May 19, 2013

Aging Parents: The Emotional Side of Moving a Parent to a Senior Care Facility

Caring for aging parents is something we all face at some point in our lives, but it can happen so suddenly that you feel like you've just jumped on a roller coaster. The time has come that my mom needs to move into a skilled nursing facility, but I am blessed to have a husband who works at such a facility. So we are busy helping my parents prepare to move to Utah.

Imagine being able to ask the man you sleep with any question you have about senior care, and getting an immediate response. I can't say enough about Brad. I am truly blessed.

As a child, guilt creeps in as you consider these life altering changes for a parent. I can't imagine how my Dad feels as a spouse moving my mom to "that place." But we keep reminding ourselves that the extra care she needs is there and we physically can't do it all by ourselves. He has been amazing to work with on the preparations for both of them. And I have loved our visits on the phone where he shares memories and wisdom.

Dad is moving into a senior apartment in the building next door to Mom's skilled nursing facility so he can visit her every day. We are excited for that. And they can attend the same church branch (ward) together without him needing to take her in a car. How I love Utah!

My big sister who lives a few miles from my parents in Oregon, has been helping me figure out how to make this all happen with the least amount of stress possible for my parents. I am grateful for her. Support from family is so necessarry at times like this.

My parents are originally from Utah, so they are actually coming home. There are several relatives still here in the Salt Lake Valley and Utah is the crossroads for my out-of-state siblings as well. And my Dad is an amazing family historian and will love being close to the Family History Library; the largest library of its kind in the world.

Because this is a multi-care campus, as my father advances in age he can get the help he needs by moving to the other buliding and not have to make The Big Move again. He can move to the assisted living floor, get rehab and eventually to the skilled nursing facility if needed. I will be 25 minutes away, but it's a relief to know my husband works in the same facility 5 days a week.

I've learned that taking many visits beforehand to the facility you have chosen, really helps. I've made so many visits that on my last trip a woman in the senior apartments asked me if I was moving in! I told her I was looking for a place for my dad and she said, "I thought you were a bit young."

My first visit brought out all of my fears and emotions. No place could ever be good enough for my parents. Especially when their current home is just perfect for them. But my husband kept reassuring me it would be just fine. The key is focusing on the parent, and not on your own feelings. These types of changes are always hard on children of aging parents.

I remember looking at the senior apartments for Dad. I was critical and paid attention to details like "those plants need some water" and "that carpet looks a bit worn." I tried to imagine him eating lunch and dinner in the dining room with all these "old people." He has always been so strong and independent even at 80. My saving grace was the employees and how kind and attentive they were to the residents. As I watched them serve food and interact I could feel a warm, welcoming spirit.

The second time I visited the senior apartments I measured rooms. I tried to imagine my Dad there with his dog. Could his sofa fit on this wall? Could the picture that currently hangs over their fireplace hang here? How would we set up his office? He definitely wasn't going to need his king-sized bed.

On my visit to the room chosen for my mom, I passed several old people in wheelchairs in the halls. Why were they cluttering the halls? I talked with a nurse and she said they liked getting out of their rooms because they don't want to be in them all day. That was exactly what I would have done if I had been in their situation. As I explained to the nurse what care my mom needed, I felt as if I was apologizing for it. And the nurse confidently said, "That's what we do. We take care of all of that." I love that nurse. Nurses and CNA's are special people with Christlike hearts and hands.

When I looked in Mom's room for the first time, I could only think hospital. It was not at all like her current bedroom with the Shirley Temple dolls on the dresser and Shirley pictures on the walls. It was missing her dresser and the old sewing machine table with the T.V. on top. I tried to image her things in the room, and suddenly saw my mom's sweet face with her familiar gentle smile. (Tears.) So amiable, yet frail at 82. I lifted my shoulders. We would make this room homey and lovely. It just needed some familiar touches. The Shirley Temple pictures were moving in.

By the third visit I had come to grips with this being the place for both of them. I spent time walking around the grounds, and it was lovely! How had I overlooked the beauty of the grounds on my other visits? There were lots of shade trees on the west side and vegetable boxes residents could work on in another garden. And a beautiful walking path all around the parking lot with more gardens. There was also a pretty pioneer home across the street.

I looked over the activities schedule and loved it! My Mom would be doing more and my Dad would be with her. A sigh of relief. All will be well.

3 comments:

  1. As we had to move my husbands mother into assisted care, we went and visited over 22 facilities before we narrowed it down to 2 that felt the most 'comfortable'. It was very difficult for everyone, mostly mom, who was defiant and difficult. She has been there a year now, has become a happy person once again, talking to new 'old' friends, and playing her bingo games. It has been a blessing knowing that caring arms are there to lift and caring people are there to help watch and suggest. The fact is, it is just plain hard to see our parents come full circle and become the 'children' or child-like that we never saw growing up. But such is life. She still has a smile to offer and sometimes some pretty stale or old cookies (which she refuses to throw out),but we take them with a smile and then discard on our way out !!

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  2. It's hard for parents to accept the fact that they're getting older, but open communication can usually keep relationships intact through the transition. And I agree, visiting the care facilities by yourself and with your parents is a good way to ease them into the idea. If you're transparent about what you're thinking, they'll be open and honest back. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Jenn | http://www.comforcare.com

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