Is Community Living Right for Your Elderly Parent?

Is Community Living Right for Your Elderly Parent?

Advantages of senior living facilities

Caring for an older mother or father can be a challenge, both physically and mentally. But if the parent lives in a continuing care retirement community, the stress of caregiving can be eased for family members.

“Living in a continuing care retirement community is a gift of security for children,” says Kim Peters, a social services associate at Kendal at Oberlin, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Oberlin, Ohio. “They have peace of mind knowing their parents are living in a home equipped with an emergency call system and medical care.”

A CCRC, also called a life plan community, offers a continuum of services, from independent living to assisted and skilled nursing. The community includes a range of medical services, such as nursing, physical therapy, podiatry and counseling, and many amenities, such as transportation, housekeeping, fitness classes and nutritious meals.

“This on-campus support is a boon to family members, especially if they live out of town or have demanding jobs,” Peters says. “When family members visit, they are able to spend their time doing valuable and enjoyable activities rather than tending to tasks, such as coordinating and transporting to and from appointments.”

Also, family members don’t have to worry that their parent is becoming isolated or lonely because of physical or mental limitations.

“Friends and neighbors are just outside their door, available to talk, have coffee or share a meal,” Peters says.

There are many public areas in which residents can interact at CCRCs; for example, Kendal includes a library, woodshop, art studio, benches around the walkway and ponds, swimming lap and therapy pools, and many comfortable indoor sitting areas to listen to music, work on a puzzle, or visit with friends.

“The strength of our CCRC is that there are built-in environmental opportunities to socialize,” Peters says.

Another stressor for family caregivers is coordinating medical care for an aging parent.

For instance, a parent is diagnosed with a tumor and a specialist recommends surgery or another procedure, but the parent is also dealing with other medical issues. When a parent is at a CCRC, the on-site medical team can help the family sort through the risks and benefits of treatment.

As an example, Kendal also has a “wellness partner” program. Residents assist other residents who are single or live far from family and may need another set of ears and eyes when visiting a doctor or dealing with other medical issues. If needed, the partner can serve as a liaison with family members.

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Whether you are taking care of a parent who is living at home or in a retirement community, Peters offers the following tips for all caregivers:
  • Find or create time in your day for pockets of alone time that are pleasurable, such as getting up 15 minutes early to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.
  • Remember your caregiving is a temporary situation and it will end someday.
  • Look for moments of joy while caregiving, such as listening to music together or giving a hand massage or bubble bath.
  • Don’t be afraid to accept or ask for help. Make a list of chores you are comfortable delegating, such as grocery shopping or weeding.
  • Consider respite care for your loved one. Many skilled nursing centers offer temporary care so caregivers can take a vacation, attend a wedding or just have a break from caregiving.

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