In a previous newsletter, I wrote about how difficult winter can be for older adults:
“When snow and ice arrive, simple daily activities such as driving to the store, walking to the mailbox, or even sitting at home should a power outage occur, can suddenly become sources of extreme anxiety.”
I ended with a clear recommendation: Consider moving your loved one into an assisted living — now, before the harsh weather arrives in full force.
Well, in case you’re wondering how strongly I believe in that suggestion, I am pleased to tell you that a couple of weeks ago, Alyson and I helped our dad make the move.
The Need for Additional Care
Fifteen years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. It’s a slow-moving illness and for the first 10 of those years, he and my mom were perfectly capable of continuing to live in their own home.
A couple of years ago, though, as my dad’s illness progressed, living at home was no longer the best option. At that point, we helped our parents sell their house and move to an independent living community.
Now, as his Parkinson’s has gotten worse, the time had come to move him to a place where he can receive the support he needs from professional caregivers.
Assisted Living Solves Many Problems
Thankfully, the transition has gone wonderfully. I was certainly hoping it would, but I have to confess that I was feeling apprehensive and more than a little bit guilty — he did not want to move. I knew that if he didn’t like his new home, I would have blamed myself.
And while “wonderfully” may seem like an exaggeration, it’s true: our entire family is benefitting from the move.
For my mom…
My mother had always been my dad’s primary caregiver. She managed his doctor’s appointments, monitored his diet, cleaned for him, oversaw his medications, and more. Every hour of every day, she was on call.
He may have been technically independent, but that was thanks to mom doing a terrific job and the home care services that we brought in, prior to COVID. When the pandemic first hit, and those caregivers could no longer assist, it all fell again on my mother, a burden that was increasingly more difficult.
Now that my dad is well cared for in his own assisted living apartment, my mom has been able to step back from her role as fulltime caregiver and enjoy him as a husband again. She has time for herself and has quickly reengaged with her children, grandchildren and friends, all of whom had necessarily been pushed to the back burner these last few years.
For Alyson and me…
I didn’t realize how much time I spent worrying about my parents until I stopped worrying about my parents. Like carrying a heavy stone on your back, after a while, you forget what it feels like to be without it!
For example, Parkinson’s medications need to be administered accurately and on a strict schedule. My mom did her best, but it was stressful for all of us to make sure it was happening. Now, an in-house caregiver shows up with the right meds, at the right time, and watches to make sure dad is taking them.
That mental freedom from worrying about his medication (and a dozen other dad-related things each day!) has allowed Alyson and me to refocus on our business and our respective young families.
For my dad…
None of this would be good news, of course, if my dad were unhappy with the move. We are all thrilled to see how well he is doing with the new arrangement.
He loves being catered to. They bring him cereal and coffee in his apartment each morning, after which he sometimes goes down to the dining room for hot breakfast. He tells us the food is excellent and he is enjoying the company and conversation of a gentleman he shares a table with in the dining room.
He’s involved and more engaged. The other day, he told Alyson that she couldn’t visit between 10 and 11 in the morning because he was going to be in his exercise class. The way I look at it, if he’s telling us that he’s too busy for visitors, that’s a great sign! Plus, with my mom not there to lead the way, he’s become even more social.
Overall, he’s sleeping well, eating well, and being well taken care of. He told me that he should have moved there long ago and is more comfortable than he was in the independent living community (that made me smile).
My dad’s illness has taken our entire family on a journey — from living at home with outside help, to an independent living community, to an assisted living. At each step along the way, we have worked to match his needs with an appropriate level of care. I wasn’t expecting all sunshine and roses, but I am thrilled at how well things have gone.
And so today, I share the same recommendation that I did last month: Look seriously, now, at moving your older loved one into a community where they can be catered to, 24 hours a day. They could be happier, and you may finally be able to put down that heavy stone you’ve been carrying.