In my 30+ years’ experience in senior housing, I have met clients who struggle with having conversations with their loved ones about making the decision to move to a senior living community. There are many emotions involved in these conversations including guilt, fear, sadness and rejection. Unfortunately, these conversations never get any easier and the longer it takes, the harder they become. Hopefully these insights will be helpful to you.
Change is not easy
The common phrase I hear is “We have spoken with dad and he refuses to move.” People who have dementia have a difficult time with change. They become accustomed to their daily routine and surroundings. If you bring up the subject about moving or bring in help, the immediate response will be “No, I don’t need any help.” This is very common with people with dementia. They resist any type of help and they don’t realize the impact that their decision is having on you or your family. Until you realize that your roles have changed in your household, this cycle will continue.
Dementia effects judgement too
Many people think dementia is only about someone’s memory loss. It is important to realize is that dementia can also effect judgement. This is especially difficult if the former decision- maker of the family is not able to make sound decisions anymore. Many spouses who are caregivers find themselves in the situation, where they expect their spouse to make logical decisions and have a hard time recognizing their loved one is not capable of doing so anymore.
Like a hike in the woods
A good analogy to consider is a hiker lost in the woods. The hiker walks endlessly in the circles trying to find the right path out of the woods, however he is unable to find the right way out. It is frustrating, scary and a embarrassing to be lost. Imagine now, you find this hiker and you take him by the hand and lead him down the correct path. Yes, there could be some resistance along the way, however you know you are the doing the right thing. You stay the course and eventually, you and the hiker arrive at a safe place that is familiar. You have saved the day! Discussing the senior housing option is very similar. You need to take the lead and make the decision. Yes, your role as the follower has changed. You now need to take charge and be the leader.
The danger of doing nothing
Yes, you can do nothing and not ‘rock the apple cart,’ however doing nothing is actually doing something. The end result may not be what you expected! Too many times, the caregiver is the one that becomes ill and requires care. By being the caregiver, your immune system is weakening and you are most susceptible to illness or experiencing a severe medical condition or even a fall. If something happens to you, who is going to take care of your spouse? Unfortunately, the person with dementia and the denial to do anything is creating a potentially dangerous situation for you. In addition, senior housing options become more limited and more expensive if you wait until care is needed to force a decision. It is always better to “select rather than settle.” Making a decision in a crisis mode is never a good idea. Being proactive and recognizing that it is important to have a plan for your future health care needs is a much wiser (and less expensive) route to take.
Prepare to be open, honest, and non-argumentative when discussing these topics with your loved ones. These conversations need to take place in a quiet and comfortable setting such as your living room or around the kitchen table. Keep in mind that you already know the resistance you will be get. Be prepared. You also need to recognize that you know best in this situation and that even though you would like your loved one’s approval, a decision needs to be make. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option. One tactic that I’ve found to be useful to tell your loved that a temporary move needs to occur. It can because of a home repair or a pending vacation to go up North. A temporary change is much easier to handle rather than a permanent move. You can also tell your loved one that he needs to do this for you since you are not feeling well and you need some extra help. Keep in mind that even though you would want your spouse’s agreement, you are in charge now and the decision is yours to make. “Honey, we are going to do this and we are going to make the best of it together.”
Trying to resolve this by yourself is difficult. If what you have been trying isn’t working, it’s time to call in the cavalry. Seeking the help of an independent third party to step in is not a bad idea. Do you have a family member or close friend that can be ‘the heavy?’ You may also want to reach out to your doctor, clergy. attorney and financial advisor. There are support networks such as the Alzheimer’s support network and other caregiver support groups to help you. As senior housing advisors, we can also help. We have year’s of experience helping people through these difficult situations. We do the research for you and have resources available to make this much easier on you.
The new normal
Amazingly, once the decision has been made and you move to your new home at a senior living community, a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders. There are many advantages of living at a senior living community and it won’t take long for your new home to be your new normal. Your loved one, who put up so much resistance will develop his routine in very little time and be thankful you made the decision. Just like the hiker in the woods, you have save the day!
BLUE ZONES PROJECT RECOGNIZES SENIOR HOUSING SOLUTIONS
The Blue Zones project is based on the world travels of Dan Buettner, who identified communities worldwide where people share traits of great longevity. He wrote a New York Times bestseller about the nine principles of longevity. The “Power Nine” principles include eating a plant-slant diet, moving naturally by walking, biking or similar activity, having a sense of purpose, limiting alcohol intake, putting family first, belonging to a social group and more.
Buettner retained Healthways for program guidance in communities that are seeking Blue Zones
designation, where a significant percentage of the populace is taking steps to change their
environment and lifestyle so healthier choices are preferred.
“Blue Zones Project is thrilled to have Senior Housing Solutions as our newest organization to become Blue Zones Project Recognized in Southwest Florida! Not only did Senior Housing Solutions go above and beyond in their commitment to the project, but Bruce Rosenblatt has become a wonderful ambassador- helping to foster well-being throughout the community.”
“After learning more about the Blue Zones project, I feel that the core principles are very similar to that of my organization in promoting successful aging… Living with a purpose, making healthy choices, staying physically and socially active and enjoying a community lifestyle.” “The more people can embrace these principles, the less likely they will need extended long term care as they age,” said Bruce Rosenblatt
To date, 25 businesses, country clubs, schools churches, nonprofits, restaurants and the like
in Southwest Florida have earned Blue Zones designation where at least 25 percent of people
within each group have taken the pledge to adhere to healthier selections and the business or organization
has made structural changes accordingly.
The NCH Healthcare System is the sponsor of the local project.
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