Putting a loved one in a nursing home is a difficult decision regardless of the circumstances. In the case of Alzheimer’s, most research shows that at some point in the progression of the disease a nursing home becomes the right decision for the family in Cedar Grove. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are nearly 2 million people currently living in some form of nursing home. Over 90% of these residents are over 65 years old and most require 24 hour supervision due to some physical limitation or dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is an extremely sad and difficult condition to work with. This disease is very difficult on the family members in Cedar Grove. Just thinking that as the days slip by your aging loved one will soon become more and more distant. This can be very depressing and an emotional time for most family caregivers. Besides the common emotion of depression, most family members often feel angry, frustrated, and even at a loss for words.
I think that, as a group, seniors are some of the most surveyed folks out there. Being in the senior home care business I am more acutely aware of the surveys then the normal person and like to see how the results of those surveys match up to my personal experiences.
More times then not the results do not go beyond the numbers to the underlying cause and effect or at least the feelings of those being surveyed. In a recent survey it was reported that over 80% of seniors would rather live out the rest of their days in the own home and not in an assisted living or similar facility. That's really not breaking news but it started me thinking about why the seniors are so motivated to stay in their home.
I started doing some research by going over my notes from prospective client families, care recipients and also our wonderful care givers. So I have come up with seven reasons why seniors want to stay in their home. These seven do not have real defined borders and have branches or even roots in other reasons.
- Comfort. This reason really bleeds over into the others as well but the senior is comfortable in the house where they have lived for many years. The TV is just the right distance from their chair and doesn't have any reflections on it, they know the HVAC system and where it needs to be for comfort, they have spent years getting the furniture the right size and in the right place. So why should they leave.
- Safety. Now at first glance this might be a reason for going into assisted living but most seniors feel safer at home. They know the sounds of the neighborhood, when neighbors come home and when they leave and most can move around their house and even their yard blindfolded. We have a 94 year old client who is almost totally blind and lives by herself but she knows where everything in her house is, even her meds. She has her morning meds in one location and the bottles are arranged in a specific way and the evening meds are in another location. She feels safe in her environment.
- Memories. They have experienced the entire fabric of life in their home. Birthdays, holidays, including dry turkeys, disappointments and celebrations, medical issues, retirement, aging and death. The home has been the foundation of all that has gone on and they don't want to walk away.
- Independence. From pre-teen years we all strive to achieve independence and now that the senior has had it for so many years they guard it with all the vigor they can muster. If the car keys were taken from the senior earlier then this is the last vestige of independence. Note to family: rescinded driving privileges will be the biggest fight but the home is second.
- Cost. Assisted living expenses can run as much as $4,000 plus a month so staying in one's home can be quite a savings. Add to that the possibility of a reverse mortgage and their monthly bills can be reduced but things like a gardener, pest control, etc have to be managed.
- Network. This term might be used with younger folks but even my 94 year old client has a network...a social network of neighbors and friends who check on her and bring her treats. Many times these social networks are shattered when the senior moves to assisted living. My mother-in-law who lives with us still talks about neighbors she had ten years ago. Don't discount these social connections.
- Family. Many times the family home is just that and there are extra bedrooms for visiting family members. Children of the senior can visit and bring their kids and now you have three generations staying connected in a home environment, not just visiting grandma at an assisted living facility.
Back in the day there were only two choices for seniors and that was stay in their home or live with the children. Now there are so many more choices up to and including resort like living where you eat all your meals in a nice restaurant environment. The choice we made was to have my mother-in-law live with us, it just made sense and we felt better about it. But the transition wasn't easy, especially for mom. But over the years she has settled in and knows exactly how many steps it is from her room to the bathroom.
It is important to hold family meetings with the senior included to discuss how it will work and if additional in home help will be needed for a portion of the day. In home care can make everyone more at ease if it is decided that the senior will be allowed to stay in their home.
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I thought we had a contract, reverse parenting so to speak. I look after you and you look after me when the time comes for reciprocation. For some of you I'm sure it would be considered a selfish expectation of my children. I don't think so; because it is a contract we formed when each of them was born. Their precious little lives belonged to me; their fate in my hands until they reached adulthood and could fend for themselves.
When I held them in my arms, our silent contract and bond was forged. We became dependent on one another, in my mind our lives would be forever intertwined. I looked after them at the most vulnerable parts of their lives and at some point I trusted they would do the same for me, their protector, their confidante, loving friend and mother. I thought we had a contract.
My children were my life. I took care of them and answered their every need. How could I deny them? Being a parent can be a thankless job. When they were hurt, I was there to render my love, attention and an occasional trip to the hospital. My dedication to them for their well-being never wavered. I thought we had a contract.
I take care of you my children until you can discern the world for yourselves and when I begin to age and my mortality becomes something that can no longer be ignored, my hope has been and is that you will honor our contract initiated at your birth.
The silent pact I made with my children has now been consummated. I find myself dependent on them, trusting their judgment and compassion as they did with me. They are now in control of my life, where I live, what I wear and even my finances. My mental state, despite my stroke was left intact without any effects on my speech, but only my will to walk, to be back in control of my life. My will to be me still prevails despite the living arrangements and choices my children have made for me.
I have to believe that I exist occasionally in thought as proven by the infrequent visits of my family and friends. There are many days that loneliness becomes a burden. I feel that I am slowly becoming only a memory not only to my family, but also to those who mattered to me most before my sequestration in this place. So, I wait. The time spent disconnected and suspended by emptiness gives one ample time to ponder life as it is and what it was.
I suppose the easy thing to do would be to give up, succumb to this dreadful existence. My children come see me when they can. I can no longer choose how frequently I see them, my family members or friends. I no longer have that choice.
The fact still remains, I want to go home. For living here for me is not living. I wish to discuss the terms of this contract, but as each day passes it does not appear a negotiation is possible. My children seem oblivious to my plight.
They are comfortable with the obligatory visitations on those special days of the year when family is supposed to draw near. So, I wait and fill my empty moments with memories as a little of myself is given up to the scheduled daily tasks of the staff. I am slowly coming to terms with my situation because it's binding and for me, one sided. I thought we had a contract...
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