The Art of Living

Obstacles, options, and opportunities for aging adults

The holidays can be a wonderful time to reconnect with family. They can also be a time that you might find out that Mom or Dad needs more help than before in preparing meals, or
that their house and yard have become too much for them to care for. Or that they are having difficulty remembering simple details.

“Pay attention to these simple warning signs,” says Marilyn Richards, director of community relations at Clare Bridge of Olympia. “These are good indicators that your loved one(s) should look into adult aging living options.”

Starting the Conversation
When it comes to helping your elderly loved one and broaching the next step in living options, Stella Henry, R.N., author of The Eldercare Handbook, says that many seniors unrealistically believe they can take care of themselves for the rest of their lives. And that’s where their children or other family members can be instrumental in identifying the problem and instigating change.

No matter what your parent’s age, Henry and other experts say that now is the time to begin communicating about the future. “If you open the lines of communication early on, it is an easier process overall,” says Donna Baker, General Manager of Colonial Inn of Olympia. “Not to mention, you want to start the conversation early so that the parent is making the decision rather than someone else. You want to avoid a situation where it comes down to a crisis state of affairs.” Baker continues, which could result in confused elders, disorganized yet well-meaning children, and a family in chaos.

Start the conversation with a list of questions such as these to assess the needs of your loved one:
• How many prepared meals will be needed each day?
• What type of services and health care will be needed?
• Is there a retirement or savings plan available? Long-term health insurance?

Assessing Options
Debbie Baker, Director of Community relations at the Weatherly Inn Tacoma, outlines the following five factors to consider with your parents when evaluating living options:

Location: It is best to look first at options in close proximity to your home. Your aging parents may want some privacy, but this does not mean they want isolation.

Budget: Retirement communities can be expensive, but by evaluating all your resources and needs you will be able to make educated decisions. Keep in mind that in Washington, facilities see a 2–4 percent average annual rate increase, which should be planned into your budget.

Facilities: Will the facility provide daily meals? If so, how many? Before signing any papers, evaluate the charges associated with the overall package such as insurance, gardening services, laundry, country club memberships, home maintenance and trash collection.

Amenities: Consider options that support your parents’ current activities: exercise, hobbies, doctor’s appointments, shopping and health care needs. Is there a level of care that supports their needs?

People: Tour the facilities and get a feel for the people that live and work there. Can you imagine your parents being happy there?

Because your parents have always been there for you, it is time to return the same kindness. Help them become educated about the options available, early on, so they will find the best retirement community or assisted living facility to meet their needs.

LEAH GROUT