The Senior Community Dilemma
One of the tougher dilemmas caregivers face is deciding whether to admit their loved ones into an assisted living facility. You may be grappling with finding the right one. Or you may be considering continuing to providing care at home. Either way, there’s likely much confusion and difficulty with making the choice.
Caring for an elderly loved one is a sacred responsibility. On one hand, you don’t want to institutionalize someone you care so much about. This is especially true if you perceive the move to reflect on your competency and willingness to provide care.
Yet, on the other hand, you realize that the level of care and knowledge such a facility offers is unparalleled. And who perhaps this may just be in your loved one’s best interests.
Understanding the nature of senior housing and its services vis-à-vis seniors may help you make a more informed decision.
So this post will examine the subject from multiple angles.
The Importance of Empathy
The first step in approaching the senior community question is empathy. Empathy means attempting to see the situation from your loved one’s position as if you were him or her.
One good way to do this is by having a conversation with your loved one and listening. Just make sure to listen with the intention of taking on their view of their experience. The first thing you may notice is how different you may see things from your loved one’s vantage point.
While moving may still be a tough thought, it may become clear that much of your original concern was actually your own fears, assumptions, and insecurities. Or, it may become obvious that your loved one has serious concerns about such an arrangement that you didn’t notice.
Either way, taking on a broader perspective with your loved one’s perception and interest at center stage is a vital starting point. This process can either guide you to ask the important questions at hand or eliminate questions entirely.
So step 1 is entering your loved one’s mind.
Social Life at Senior Communities
A central feature of senior communities is the community aspect, which, of course, means a new social environment. Carroll and Qualls1 speak to this point and illustrate how some residents struggle with the change of moving into a senior community while others look forward to the friendships. “A particular new challenge is navigating the social world within the elder housing setting, while maintaining external relationships,” they write.
To deal with this phenomenon efficiently and minimize loneliness for your loved one, the researchers stress on the importance of frequent contact with social network members and other residents:
“When social support is lacking, people feel lonely …. Quality relationships within the social network (children, neighbors, and close friends) are closely connected to decreased feelings of loneliness (Mullins, 1990). Frequent contact with these key social network members is pertinent to the older adult’s well- being. Following a move to elder housing, frequent contact with neighbors within the facility, who have the potential to become close friends, may decrease loneliness (Mullins, 1990).”
Social factors are, therefore, a primary focus to take into account when choosing a senior home for your loved one. You want to find out about the facility’s programs and philosophy of the subject. At Bridgeway of Bensenville, for example, we offer enhanced cultural, social and educational programs. We provide the comforts of home and a social lifestyle of friendship, security, care-free community environment with an abundance of activities because of the high priority we place on your loved one’s social environment.
How does your loved one take to social relationships? Would they appreciate getting to know new people and making additional friendships. If they would, can they find it at the facility you’re looking considering?
So step 2 is determining the best option for your loved one’s social life.
Cognitive Considerations and Exercise
Cognitive decline is a major concern for seniors and their families. A team of researchers2 led by Jennifer C. Davis set out to test the efficacy of a specific exercise training program along with a balance and tone program in terms of how it benefited a group of community-dwelling senior women cognitively and economically 12 months after completion of the program.
They found that resistance training once a week provides cognitive and economic benefits even a year after termination of the program. This can mean fewer falls and lower health costs. In the words of the researchers, “this novel finding strengthens the emerging belief that targeted exercise training may combat age-related decreases in cognitive function.”
On a simple level this means that your loved may benefit from similar exercise programs at assisted living facilities that offer such services.
So, make sure to ask about exercise services before making the move. At Bridgeway, we proudly offer exercise and wellness programs and would be more than happy to discuss the suitability of these programs to your loved one’s specific health needs.
So step 3 is evaluating your loved one’s health needs and how the facility’s services match up.
Clearing some of the confusion around senior living and memory care along with adopting an empathic stance will help you make a more informed decision when it comes to considering a facility for your loved one. Weighing the benefits of the specific facility in terms of social considerations and exercise and wellness programs along with other amenities can help you understand the contribution and impact that such a move will have on your loved one’s wellbeing.
And always make sure to discuss your concerns and needs with the facility’s staff. At Bridgeway of Bensenville we’re excitedly awaiting your phone call.
1 2013, as cited in Carroll, Jocelyn, and Sara Honn Qualls. 2014. “Moving into Senior Housing: Adapting the Old, Embracing the New.” Generations 38 (1): 42–47
2 Davis, Jennifer C., Carlo A. Marra, B. Lynn Beattie, M. Clare Robertson, Mehdi Najafzadeh, Peter Graf, Lindsay S. Nagamatsu, and Teresa Liu-Ambrose. “Sustained cognitive and economic benefits of resistance training among community-dwelling senior women: a 1-year follow-up study of the Brain Power study.” Archives of internal medicine 170, no. 22 (2010): 2036-2038.