“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” Roy E. Disney
In 2012 my son brought his paternal grandmother home to live with his family. At the time, she was in a less than desirable relationship, which required some changes be made. That was a tough choice, but turned out to be a great choice.
During the course of the next three and a half years, things on the home front were good. Grandma improved significantly as my daughter-in-law watched grandma’s mental and physical health issues closely, taking her to physicians when necessary, and keeping up with her daily regime of prescribed medications as well as supplements. Grandma was happy and my son’s family was happy as well.
Starting at the end of 2015, something changed. Grandma was still getting great care, but needed more stimulation from people of her age. While she loved being around the family, something was missing. She hired a companion to take her to some senior activities and was continuing to attend monthly Red Hatter’s meetings. Grandma had so much fun attending the activities at the senior center, but was reluctant to move. Tensions were starting in the household, as grandma was not very tolerant of her two grandsons running around the house. She stayed in her room resting a lot. Still, both she and my son and daughter-in-law were reluctant to start looking at alternative living for grandma.
During my visit in December 2015, I broached the idea of assisted living with grandma, my son, and daughter-in-law. The seed was planted, but after I left grandma was not happy that I talked with them about it. During the first months of 2016, my daughter-in-law decided to take grandma around to show her assisted living and independent living communities. To her surprise, grandma was open to the idea. They looked at several communities and grandma decided she wanted to live in a smaller one because the bigger ones would make her feel like she was living in a hotel. She made the decision to move in April of 2016. Tough choice~great choice.
While it took a just a little while for grandma to adjust, she now loves her new home. She is participating in activities, loving the meals, and making new friends. She is more lively and enjoying her time with her family, as they visit several times a week. They can now be in relationship as a family again and not caregivers to their elder grandma. Once again, tough choice~great choice, and the best choice she could have made for herself at this time in her life, at the young age of 87.
I work in eldercare, and see families and elder adults struggling with the same tough choices as my family. We all have basic human needs to live purposeful lives, and to be part of a social structure that allows us companionship and the opportunity to continue to extend care to others. For my children’s grandmother, the tough choices were made with the primary goal to do what would result in a happy decision for all. Good choice!
When it comes to broaching the “assisted living” conversation, experts like Stella Henry, R.N., author of The Eldercare Handbook (HarperCollins, 2006) say “this is probably one of the hardest discussions a child or grandchild will ever have to make.” Many seniors unrealistically believe they can take care of themselves for the rest of their lives. And that’s where their children or other family members can be instrumental in identifying the challenge and instigating a conversation.
No matter what the age of your parent, experts say now is the time to begin communicating about the future. If you open the lines of communication early on, words like “assisted living” lose their sting later on, and the elder can be empowered in the decision making for his/her future.
About the guest author: Candis Willis, Director of Operations – Western Region Compass Senior Living
Candis lives in Redding, California. She says, “The best part of this work is connecting with residents and seeing them flourish when they thought life would be over because of leaving their homes.” Candis loves having the opportunity each day to give back to elders a portion of what they have given to many others. Candis believes everything happens for a reason, and even though life isn’t always easy, we have the opportunity to learn and grow from each and every experience. Playing with her grandchildren, enjoying the outdoors, yard work, and hiking are her favorite pastimes with her family.