Tough Choices~Great Choices

“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.

Grandma had fun attending activities at the senior center
Grandma had fun attending activities at the senior center

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.

Grandma and two grandsons in her new home
Grandma and two grandsons in her new home

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

img_0434Candis 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.

happy elderly senior couple walking on beach healthcare recreation

I don’t want to move.

elder cowboy with grumpy face“You can start over when you’re your age, not at my age.” That’s what my mother-in-law said about moving closer to kids when getting older. “If you want to be closer when we’re old, you have to move here.” She’s not even that old, but there’s no point in arguing. When she and dad moved to their beautiful retirement town, in Florence, Oregon, they decided that was it—period.

Florence is on the Oregon coast, directly west of Eugene. The average age of people living in Florence is 59.4*; and the average age of the country is 37.2*.

Don’t let that average age fool you, though. This community is active in volunteerism, activism, and recreation. Sure, there are quilters and bingo players. But, you’ll also find authors, artists, dog agility trainers, yoga practitioners, and bus drivers who take cancer patients to Eugene to the hospital.

I have talked with people who have retired in Florence, and are getting pressure to move closer to children.

It makes sense to most adult children to move mom or dad closer to you. You’ve got your own kids you can’t uproot; you have a career and you can’t move or work remotely… and maybe you just like where you live. You may be concerned that by moving mom or dad closer to you, you may be uprooting them from:
• Daily support systems and friends
• Clubs, churches or spiritual connections
• Recreational activities, favorite restaurants, barbers, and shopping
• Neighborhood watch groups, and walking or jogging routes
• And, most importantly, the community that they have been connected to for years or perhaps decades.

Many adults are struggling with living far away from parents who are entering elderhood. There are needs that can’t be attended to unless you are right there, right? Well, yes, and no. You may find there is support right in mom and dad’s back yard!

What type of support is available in their hometown? Florence is a small retirement town, but is lacking in enough geriatricians and major medical treatment services. As a result, non-profits have popped up to serve the needs of the population such as the Friends of Florence.

Are senior housing options in their hometown? Visit (or ask your parents to visit) independent living, assisted living and memory care communities. Most people still think of grandma’s 1960 nursing home when they think of these communities. That’s just not the case anymore. Most are modern, comfortable and community-based environments where more elders are thriving simply because they are not alone at home.

Introduce your parents to technology. Use Facebook to stay connected and keep them connected to friends and family around the world. Get them a tablet or smartphone. Ask the senior living communities you are considering if they have wi-fi and if they regularly update their Facebook page on what’s happening. Ask them if they can text or email you with periodic updates.

Plan ahead. Create a plan together. Discuss things like who to call in an emergency. How about medical alert systems or other home emergency system? Who will check on them regularly? How will they ensure they eat well? How will they take care of home maintenance? The best plans are those made before something happens.

Talk finances. Find out where their income is. Low-income services such as Meals on Wheels may be able to help. The Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit may be available to veterans and surviving spouses.

At the very least, before they get old enough to need any help, it’s worth finding out where they want to live.


For more examples of True North Elderhood, we invite you to follow Compass Senior Living on Facebook.

* Statistics courtesy of

Amira in MalaysiaAbout the Author: Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to eight years of learning the senior living industry in roles ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director of Sales and Marketing. Possibilities also led her into the world of education technology for almost three years. Now, on her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with the people that care for others. She lives in Eugene with her husband, Michael, where they enjoy golf, travel and volunteering.