Throughout the course of a month, I chat with dozens of families who share personal stories and challenges about caring for an aging loved one. While everyone’s situation is unique, there is a common thread that often surfaces: “We’re not ready yet”, or “Mom/Dad isn’t ready”. It is an understandable statement, because “ready” looks different for each person.
There are so many things to consider when contemplating a move and finding a new home for yourself or a loved one. Down-sizing can be a challenge when someone is leaving the home they have lived in for 20, 30 or 40+ years. The process of deciding what to keep, which items to give away, and what to donate can take weeks or longer and can be incredibly overwhelming for all involved. Then there are the logistics of the actual physical move, which can be a daunting task with a lot of moving parts. In addition to the physical move, it is emotionally taxing to part with a place so familiar and comfortable that is filled with so many memories. It’s important that we recognize how hard change is so we are able to console and support our loved ones as they face this new experience.
“I’m not ready yet” actually has many hidden meanings depending on various fears and worries. It can be based on concerns around financial preparedness, the fear of losing independence or being overwhelmed by the thought of moving and change. These are all very real, understandable, and expected emotions.
What can you do to help someone “be ready”?
Have a family meeting.
Open, honest discussions about the current situation is a great first step. What are the challenges? Meal preparation, upkeep of the house and/or yard, proper dosing and taking medications, or simply the layout of a current home can present a safety challenge. What are the options? Family assistance, in-home care from private caregivers or assisted living? Each option can be a viable solution, but not without its own set of challenges.
Do your research early.
Do not wait for a sudden health crisis before you start investigating options. Start your search early. Are there family members who have the flexibility and availability to prepare meals, provide company, assist with medications and household chores? Is there a home care agency that can provide consistent, compassionate in-home care? Which assisted living communities would be a good fit? Remember that the goal of assisted living is to enable someone to maintain their independence by providing supportive services while offering opportunities for engagement and fulfillment. Choosing a community before it’s needed will lead to a calmer, smoother transition for everyone involved.
Review your finances.
Taking a look at the financial situation is a vital step in this process. Review assets such as bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts and monthly income. If you own a home, now is a great time to sell. Home values have continued to rise over the past few years. Look for a Senior Real Estate Specialist who can guide you or investigate a bridge loan that can help fund the gap until your house is sold. Veterans or their surviving spouses who need assisted living may be eligible for the Aid & Attendance benefit from Veterans Affairs, as well as a monthly credit from The Arbors.
Narrow your list.
After researching assisted living communities, gathering information, and reviewing, select your top 2-4 choices and schedule a tour. Walking into a community to get a sense and feel of the environment is a crucial step in the decision-making process. How do you feel when you walk in the door? Are the staff friendly? What do you hear? What do you smell? Can you envision yourself living there?
Get on a waiting list.
The demand for assisted living and memory care has grown exponentially over the past year. Ask your preferred communities about availability and a waitlist. Getting on the waitlist early will help eliminate stress when the time for a move comes.
Watch for signs.
Observing a steady decline in health; sadness or depression; a change in attitude or outlook; occasional or frequently missed medications; changes in sleep habits, such as sleeping more or the inability to sleep; or an overwhelming feeling of trying to keep up with house cleaning, maintenance and cooking are all signs that the time for a move is near.
Research, Reserve and Plan.
No one has ever said to me, “We should have waited.” More commonly, we hear, “I wish I had done this sooner.” Preparing for the future now eliminates the stress, chaos and crisis management that may be right around the corner.
So, what does ready look like? It’s somewhere between now and OH, NO! Don’t wait. Plan today!
by: Anne-Marie Sousa