At some point in many of our lives, you will have to grapple with this question. It’s not easy to watch our loved ones go from running the world to barely walking to the walking to the front door. All of our lives we watched mom or dad and wondered “How in the world can she/he do all of this and still show up for my games, matches, and competitions?” But somehow they did. And now, you are in your 60’s and your parent(s) are in their 80’s—maybe closer to 90. And you, while you’re glad they are still here, are having to figure out how to best deal with the dwindling mobility that often comes with age.
So, you and your siblings are having the discussion while your once-superhuman-mom looks on. She has that defiant, helpless look in her eye and that is breaking your heart, hers too. But you can’t stand by and watch her burn herself as she makes her attempts to cook or iron. She wants to take care of herself and she doesn’t want anyone else in her house, messing with her stuff and telling her what to do. Hell, she doesn’t want you in her house messing with her stuff and “trying” to tell her what to do.
Still, she knows that she shouldn’t be driving or doing any of the above activities, and she will not follow instructions to abstain. You have no choice and you know it, so you begin your search for an assisted living community for a parent is desperately need to be self-sufficient.
Here are a few ideas to consider as you make your decisions
First and most important is that you talk with your parent and share your concerns. Try to get them to acknowledge that they may need some help in managing that they had not needed before. Be gentle (not condescending) and respectful. Listen carefully and try to find a middle ground. This is extremely important because getting old and feeling helpless and worse, useless is the most dehumanizing feeling for many elders. Note the difference between elder and senior. Words and how you say they will make this transition easy or near impossible, so take your time and allow your mom/dad to have their say. Your final words can go something like this:
Mom/Dad I know you want to stay in your own home and we want you to stay here—we grew up here this is our home too. But we are concerned that you may need some help with the more difficult cleaning chores or lawn work. What do you think?
Before you assume that moving the elder from their home and familiar community, ask yourself the following questions:
Can the Elder adequately live alone?
Can he/she safely
o access prepared meals
o Attend to personal hygiene
o Operate electrical appliances (irons, razors, coffee machine
o Drive a car
If you decide that help is needed then the next thing you need to do is to have a “talk” with him/her about the following options
• Have someone, preferably a family member, to come by daily (3x weekly) to help with chores, cook, and drive the elder to appointments or on field trips
• Have someone, preferably a family member, to come to live with the elder. This someone must surely be respectful of the elder’s need to do as much for himself/herself as possible
• Have the elder live with a family member but reside in a private quarter that does not contain appliances that he/she can no longer manage
• The last option is to move your mom/dad to an assisted living facility. But, if you decide that this option is the most feasible, given your family’s circumstances then you must do the research to find an affordable facility that offers the amenities and care that you want for your parent. You might enlist a realtor or health care agency to help with this.
Finally, you want to involve your parent(s) in decision-making as much as possible. The principle concern and overwhelming problem with many elders is "personal agency". They want to feel useful, so be considerate and know that you are dealing with a human being who really wants to remain an active participant in the human experience, and therefore, need to be treated with dignity, loving care, and the respect that they have earned.