Several years ago, my mom made a decision that would change how she lived out the rest of her life. Following a lot of family discussions, research, and tears, she made the move to an independent living community.
My mom and dad raised my brothers and me in a small-ish (population: 29,000) southern town. She could drive anywhere she wanted. She had been active in our church for more than twenty years. She had the same doctors through the years who knew every ache and pain that she’d experienced. Her circle of friends was rooted in shared experiences in the town. It was where she thought she would live until she died. Then my dad passed away suddenly at 57 from a massive heart attack and, eventually, my brothers and I moved to different states. In 2001, my mom felt she needed to be close to one of us so she moved into a condo just a few miles from me.
“It took a long time to pack and decide what I could live without,” she recalls. “I had the hardest time trying to figure out where to give stuff away to. I had a garage sale to help. Physically, the move was really hard but I was excited about moving.” Although she had left everything familiar to her and was starting from scratch, she seemed to thrive in her new home.
Then the health problems started and I found myself moving more into the role of caregiver. I was happy to play that role but my mom, of course, hated having to depend on me. It was a blow to her independence. “I’m not used to that,” she says. “I don’t like people having to take care of me.”
We did get over the hurdle of that period but mom had already begun considering a move to independent living. My brothers and I were supportive of her. In fact, we knew that it was important to let her make the decision to move. We were happy to help her tour communities and do research but she needed to be in charge of making the decision.
As we quickly found out, the search for the perfect place was a little overwhelming. Pricing, location, amenities, floor plans, ambiance, benefits, etc. became part of our daily thoughts and conversations. There was also the matter of what type of community – independent only or multi-level care. There were a couple of communities where she and I wanted to immediately turn right back around and leave because they just didn’t suit her. In the end, mom decided on a smaller, brand new independent living community located in a growing bedroom town a short drive from me.
She says, “It wasn’t hard to make the decision because I felt like it was the right thing to do. But when it was getting close to the actual move, I cried for two weeks. I didn’t want to give up my life.”
Once she made the move, though, she quickly settled in to the new lifestyle. “There was a sense of freedom with it being smaller. I got acquainted with the other residents right away. I feel like I’m healthier and more sociable,” she notes. “I see people on a daily basis and fellowship with them at supper. When I lived in the condo, I sometimes didn’t see people every day. I feel like I made the right decision.”
My brothers and I have a seen a marked improvement in her health since she made the move. We also feel confident in knowing that she is safe. For me, I love joining her and her friends for dinner and feel part of a larger family when I’m there. It’s so much fun to watch her walk through the lobby or dining room and see her engage with the people around her. Most importantly, I love seeing her thrive once again. And, truth be told, mom loves it as well.
Here are some things to consider:
- If they are able, let the parent or loved one make the decision to move into a community. Be supportive of that decision.
- Decide what type of community is best. Visit this resource to read about senior living options.
- Make a list of the most important items to look for such as price, location, and size.
- Visit a number of communities that meet the list.
- Ask if you can have a meal in the dining room
- Ask if there is a guest suite or room that you can stay in for a few days to get a feel for the environment
- Ask to speak to current residents for their feedback
- Make a list of amenities and features that are important to you. For instance, do you need transportation, what are the dining options, is there a fitness room?
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The knowledge of the sales people for communities is invaluable!
Julie Dowd is Communications Specialist for Blakeford, Inc. In her role, she is responsible for delivering a consistent brand message throughout the Blakeford campus and general community through social media marketing, publicity, internal communication vehicles, and new media opportunities.