Truer words were never spoken. Whether you live in a castle or a cabin, there is no place like home. Unfortunately, for some people, the time comes when it is necessary to make a move. Over the years, I have worked with many people while they were making this decision. I am convinced that, for some individuals, it is the most difficult decision they have ever had to make. Many elderly people have already experienced multiple losses in their lives. The loss of a spouse, a child or a friend is common among older adults. They have a strong desire to hold onto their homes which have provided them with comfort and security over the years. Also, their independence becomes extremely important to them. Having to leave their homes may also mean giving up their pets and their cars. It is understandable that this could be devastating for some people. No one can imagine this feeling unless he or she has personally experienced it.
Occasionally, I have residents who enter the Home because it was their plan to do so once they reached this stage of their lives. They don’t dwell on the past and their losses but look to make the best of the rest of their lives. They are true examples of aging gracefully. I hope when I reach that time of my life I will be as accepting of my situation as they are. Wish me luck!
The decision to move out of the home can be complicated and emotionally wrenching, not only for the individuals, but for the family and caregivers. It is difficult to acknowledge and accept that physical, emotional and mental changes have reduced their independence.
Before a decision is made, it should be recognized that loss of sight, hearing loss, memory loss, confusion, incontinence and depression are not normal aspects of aging. In many cases, these are conditions that can be corrected or improved when identified and treated.
The following checklist may help in evaluating the situation relative to older adults. Keep in mind that safety is the most important issue.
-Are they acting depressed and lonesome? Are they socially isolated?
-Are they becoming increasingly anxious about being alone? Do they want caregivers to stay with them and become clingy when they have to leave?
-Do they have an understanding of how to leave their home in an emergency?
-Do they wander away from their home?
-When they do go outside, do they know where they live and how to get back inside?
-Are they able to respond to a fire alarm, smoke or other potential dangers?
-Are they able to call for help by using the phone? Do they know how and when to dial 911 in an emergency?
-Are they able to handle their medications and take them as directed? Do they have frequent medical emergencies requiring immediate treatment?
-Do they have the proper judgment regarding who should and should not be let into their home?
-Can they safely prepare something to eat if they get hungry? Do they know how to use the stove and remember to turn it off?
-Are they able to use the bathroom and toilet without assistance? Are they able to take care of their own hygiene?
-Are they driving when they shouldn’t be? This, of course, is not only a danger to themselves, but to others.
-Are they able to manage their home and their bills?
Some of these issues and concerns can be managed by having caregivers come into the home. This strategy would be “ Plan A”. As needs increase, however, it becomes more difficult to handle the situation by simply using outside help. When the need for 24 hour supervision becomes necessary, it is usually the time to discuss leaving the home. Options would include living with family or entering an adult home or assisted living situation. This action would be “ Plan B”. Healthcare professionals and family play an important role in finding appropriate placement. It is also always preferable, when possible, to have the senior involved in determining his or her future. This helps one to maintain some sense of control and independence.
The good news is that from my observations, most seniors adjust well to “the move.” When they feel safe, comfortable, and their needs are being met, their lives become easier. Stress levels are decreased because their responsibilities have lessened. They are able to use their energy to enjoy life, their families and their friends. These positive outcomes help to make their lives the best they can be.
Submitted by Carol McKee, RN, Farrar Home Administrator 5/2013
Aging Gracefully articles can be found at www.farrarhome.org