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 moved to an independent living community.
My mom and dad raised my brothers and me in a small-ish (population: 29,000) southern town. Mom 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. I had a garage sale to help. Physically, the move was tough, 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.”
The Search Begins
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. We knew that it was important to let her decide 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 my mom and I wanted to immediately turn right back around and leave because they 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 decide because I felt like it was the right thing to do. However, when it was getting close to the actual move, I cried for two weeks. I didn’t want to give up my life.”
After the Move
Once she made the move, though, she quickly settled into 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 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. Moreover, mom loves it as well.
For Your Consideration
Here are some things to think about if you or your loved one are beginning your search:
- If they are able, let the parent or loved one decide to move into a community. Be supportive of that decision.
- Decide what type of community is best. There are several options such as Independent Living and Continuing Care Retirement Communities.
- Make a list of the most critical items to look for such as price, location, and size.
- Visit some 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!
Our team is a great place to get started in the process. Connect with them here.
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.