Growing Older, Caring Well: Part 3 of 4

Growing Older, Caring Well: Part 3 of 4

Determining what living, care options work best for different situations

Maybe as you’re getting older you are starting to wonder what it might be like to move into a different kind of housing, or maybe you are starting to look at options for a loved one.

You might have a lot of questions: What are the possibilities? What would it be like to live in a different place? Would it be good for me (or my loved one)? 

Living arrangements for older adults fall into four general categories based on individual care needs.

1. Independent living

It could be that you’re still active and healthy and just starting to feel like you’re ready to downsize from the family home. Or maybe you’d like the opportunity to have more of a community of friends around. You might also like the idea of having someone else take care of things like yardwork, house cleaning and building maintenance.

If all of this sounds good and you’re fully independent (aside from a few minor medical needs), independent living might be perfect for you. It can range from apartment complexes or condos to free-standing retirement homes.

Independent living can be a good option if you or your loved one is lonely after losing a spouse or likes the idea of someone else cooking meals every now and then. Or maybe you still travel quite a bit and like the idea of your home being secure while you’re away.

Jonathan Williams, director of marketing for the Oaks on Parkwood senior living in the Hoover area, said one of the things independent living residents love most is the community.

“Older adults who live alone often become isolated which isn’t healthy for anyone,” he said. “Once they move to independent living they enjoy having the opportunity to create new friendships and social connections, have someone to share a meal with and the ability to participate in activities they used to enjoy.”

2. Assisted living

If you think a little more help might be beneficial, assisted living may be the best option. In this setup you could have a private room or apartment (or share with a spouse or roommate, if you prefer) but have communal meals and activities. Assisted living facilities often also provide transportation and laundry services.

This can be a good option if you need help managing your medications, if cooking has become too difficult, if you can’t drive anymore or if you would feel safer knowing someone is there to respond 24 hours a day if you have a need. (Some retirement communities might also offer this kind of 24-hour response service.)

If you’re helping your loved one make a decision about assisted living, be sure to involve him or her and consider his or her preferences — assisted living facilities vary from place to place, and your loved one may want the one that most closely fits his or her perception of home.

Spend some time asking around and doing research, or perhaps even consider hiring a senior advocate to help you navigate and evaluate your choices. 

Another good idea is to check out a facility’s path for future care — such as what its long-term nursing care is like for when your loved one needs it one day. Many of these facilities also offer things such as Bible studies, art activities and scheduled outings for residents.

3. Specialty care assisted living (memory care)

If you or your loved one needs care for dementia-related needs this would be the best option to consider. It can offer structured activities geared for people with memory problems and secured areas to keep residents from wandering away.

4. Skilled nursing care

This type of housing can come as a private or shared room and offers the most involved level of care to its residents.

If you need assistance with eating or getting out of bed this might be the best option. This is also a good option if you need short-term rehab after a fall or illness or if you need need services like wound care or pain management.

If you are wondering if this might be the right kind of care for a loved one talk with his or her doctors to ask what kind of care they suggest based on your loved one’s health needs.

Jamie Wise, administrator of the Oaks at Parkwood, said at their facilities the entire staff is actively involved to help residents and families know when they might benefit from a higher level of care.

“Whether this is housekeeping, dietary, maintenance, etc., if our staff sees someone who has shown any signs of decline, they report that to their department manager who brings that information to daily management meetings,” she said. “As the administrator I then contact the family to initiate conversation on ways we can be of assistance — for example, resources such as sitters or discussion of a higher level of care in assisted living or memory care.” (Grace Thornton)


How one daughter found the perfect fit for her aging mother

Jennie Gibbs promised her parents a while back that, whatever the future held, she would do the best she could to leave them in their home environment until she thought the risks were too great for them to stay.

That’s what they’d said they wanted, and Gibbs — an only child — wanted to respect their wishes.

But then it got to a point where her mother, Ruth Vaught, needed more care and security than Gibbs was able to offer her at her home. Six years after Gibbs’ father died her mother fell and broke her hip.

Finding the right place

“When mother returned to her home we were faced with the fact that she was no longer safe,” said Gibbs, who along with her parents has been a lifelong member of Hueytown Baptist Church in Bessemer Baptist Association. 

After talking with people and researching all of their options Gibbs decided the Oaks at Parkwood in Bessemer was the right place for her mom to live — independently, but cared for.

“When the day came for her to go she was very upset and unwilling,” Gibbs said.

But as the family prayed for peace of mind and comfort and continued to step forward with the plan the day went smoothly.

“As soon as we walked in the door she was invited to eat lunch,” Gibbs said. “She has never looked back. Mother loves the fact that she has almost total independence … but that someone else does the cooking and cleaning and provides activities for her as she chooses.”

Vaught says she feels like a queen and comments constantly on how blessed she is.

“You just know when it is time for a parent to move,” Gibbs said. “During this time, you have to stay open and honest and explain everything.”

‘Great move’

It’s turned out to be a great move for their family, she said. Vaught has made many new friends and enjoys the benefits of her assisted living situation — things like weekly housekeeping and laundry, transportation, cooked meals and planned activities and cultural and recreational programs.

“Mother’s health, demeanor and all-around behavior speaks for itself. At 85 years old she is fantastic,” Gibbs said. “Since mother is good I am at peace. It allows me to go to work every day and bed every night knowing she is well taken care of.” (Grace Thornton)

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