"Picture the scene: parents aren't eating properly, they have deteriorated medically, the bills aren't paid, the mail has piled up, the laundry isn't done, clutter is everywhere."
These are "typical crises" that prompt adult children to "run to put them (their parents) in assisted living prematurely," says J. Donna Sullivan, LCSW, and Director of Older Adult Services for the Scarsdale and Edgemont Family Counseling Service. "It's premature," she says, "because their parents could continue to live fairly independently for another 5-6 years if they took advantage of services that are available in almost all communities."
"What I've seen most is the deterioration of older people's health because they're physically not able to get to doctors or dentists or get their hearing aid batteries...There are services to assist them with meals, transportation, with housekeeping--but they're not getting them. The bills aren't paid and the mail piles up because they can't see well and need new glasses and ultimately it gets to crisis mode. These older people need care management, not assisted living."
It's common knowledge that most people who can remain in their own homes as they age do better. Why?
- Home is an anchor offering comfort and the familiar.
- Feelings of independence and self-worth remain in tact.
- The familiar neighborhood often still provides connections with others.
- The well-known physical structure of the home instills the confidence to move about freely within its walls, contributing to mobility and physical well-being unless stairs are an issue.
This probably means it's in most aging parents' best interest when we can help them remain in their homes as long as possible (and it will no doubt make us happier too). Thus, we may need to find out more about--then use--some of the new technology featured in the last two posts, as well as older technology like the pendant one pushes in an emergency.
If this doesn't seem doable, your parent's doctor should know the kind of living situation most suitable for your parents; or a social worker or a geriatric care manager can assess your aging parent's situation and make recommendations.
Knowing how important "home" is, raises 3 important questions:
- "Is it better to respect parents' wishes about where they live--even if it makes it more difficult for us?
- "How can we make it work?"
- "If we can't make it work, how do we--and our parents--go about finding a suitable living situation elsewhere?
"Elsewhere" will be addressed in this coming Saturday's post.