Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Watch the 13 On Your Side Senior Wellness Segment on this topic.
How do I know when the time is right to seek outside help vs. being a caregiver?
As the Director of Meadowlark Retirement Village, I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of families as they try to navigate solutions for their loved one’s care. The majority of encounters involve the sales aspect of my role, educating, fact finding and offering solutions to the challenges they face. What I was surprised to find was that within that short encounter my role usually shifts from the sales process to advisor or even counselor in some cases. Why within a half hour tour would a perfect stranger share their biggest fears, emotions and look towards me for family advice?
Simply put, reverse parenting is overwhelming. Where do you turn for help?
I never imagined the overwhelming challenges that many of us will face as we become reverse parents for our aging loved ones. Now as you can imagine, NOT everyone believes, accepts or has a desire to have someone help them or hear those words that they CANNOT do something. As life usually dictates the children are left with the challenge of identifying and determining when and what type of support their parents might need. Sounds pretty straight forward until you start examining the physical, psychological, and psychosocial aspects and logical challenges families face as they enter this new part of their lives. Information and options are endless for families to explore but very often too overwhelming or falling short of a personal plan or approach.
So, before you look at my name again: No, I am not a physician, nor a clinician. Simply put – I work alongside experts, I listen to families and I use both streams to offer tools to each potential client I meet. I thought I would share a couple of common questions and some reference points to refer to.
How do I know when the time is right to seek outside help?
A close up realistic look at our elder’s cognitive abilities and their Activities of Daily Living (ADLS) is needed:
- Difficulty doing the more familiar things in their life.
- Difficulty remembering things that happened in the last day.
- Sudden behavioral changes. Depression, quietness, agitation, anxiety or acting out.
- Having trouble keeping a conversation
- Not eating
- Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
CHALLENGES WITH ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING (ADLS)
- Walking and getting around
- Using the toilet independently
- House Cleaning and Chores
- Meal Preparation
- Using the Telephone
KEY SIGNS TO LOOK FOR
- House and yard need care
- Broken appliances
- Cluttered or disorganized house
- Spoiled or expired groceries
- Poor personal hygiene
- Disheveled clothing or the same clothes being worn day after day
- Depressed or low energy temperament.
How do I convince my parent to move into a community?
Talking to your parents about a retirement community is never easy. First, open the lines of communication. If you’ve always had a good relationship with your parents, then you’re off to a good start. If, however, communicating with your parents does not come easy for you, make efforts to reach out to them.
With today’s technology, you don’t have to live near your parents to maintain a strong relationship with them. Share family photos with them via text, email or social media. Call them on a regular basis, or even schedule regular video phone calls.
The point is not to make it seem like you are suddenly broaching the subject of them moving out of the blue. Let it be part of normal conversation with them, of your normal level of caring about them.
Understand what is Important
Finding the right retirement community isn’t just about price. If your parents are hesitant to talk about moving to a retirement community, start the conversation by addressing the three c’s: climate, culture, and community.
Climate is one of the biggest factors when selecting a retirement community for most people. Why do you think there are so many retirement communities in Florida? Talk to your parents about their preferences. It’s very common that after years of shoveling snow and enduring harsh winters, people want to experience the luxury of year-round sunshine. If so, your options are seemingly endless with retirement communities all through the southern United States. There are also people who enjoy the changing seasons and the picturesque landscape of fresh snow. If this is the case, you may want to point out that this is easier to enjoy when amenities are at your fingertips and you don’t need to worry about snow removal or a fluctuating heating bill.
Understanding what your parents consider to be a ‘perfect climate’ will help to narrow your search and help your parents visualize, and maybe even get excited about, their potential new home.
A culture fit isn’t just something to consider when looking for a job – it’s an important factor when talking to your parents about moving to a retirement community. It’s likely that your parents have a good understanding of who theyare, what they want in life, what they like, and equally as important – what they dislike. This is all relevant when selecting a retirement community.
If your parents are social butterflies who enjoy a night on the town, dancing, and meeting new people, then a retirement community that does not cater to socially active residents is not the place for them. Before broaching the subject of a retirement community with your parents, here are some things to consider:
- Are your parent’s introverts or extroverts?
- Do your parents enjoy a fast-paced, active lifestyle?
- Would your parents be happy in a small-town setting?
- Do you parents enjoy spending time with a few close friends? Or do they find meeting new people to be thrilling?
Talk to your parents about how they envision the next 10 years of their lives, then look for retirement communities that can take their vision and improve upon it! When you show them the retirement community of their dreams, it will be hard for them to say no.
A retirement community is more than just luxury amenities and personalized care, it’s a close-knit community of people. If your parents are like most seniors and baby boomers, they have lived in the same house for decades – possibly since they got married. They probably have close friends and have built relationships in their neighborhood and surrounding community. You need to help them recreate that feeling of community.
How can you do this? Start by asking your parents about the most important, meaningful parts of their community. For many people this list many include a local church or synagogue, a VFW hall, or even a Moose lodge. By understanding their ties to the community, you can find retirement communities that cater to people with similar interests and make the transition easier.
Think of yourself as a marketer. If you’re trying to convince your parents to move to a retirement community, you must sell them on the concept. They need to be able to envision themselves living there, making friends, enjoying activities.
The best way to do this is to let them see for themselves. Take them on a tour of a retirement community. They might just be surprised to find that people aren’t exactly sitting around in rocking chairs, forgetting to enjoy life. Many seniors have stereotypes of retirement communities, and most of those stereotypes are unfounded.
Like a marketer, don’t underestimate the power of testimonials. If your parents have friends who have moved to a retirement community, ask them to tell your parents how much they enjoy it.
Remember, this is a discussion with your parents, not a monologue. That means it’s a two-way conversation. Once you’ve said your piece, be quiet. Let them voice any objections they may have, and really listen to them. They may have some valid points that never crossed your mind.
If you’ve done your homework, you should be prepared to counter their objections with well-thought-out answers. In doing so, you’ll show them that you respect them and don’t take this lightly.
Retirement Communities are not Nursing Homes*
When you broach this retirement community subject with your parents, they probably have a particular image in their heads of what you’re proposing. But that’s not the reality. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) like Acts Retirement-Life Communities are resort-style living environments for older adults. Total independence, plenty of social activities and hobbies, and many even feature pools, golf courses and other attractions. But everything is easily accessible, fall risks and other health concerns are minimized as much as possible, and all care is included if health begins to decline. It’s like an insurance policy that just so happens to also be a great place to live.
Last but not least Find the right community for them; not for you. Where you move your loved one will likely be the last place they live for the rest of their life. Make sure you are comfortable with the looks of the outside grounds. Did someone greet you immediately when you walked in to the community? Is the community clean, are there uninviting odors, does the staff seem happy to be there? Most importantly, do the Elders already living there seem happy to be there?
Reverse Parenting with a twist of Dementia
It wouldn’t be a conversation about reverse parenting unless we mention the challenges that dementia brings to the dynamic of parent/child relationships. We thought it would be helpful if we summarized some topics to help you better cope with this difficult topic.
We encourage everyone to develop a family support network early, which will ease the workload, gain knowledge and acceptance of tough decisions that will follow. This group should include:
- Spiritual Advisors
Knowledge is Power!
We encourage everyone in the family support network to research and fully understand the challenges associated with this disease. The following are a few great websites that will offer insight and understanding to this difficult journey.
Meet them at their reality
When a loved one is diagnosed with Dementia, it is important to always remember that you are now living in their reality no matter how convoluted, confusing, or how much sense it doesn’t make to you.
- No longer ask questions where the Elder can give you a “no” answer because no matter what, even if it’s something they loved to do, the answer will always be a resounding “NO!”
- It’s time to eat
- It’s time for your bath
- We are going to go for a walk
- We are going to brush your teeth and go to bed.
- If they see a red ball on the floor, a person standing outside their window, children, a deceased spouse, it’s important that you not argue or disagree with the fact that there isn’t a red ball on the floor, go outside and look in the window to show your loved one you are the only one there, a deceased spouse has been scientifically found to provide peace and happiness to the Elder living with this disease. A good reply to that would be, “they came to tell you they love you and they are OK”; or something positive.
Guilt, the elephant in the room
Almost every reverse parent faces the hardest side effect of this new reality, Guilt the pressure that you never saw coming. Guilt is one of the biggest problems for family members to consider as they debate community’s vs home care or even taking over caregiving needs. It’s important to consider the full impact of caregiving, however, to keep things in perspective.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Can I take time off from work?
- Can I afford to stop work for an extended period of time?
- Can my children and older relative co-exist in harmony?
- Will my children be able to tolerate not always coming first?
- How will this impact my relationships?
- How will this impact my relationship with my older relative?
- How will my siblings and I manage this as a team?
- How will any of this be paid for?
Use our decision guide as a starting point to learn the best way Porter Hills can serve you.
*(Source: Copyright 2018 Acts Retirement-Life Communities, Inc.)