Monday, April 30, 2012

Eldercare Tip: Choosing a Retirement Community is Like Dating, Pt. 2

Choosing a retirement community for your aging parent is like dating.  At least that's what I said in my last post. In both processes, you focus on finding a good fit, looking not only for beauty but also personality and character. And retirement communities have all of these qualities, in one degree or another.  The bottom line is finding something you and your parent can live with, as happily ever after as possible.

One reader, my friend Mark Whitesell, pointed out that a person shouldn't "date" just one facility and call it good. "A person can't make a good choice if they don't know what else is available," Mark said. I couldn't agree more!

The importance of looking at several communities came home to me a decade ago when a 92-year-old woman came into our community with her family.  "This is a lovely place," she said with a twinkle in her eye.  "But I'm just not sure I'm ready to be around these old people."

I asked her family, "What do the rest of you think about Esther moving to a retirement community?" They said she seemed lonely, wasn't eating well, and memory issues were hurting her ability to make good decisions.

"Esther, I want you and your family to feel good about this decision. So why don't you visit a few more communities, and then see what you think?" I could see the stress lift from the woman's face.

A few weeks later, Esther called me. "I want that apartment you showed me!" She'd visited two other communities, and was now ready to make a move. Her family wisely gave her space to process her decision, and opportunities to see what was available.  And bingo, the process worked!

Can you tell me about the process of choosing a retirement community for your aging parent?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Eldercare Tip: Choosing a Retirement Community is Like Dating

When elders and their children visit Evergreen Court, the retirement community where I work, I often say, "Choosing a retirement community is like dating." Both processes are life-altering. And hopefully, the outcome in each will be "living happily ever after." So much for the corny analogy.

Here's how these two are alike.

1. Appearance is important, but it's not the end-all, be-all. Obviously, leaky roofs, unsightly grounds and unwashed windows speak volumes about how a community is run. But beauty, as our mothers would say, can run skin deep. That's true both in romantic interests and in retirement communities. Many communities, while not posh, are nevertheless comfortable and homelike. It's a matter of choice, lifestyle and budget. Marcia Byrd, Executive Director of Patriots Glen Assisted Living in Bellevue, Washington, expressed it this way: "Look beyond the chandelier."

 2. Personality can trump glitz and glamour. As you search for a new home for your aging parent, look for staff and residents engaged in life. Is there a spirit of playfulness? Do residents enjoy chatting in the lobby, curled up near the fireplace? Do the women giggle like sorority sisters while playing bridge? Do the men enjoy swapping stories of war, travel, and their working years? Planned activities can support this active lifestyle, whether it be picnics in the park, trips to the museum, or going out to lunch.

 3. Character also counts. Retirement communities have reputations in the community. Social workers, ministers, Rotary members, and other leaders can offer their studied opinion about various retirement living choices in your locale. Listen to them!. When I dated my husband many years ago, I remember debriefing late at night with my friends in the dorm. "What was he like?" "Was he a gentleman?  Does he seem to be a good fit?" In looking for retirement communities, the bottom line is: What does your parent want and need? What do you need? And is this a good fit?"

Good luck in your search.  Does this analogy work for you?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eldercare Idea: For Mother's Day, Write Her a Love Letter

Mother's Day is just around the corner. Father's Day is not far behind. So what do you buy for your elderly parent who has everything? Or who says, "You don't have to get me anything?"

A love letter costs nothing except an investment of time and attention. And its value can't be counted, since your parent will read it over and over again. Here are some ideas on how to start.

First, think of three character qualities you admire in your parent. Why, three? Because the number "three" signifies completeness. Two doesn't seem like enough. Three is just right.

Is your parent generous, fun-loving, hard-working? How about family-oriented, intelligent, faithful? Your list will be unique.

Once you've identified three character traits, think of concrete examples which illustrate them.

Here's a sample letter.

Dear Mom,

For a long time, I've been searching for words to say, "I love you."

When I think of you, the word "kindness" springs to mind. As a child, I saw your kindness at bedtime, when you never let fatigue stop you from reading us bedtime stories or answering our questions about life. As we grew into teenagers, we tested your kindness time and time again, with our boisterous and often wayward ways. Today your kindness, developed over the years, radiates from your face.

Another word that describes you is generous. Years ago, I remember the doll clothes you painstakingly made for Carol and me. They were beautiful! Your generosity continues today, with gifts of homemade jam and home-baked cookies.

Faithfulness is another adjective that speaks of you. From my earliest years, I remember watching you pray for all of us, seeking God's will for our family. I know you still do that, and it makes my heart happy.

These are just of the few qualities I thank God for when I think of you. Happy Mother's Day!
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