Last week, I listed the various types of living environments for older adults, this week, I wanted to share exactly why you should know living options for your aging parents.
Why is knowing the different living options for older adults so important?
Here are are...
Watch it here, read it below, or do both!
1. Helps you to prepare for what’s in store
Sometimes with aging, changes to self-care can happen gradually, or all of a sudden. Having an idea of the living options available will help you prepare for what may be down the road for your aging parents.
2. Helps you to become familiar with the options available
The more familiar you are with the options available, the more comfortable you'll be when you're having these conversations with your parent.
3. You’ll be more likely to find an environment that matches your parents’ needs
The more familiar you are with the different types of living options, the better you'll be able match your parents' needs with the living community. For example, if your parent needs help with bathing, dressing, and moving from one chair to another, you'll be able to see which living environment meets your parents' needs.
On the flip side: When you have a sense of what your parent's care needs are, you can look for environments that can meet your parents' needs.
As an aside, the care tasks I mentioned of bathing, dressing, grooming, moving from one chair to another, are called Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), which I'll be talking about in another episode. These are really important tasks when it comes to caring for aging parents, so I will be dedicating an entire episode to this in a few weeks!
4. You’ll gain confidence in caregiving
The more familiar you are and the better educated you are, the more confidence you'll have when it comes to caring for (or helping) your aging parents.
Let's break it down: The more confidence you have, then the less stress you're likely to have. The less stress you have, the more you're likely to have healthier conversations with your parents, and the smoother the transition to a new living environment might be.
5. Allows you to take the time to visit the various options
We talked a little bit about finding an environment that fits or matches your parents' needs in item #3. One way to do this is to take the time to visit different living communities. Bonus: If your parent is able to go with you!
6. Helps you to get a sense of “the feel”
Not only is fit important, but feel is just as important. By feel I mean, how does your parent feel when they're there? Consider these questions:
The better the fit, and the better the feel, the easier the transition in the long run.
The "feel" also has to do with how your parents connect on a cultural, lifestyle, and personality basis. It's important to consider cultural, lifestyle, and personality factors as you visit living environments.
If your parent identifies as LGBTQ, you'll want to have a clear sense that the community is affirming and your parent's partner and/or friends would feel welcome.
If your parent speaks Spanish and enjoys Hispanic food, you'll want to get a feel for how inclusive the senior community is related to Spanish speaking older adults. And, does the food and social connection appeal to your parent?
If your parent smokes or drinks recreationally, will they be able to do so without feeling shame. Of course I'm not advocating smoking or drinking, but if your parent has the capacity to make their own decisions, does the community take a non-judgmental stance or a shaming one?
If your parent tends to be introverted, consider if the environment may be loud or overstimulating. If your parent tends to be more extroverted, consider if the environment is socially active enough to meet your parents' needs and interests.
The bottom line is this: as you consider various living environments for your aging parents, it's really important to pay attention to where your aging parent would feel most valued and comfortable, and feel like they could trust the care that they're going to receive.
This is really important! Your parent is more likely to thrive in a senior community environment if they feel secure, valued, and trusting of the community and staff in these communities.
7. Helps you to know your options in the midst of a crisis
Taking the time to learn about and prepare for these different living communities, will help you to have a sense of agency and choice in the midst of a crisis.
Instead of being told in the midst of a medical crisis that your parent is moving to a Skilled Nursing Facility for medical rehab for a few weeks, and once finished there, you'll need find them an environment with assistance, you'll have a sense of the different living options available to you and a sense of what you can afford.
Often in the midst of crisis, you have to go with the living environment that the hospital social worker can find on short notice, but then what happens is that you may end up moving your parent multiple times until you find the best fit and feel for them, which is exhausting, time consuming, emotional, AND expensive.
Having a sense of options available to your parent will save you headache and heartache down the road.
I hope this helps to give you a sense of why it’s so important to know the different living options for older adults!
Join me next week when I'll talk about how to go about finding living environments!
For a comprehensive list of the various living options for older adults, download my free Caring for Aging Parents STARTER KIT! (Psst: It’ll even help you if you’ve been caring for your parents for a while now!) Simply click the image below!
Lots of love to you and your family,
Dr. Regina Koepp
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I'm a Stanford trained, Board Certified Clinical Psychologist specializing with older adults and families! I'm an Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and a staff Psychologist at the Atlanta VA Health Care System. I'm a mom of two little kids and a daughter to aging parents.
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