It’s difficult to say goodbye to the old home.
You have decades of memories of Christmas stockings hung above the fireplace, the old Sweetgum tree that sheds it’s prickly pods all over the driveway, and the graduation pictures of your children and grandchildren that decorate the stair hallway.
A house is a living scrapbook of a family’s life.
But for many senior citizens, a house becomes a burden to take care of and health issues cause an older person to look at their home differently.
Starting the conversation
For an adult child of an aging parent, starting the conversation is difficult.
Stuart Madow, of Emeritus Churchill, suggests beginning the discussion by emphasizing how important it is for the parent to be as independent as possible. Three key areas are: safe mobility, proper nutrition and medication management, He said most families wait until a catastrophy happens, such as a medication overdose, and by then, the parent has lost a good quality of life. It’s better to start the discussion early. It may seem odd playing the parenting role to your parent, but it’s necessary.
“The simplest way for them to get mom or dad onboard with a change is to ask them to try it,” Madow said. “It’s that simple.”
Margie Brady, a Realtor with Allen Tate Real Estate, shares suggestions on how she approaches a senior needing to move.
“Seniors are definitely an interesting group to work with when selling their home, particularly when it means moving from a long-time home that is filled with memories,” Brady said. “As an agent, I focus on gaining the client’s trust with tremendous patience, listening skills and daily communication. Each situation is different. Some folks are anxious to move while others are very resistant.”
Rhonda Daniels advises making a move while a parent can still make the decision. Daniels works for Smooth Transitions, an organization that plans moves for seniors.
She tells children to break the news slowly if they think a move is imminent, or they will be meet with resistance.
Talk up the good points of a move. A child might say, “Oh Mom, this senior living center has square dancing classes once a week. You’ve always wanted to learn to square dance.”
Appeal to a senior’s need for socialness.
Fortunately, seniors have a lot of options for their later years.
Daily or weekly help might be the answer for those not ready or hesitant to leave their houses.
According to several health professionals, staying in one’s home is the number one choice for the aging population. Many cannot perform certain household chores such as house cleaning, bill paying and laundry. A little assistance with a helping service will allow an older person to continue to enjoy his or her own home.
Home Instead Senior Care, a business that operates offices in Mooresville and Statesville, suggests companionship as a need for a seasoned citizen. Sometimes an older person overlooks the little things in life and having someone to monitor their food and medication, take them grocery shopping or simply play a card game with them might make the difference between a listless person and someone who looks forward to the day.
In our culture when so many couples work and can’t always check in with their parents, having such a service available takes some of the burden off of the adult children. Looking for small signs such as pets overfed or underfed will alert that a parent might need some help.
An older parent, who normally is self-sufficient, might suddenly have an operation that sets them back. physically. With shorter and shorter hospital stays, often a patient is sent home to recuperate.
Businesses such as Comfort Keepers offers individuals who can stay from a few hours to entire days until the patient gets back on their feet, checking to see if they are taking their medications and helping them with personal hygiene. Such a service can also provide a break for a main caregiver.
Many who retire are ready to ditch the lawnmower and let go of painting the house but don’t need yet need any sort of medical care.
Retirement living for those 55 years and older can be as simple as a cluster of homes in a community of smaller yards, or it can be a larger complex such as Emeritus Senior Living.
Emeritus at Churchill is a senior living community that allows couples or singles to fill up their social calendars with bowling, walking clubs, Tai Chi and Bible studies.
Many have built-in beauty salons, ice cream parlors and libraries where small groups can meet. Typically residents have a small apartment but can choose to eat all their meals in a large communal dining room.
These facilities allow a frailer parent or elderly person to still remain in an apartment but with a watchful eye on them as they age.
Apartments tend to be small with easy mobility. Standard in these apartments are alert buttons for medical emergencies, laundry services, and transportation to and from doctor’s appointments.
Valerie Frank, director of sales and marketing at Summit Place in Mooresville, said their residents come from home or a rehab center. Many feel it’s like a cruise ship, with lots of activities but it’s not considered independent living.
She said to watch for red flags in one’s parents such as becoming a hermit in their own home, not eating properly or forgetting to cook. These signs might warrant a change in address.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Of course, every adult child dreads seeing their parents’ mental faculties slipping.
Jennifer Barnhardt, education specialist with the Alzheimer’s Association of Western North Carolina, explains some of the terminology: There are differences between dementia, Alzheimer's and senility. Senility is old term. Dementia is a syndrome. Alzheimer's is a disease, a common form of dementia.
Barnhardt said her group is seeing younger and younger patients with the onset in their forties because testing has improved and there’s a better awareness of the problem.
Carol Mitchell, of Home Instead Senior Care, also sees a trend with more patients with Alzheimer's, noting more opt to stay in their homes longer. She attributes this to wanting to feel safer. She says when Alzheimer's patients go out into the community they often want to return home quickly. Their house spells security to them.
Mechelle Kanipe, executive director of Statesville Manor, suggests when the adult child sees change in their parent, they should pay attention.
“Children know their parents and especially those living out of state might more quickly might notice changes while visiting. The house may not be as clean, and they might see a parent’s confusion when misplacing things.”
Assisted living facilities do a lot of hands-on checking in with residents.
The trend of dementia patients continues to grow as people live longer.
AJ Kerley, of Comfort Keepers, suggests keeping an older person in their routine and making sure they have a social and exercise schedule. Rediscovering old hobbies such as playing piano or doing puzzles may help the dementia patient.
Michelle Cook, of the magazine All About Seniors, sums up the housing problems for seniors, saying because of funding cuts, hospitals aren’t keeping patients as long and nursing homes don’t allow for as much long-term care as they used to provide. She sees more people choosing home health care because it’s more affordable but suggests it isn’t always the best choice.
The big move
When a senior has decided to relocate, downsizing can be tricky to someone who has accumulated decades of memorabilia and a household of furniture.
Daniels, of Smooth Transitions, suggests taking the downsizing slowly and tackle one closet or kitchen cabinet a week so the process doesn’t overwhelm the homeowner.
Moving day can be traumatic so the Two Men and a Truck moving company offers a few helpful hints on their website, www.twomenandatruck.com/movingseniors.
The company suggests:
• Packing several weeks ahead.
• Packing smaller items in bright-colored paper.
• Labeling boxes on the tops and sides.
• Consider not using newspaper for fine china as ink rubs off, but instead using packing paper purchased from a moving company.
If the move is over a long distance, make sure the senior has a suitcase packed with daily necessities and things needed for a new room or apartment. Often a photo of the grandkids, a treasured vase or their favorite quilt will make the transition easy and homier.
When a senior is not able to liquidate their furnishings and pack up their household and family members are out of town or busy working, hiring a senior moving expert National Association of Senior Move Manager may be helpful for the job. These managers are dedicated to help older folks in all areas of a move from choosing what to take and what to give away to showing up in the new home to hang pictures.
Whatever choices need to be made, it’s best to start talking early. Many choices exist but safety, comfort and cost are the biggest factors to consider.