Living Out the Golden Years: How to Choose the Right Care and Housing Options for Seniors
Keeping aging loved ones happy and safe while respecting where they want to live can be a serious challenge.
“They’re still adults, so unless it’s determined they are a danger to themselves or others, their rights and desires have to be honored,” says Scott Emch, director of Friendship at Home, which provides one-on-one, non-medical assistance to seniors in their own homes.
Physical limitations such as difficulty climbing stairs, diminishing eyesight or balance issues can be obvious, but symptoms of cognitive decline can be trickier to spot.
“There are physical and cognitive tests that can be done to determine how safe it is for someone to remain in their home,” says Emily Smith-Conlon, sales director for Friendship Village of Dublin, which is affiliated with Friendship at Home.
If such tests indicate in-home help or relocation to a senior care facility is needed, take action.
“The earlier the better for everyone involved—especially your loved one,” says Greg Cini, president and owner of Kemper House, a memory care community in Worthington. “This is a harsh reality, and often the person dealing with it is unaware of the severity. Let your loved one know you are all in this together and you are there to support their needs, whatever they look like.”
Just be prepared for some hesitation from your aging loved one, cautions Smith-Conlon.
“It can be scary to give up a task or activity that they have always done for themselves,” she explains. “Focus on what can make life easier for them so they can maintain their independence. Help doesn’t have to mean that things are being ‘taken away.’ It can simply mean that your loved one is gaining back time to commit to doing other things.”
Whether they’re able to stay in their own home, are ready for the resort-like living common to most senior independent living communities today or need a care option that’s a little more hands-on, the options for seniors are plentiful.
In-home care can include whatever is needed, but often includes light housekeeping, meal prep, laundry, fall prevention, help with hygiene, grocery shopping, pet care, companionship and even transportation to medical appointments and social outings, says Emch.
“We do dog walking, grocery shopping and would even transport somebody to a bridge game if that was part of their routine,” Emch says.
Communities like Danbury Senior Living, Friendship Village of Dublin and others offer various levels of care—which may include fully independent apartments that range from basic to luxury, assisted living apartments, skilled nursing care and/or memory care—and typically include robust programming for residents.
“We invest heavily in daily life-enriching activities like interactive music programs, art and cooking classes, gaming and learning events, group and individual fitness programs, excursions to places like farmers markets, restaurants, museums, historical locations and so on,” Cini says.
Friendship Village of Dublin is a not-for-profit Life Plan community, meaning residents have access to whatever level of care is required throughout their life at a predictable cost.
“We often [encourage] seniors to move when they can still enjoy the lifestyle of a community while having the peace of mind that care will be available when they need it,” Smith-Conlon says. Friendship Village offers more than 100 activities per month and has a pool, two fitness centers, a salon and day spa, four restaurants, numerous gardens and walking paths.
Finding the Right Fit
Having so many choices is helpful, but it can also seem overwhelming.
“Trust your gut,” Smith-Conlon says. “You know your loved one the best and if the first type of care you try doesn’t work out, that’s OK.”
If the situation permits, start slow and gradually introduce the idea of having assistance.
“We all hate change, especially if it is forced on us,” Cini says. “Be empathetic to that and take smaller steps toward getting your loved one comfortable. For example, have the in-home caregiver help only with laundry or cooking a meal and going for a walk. Let the relationship build slowly.” If your loved one balks at the idea of moving to a senior community, try visiting first for a meal or event, he adds.
“Look for a community that feels like home to your loved one; some places will feel more like a fit than others,” adds Smith-Conlon. “Most importantly, look into the reputation and background of the community, the satisfaction of the residents and the training of the staff.”
Senior Living is a Special Advertising Section that appears in the October 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.