in decisions about their lives. ”
Forget About Age
There are many reasons to make a change, but age isn’t one of them. “There’s no particular age or condition that signifies that a person should move to other accommodation or even require help in their home; it’s all about function and autonomy,” says Dr. Barratt.
There are many reasons why someone might consider moving, says Dr. Barratt. It may be because their home needs lots of maintenance and upkeep that they cannot manage, or perhaps there are a few safety risks such as steps or an inaccessible shower area. Or maybe their house is just too big and their neighbours have moved away. “For some people, it’s just a matter of adjusting or adapting the home they’re in, while for others it’s about choosing to move into a senior’s residence that provides greater freedom while maintaining their autonomy,” says Dr. Barratt.
5 Questions for Senior Living
It’s helpful at all stages of life, but particularly in older age, says Dr. Barratt, to reflect on your health and ask yourself whether where you are living gives you the best opportunity to do what you want. For example:
- Can you comfortably manage your daily personal and care needs?
- Are there any areas of your life where you could use some help to live as independently as possible?
- Are there any risks to your safety or well-being in your home?
- Has your ability to make sound decisions about your own health and well-being changed?
- Are you able to manage your own money?
There are no right or wrong answers here. These questions are just meant to get you to start thinking a bit more objectively about why a change might be good for your mom or dad. Perhaps soon, or maybe later, but definitely before it’s a necessity. Take your time here. Talk it out with your siblings, your friends and your family.