What Happens When Mom Can’t Live at Home Anymore?

Holy crap, I knew this was going to happen someday, but not yet, please not now. When my mom was admitted to the hospital for emergency back surgery, I had no idea she would never go home. Most of the time, we don’t plan on the worst-case scenario. In her case, she was medically fragile, so we knew there were risks, but living in a skilled nursing facility for months, in and out of the hospital for the next few years, assisted living, moving into an apartment who knew. I am not sure anyone could have prepared me for this. Still, I would love to share some of my experience in this arena to help you navigate the ups and downs of life-changing events when it comes to supporting your parents in an alternate living environment.

Top Five Red Flags in a Home Living Environment

  • Accessibility, stairs, bathrooms, kitchen, and access in and out of the house
  • Proximity to services, medical, home repair, home care, groceries, etc.
  • Access to social activities and family
  • Financial 
  • Transportation

If you hear that inner voice telling you that your parents may be needing more help, you should listen. There is never a good time to talk to them about their plans, but you need to know what they are thinking. It’s only fair that the people who will be supporting them understand their wishes. As I said earlier, most of us don’t plan for the worst-case scenario, including the aging person. They go along making due not wanting to bother anyone or raise a red flag to need more help.

Five Ways to Prepare for the Future

  • Start small by selecting one place in the house to clean.
  • Ask them what they would want to do with their belongings. A good way is to label objects, so their wishes are clear.
  • Take note of favorite objects, clothing, etc. If they did need to move quickly, you would select items that are needed and wanted.
  • Sell unused items and create a fun savings account.
  • Keep family treasures and photos in a safe place. Photos can be an excellent way to hears stories from the past.

Moving from home to assisted living is a huge change. I was listening to an interview the other day, and the woman said, ” Most people wish they had moved twenty years ago. All they need is one friend, and they are off to the races.” My feeling is this move can be terrifying, lonely, confusing, and uncomfortable. When we moved my gram into independent living, I did everything I could think of to make her space pretty and inviting with the feeling of home. She said, “I guess this place is fine if you like this type of living.” I could not disagree; gram was not a cruise ship person.  Her entire life she was working and caring for others. She felt the most joy out of being productive versus spending time on leisure activities. Gram had lived in her home for almost fifty years, and she did not want to move. The thought of making new friends at ninety-eight years of age was not appealing. 

Five Tips When Moving to Assisted Living

  • How far is the room from the dining room activities, mailbox, outside door, etc.?  
  • How often will the staff be checking in on mom?
  • Does your mom need help with personal care, medications, laundry? If so, who will coordinate the schedule?
  • Who is my primary contact for getting updates on my mom’s care?
  • Keep records of all communication with staff and maintain a current care plan shared with staff and family.

What happens once you get settled? Well, there may be tasks you did not consider. For example, many units have small kitchens. Do you think your mom would like to prepare meals in her room? If so, someone will need to do some shopping. What if she has a doctor’s appointment? Who will take her if her family is not available? Can you get her set up with telehealth? Is she able to work the tv, phone, shower, stove, etc.? Test drive the apartment and make sure before you leave. You might think about getting her a tablet like the GrandPad for communication with friends and family. You can find more information at GrandPad.net. The ability to see someone on a tablet can be comforting when you cannot be there.

A move to assisted living affects the entire family. We were all accustomed to spending time with gram at her house.  Gram would not be able to go home again, so establishing a positive experience for her was so important. Encouraging her to take advantage of the facility and all it had to offer by doing activities with her. Even attending meals together and having family dinners in the private dining room made a difference. The other residents always noticed when her family showed up, which made her feel so special and loved beyond words!