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Moving Out of Your Home?

Posted 6/15/2018 by UHBlog

Change is rarely easy, but transitioning to a senior living community may be the best move you can make. Ask us if you’re concerned about your current living situation or that of someone you love.

Young carer walking with the elderly woman in the park

There’s a perception that folks over age 65 move to senior living communities because they’re too frail to take care of themselves, but that’s often not the case.

“Sometimes seniors move because they want more social interaction,” says geriatric medicine specialist Taryn Lee, MD. “I almost think about going to a senior living community as being at a resort all the time. There are exercise classes, art classes, singing, field trips, and meals are included.”

Of course, there are other reasons seniors move – whether it’s to an independent living development, an assisted living community or a long-term care facility.

According to Dr. Lee, these may include:

  • Foreclosure
  • A house that's too large to maintain
  • A lack of handrails, grab bars, a walk-in shower or other devices necessary for a person at risk of falls
  • Too many stairs to navigate
  • Cognitive decline that makes it impossible for someone to bathe, pay bills, cook, take medications or perform other activities of daily living safely
  • A senior, who requires ongoing care, is uneasy about having a stranger (such as a home-health aide) in the house
  • Loneliness

Still, many seniors resist relocating because change can be difficult. The move may represent downsizing and they may lament not being able to take all of their belongings with them. Others may not want to move to a senior living community because it signifies they’ve reached their golden years.

That’s why it’s important to choose the most appropriate type of living arrangement, such as:

  • Independent living. Generally speaking, residents come and go as they please, participate in activities or outings if they desire, prepare their own meals or join neighbors in the dining room. This is the least-expensive option because no medical care is involved.
  • Assisted living. This usually includes two meals a day and a nurse often manages medications. Family members can pick up residents for outings. Add-on services are available, such as hiring an aide to help a person dress or bathe. Some facilities allow families to hire a 24/7 aide. Although it incurs an additional expense, this allows some seniors to remain in assisted living while replicating, to some degree, long-term care. Most assisted living facilities don’t accept Medicaid, so expenses are paid out of pocket.
  • Long-term care. This is the traditional nursing home model, which is subject to regulations and reserved for folks needing 24/7 care because of a physical or mental impairment. It is more costly, but Medicaid is accepted once the individual becomes financially eligible.

If a doctor and relatives agree it’s important for a senior to move, and the senior is resistant to the idea, Dr. Lee offers these 10 tips for concerned loved ones:

  1. Consider hiring a home-health aide for a few hours a day, moving in with your relative or inviting him to live with your family.
  2. Talk to Mom or Dad about your concerns, enlisting the help of your doctor, if necessary.
  3. Be patient. It may take several months or years for your loved one to warm up to the idea.
  4. Visit senior living communities together – even before the need for one arises. Stay for lunch and participate in an activity.
  5. Make sure the facility is accredited. Talk to the director of nursing and an administrator. What is the staff turnover?
  6. Expect some sadness on moving day. Help Mom or Dad decorate the unit or room with treasured photos, a favorite chair and knickknacks with sentimental value.
  7. Promise to visit often. If appropriate, tell them you will pick them up every Sunday for family dinner or every other Friday for a standing manicure appointment.
  8. Once your relative is settled, visit the facility at off-times, such as an afternoon weekday or after dinner, to ensure your loved one is receiving good care.
  9. Respect the staff. Advocate if necessary, but don’t turn into the bothersome relative the staff won’t want to interact with.
  10. Lose the guilt.

Taryn Lee, MD is a geriatrics medicine specialist and the Geriatrics Fellowship program director at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Lee or any other doctor online.

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