What Is The “Best” Way To Help Elderly Parents With The Move To Assisted Living?
Is there a best way to help your parents prepare to move into Assisted Living? This has been a topic of conversation more recently in so many circles. How to best help them downsize in anticipation of that move?
At the time we moved my mother into assisted living (her decision) it wasn’t a topic I’d heard much about and had no personal experience in that arena. She had been living on her own in her 2 bedroom duplex for multiple years after the death of my father. Basically she was very healthy so the subject of a move to assisted living had never come up. She still did all her own cooking, most of her own cleaning, drove her own car for short jaunts to the grocery, the drugstore, church and other local destinations.
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A Couple Trips To The Hospital
After two episodes of vertigo within a month, both resulting in ambulance calls and her being admitted to the hospital, she decided it was time to move to assisted living. While still in the hospital she enlightened me on her plans. Although she hadn’t told my siblings or I, she had placed her name on the waiting list for an apartment at the assisted living in her complex. She said they had transitional housing where she could stay upon her release from the hospital while we got her new apartment furnished and prepared for her. And, “oh, by the way? I think it’s probably time I give up driving,” she said. (She was 2 months shy of her 94th birthday at the time).
As the only one of her 4 children living within 100 miles of her at the time, the ensuing madness of the next two weeks belonged to me. Actually to The Husband and me. But largely me since The Husband was still working full time at his business and I was already retired.
A flurry of paperwork was completed between the doctors, assisted living administration, my mother and me. Everything was set. She was released from the hospital and set up in a transitional room in assisted living. These rooms are not unlike a hotel room. They are furnished so she needed only some clothing and personal items.
So Much To Do In 5 Days!
The next 5 days I drove each morning from my home 80 miles away, to spend the day packing and sorting through my mother’s household items and everything that represented her life. Initially I planned to have Mom there with me telling me what she wanted moved, what donated, what given to friends/family. That didn’t work well at all. She had just been released from the hospital and the enormity of the ensuing move was a bit overwhelming for her. So with the exception of phone calls and visits to get her input, the necessary decisions were left to me.
At that point I may have welcomed some of those articles that I now see. The ones that itemize the “how to’s” of downsizing your aging parents homes. Instead I just dug in. One foot in front of the other. One room at a time.
Antiques that had belonged to my grandparents already had homes with several of my siblings. Photos were taken by another sibling to be scanned and preserved digitally. Since she would no longer be doing her own cooking she needed only minimal kitchen items. Just enough for an occasional snack, morning coffee, etc. She chose wall hangings she wanted moved and we decided which pieces of furniture would fit in her new apartment. Once everything was removed that was going to the new apartment we were able to get a handle on just how much was left.
The Things That Family Did Not Want
Mom had a difficult time wrapping her head around the fact that none of the family wanted some of her items. For example, her complete set of china . She was sure that one of her kids, grandkids or great grandkids would want this set. No one did. She kept saying, “but it’s a complete set.” The “good china” just isn’t something that is used anymore and the younger generation have no interest in having items take up space in their homes if it isn’t something that will be used.
On the day the china was packed and ready to be taken to Value Village to be donated, a friend of a friend stopped by to check on the moving progress. This friend’s friend couldn’t believe her good fortune when I mentioned that the china was up for grabs. She was beyond delighted and took the entire set. As the saying goes, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Just have to get the right junk hooked up with the right person. Although still a bit disappointed that it hadn’t gone to a family member, my mother was delighted to hear that this young lady had been thrilled to get it.
After 5 days of sorting and packing the weekend was upon us and the troops arrived. The Husband, my adult son and daughter-in-law all had the weekend off and donated their weekend to the actual emptying of the house. First everything destined for the new apartment was moved. Next was everything that had another future “home” either with friends or family. Last came 5 Suburban loads destined for the donation center thrift store.
Making Her Own Decision
The upside for us was my Mother making her own decision about moving into assisted living and giving up driving. That particular part of the equation causes problems for so many families.
Thank you Mother for that.
Interestingly, even though this was her decision entirely, she did have a few “adjustment” issues. Change at that age isn’t easy for anyone it seems. Even when you are the one making your own decisions about the upcoming changes in your life.
My Gratitudes For Today
1 – The Husband and our kids/grandkids. They are the world to me.
2 – My Mother who is still healthy, involved and nearing her 97th birthday.
3 – The sunshine today. After two days of rain here in AZ, I’m sitting in the warmth of the sun writing to you.
4 – Pets – even though we currently don’t have a pet of our own, we have grand pets and love them. Pets truly do become such an important part of our families.
5 – Really Good Teachers – What an amazing bunch of people!