Imagine: Mom is home alone and slips in the kitchen. Or Dad is out in the yard when he loses his bearings. The worst time to have the “how can we best support mom and dad?” conversation with your family is when you absolutely have to.
“I can’t stress enough that the most important thing is to make a move before you need it,” says Diane Stinchcomb, director of sales at Edenwald, a continuing care retirement community in Towson. “Don’t wait for a crisis to happen.”
Edenwald offers three core levels of care: independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing.
“I think that it’s important that residents consider communities that have all three levels [because] it’s just a lot easier of a transition,” says Stinchcomb. “If at some point they need to transition into assisted living, it’s still right here in the same community.”
“Skilled nursing has the old stigma,” says Troy Kirk, vice president of customer transitions at Lorien Health Systems. “Say 20 years ago, that’s all we had. So a lot of people thought that [these communities were] where people go to die.” Today, the picture is somewhat brighter — many people opt to move into adult living centers so they can function more efficiently day to day and make more time for friends, family visits and, yes, fun. “I really try to get people to understand that it’s the next phase of retirement.”
Lorien Health Systems, located in Ellicott City and Columbia, offers the three core levels — and rehabilitation services as well for those that need them. In some cases, health impediments can be successfully rehabbed and the patients returned home.
After you’ve found the right place for Mom or Dad — with their blessing, if at all possible of course — there are simple things you can do to help your aging parents adjust to their new environment. When they make the move, downsizing is usually a difficult reality — but new residents can choose to keep the items that they hold dear, such as old tables or special collections. Bear in mind: While you may think something is dated or outmoded, Mom and Dad know better.
“You know Dad will want to bring an old ratty recliner and the kids will say, ‘You can’t take that there’,” Stinchcomb says. Let Dad choose.
“We try to have a lot of empathy for our clients,” says Kristy Kruger, vice president of sales and marketing at Broadmead’s continuing care retirement community in Cockeysville — it offers short-term rehabilitation as well. “Clients are moving from houses or condos that they may have lived in for over 20, 30 or even 40 years. It’s an emotional change.”
Springwell, a retirement community in Mount Washington, features 136 units making it a smaller, more intimate facility. They offer the three core levels and specialize in memory care.
“Some will adjust right away, but on average it can take four to six weeks,” explains Phil Golden , director and principal at Springwell. He suggests getting the apartment or room ready for your family member ahead of time. “That way, it’s familiar for them.”
“We also encourage families to check our site for activities and encourage their loved one to participate,” adds Stinchcomb. Your impulse may be to visit often — on a daily or weekly basis — but excessive visitation could prevent your family member from fully socializing. “You want them to make friends on their own.”
Choosing — or helping to choose — the right senior living facility for your parent or other loved one can be overwhelming. Each facility or community is going to be nuanced in their approach. Health concerns, aesthetic, lifestyle, geography, pet policies, social needs … there’s so much to consider. Through it all, keep your senior family member’s needs the center of the conversation, and you can’t go wrong.
“Ask them what they want,” says Kirk. “Ask them what they would like to see happen.”