With contributions by Eva Hutton, Marketing Director at Crestview Retirement Community & Jessica Garner, Community Resource Director at The Isle at Watercrest Bryan
I spoke with Eva Hutton, Marketing Director at Crestview Retirement Community, and Jessica Garner, Community Resource Director at The Isle at Watercrest Bryan about advice for families (or the seniors themselves) considering moving a loved one into a senior community. Hutton phrased this process in a wonderful way, “We’re here to get your loved one on the right seat on the bus … it means for example, if someone is in independent living and needs to be in assisted living, they are not living up to their potential.”
What type of services or levels of care are provided at facilities such as Crestview and The Isle?
Although each community may vary in the level of care provided, many provide:
• Independent Living
• Assisted Living
• Extended Care or Skilled Nursing
• Memory Care
Often seniors moving to Independent Living are very independent and some are even still working. These seniors are planning ahead, on their own terms. They are intentionally simplifying their lives; their time is spent now on the things they enjoy such as dining with friends, visiting with family, participating in book clubs and working. They live in a normal apartment, but with skilled staff on-site in case they do need extra care. Some communities, such as Crestview, provide a spiritual element of wellness with an on-site chaplain and chapel for all denominations.
Jessica and Eva both explained that their communities offer care ranging from minor to intensive, and always have trained staff on hand to assist with medication, meals, and getting dressed if necessary. Regular exercise, socialization and engaging activities are huge benefits of senior communities – activities a senior may not be engaging in at home otherwise.
When or how do you know when it’s time to move into a senior community?
Both Garner and Hutton agree; do not wait until an incident occurs that takes away a person’s choice to come to a senior community. If someone falls, breaks a hip and then has no choice but to move to assisted living, it’s no longer on their terms. “Rarely do you get families who come in that still have functional parents and are just planning ahead,” Garner said. “They almost always come in after some accident has occurred.”
“Universally, my residents tell me two things,” Hutton said. “They wish they wouldn’t have stressed about [moving here] so much, and that they wish they would have done it two years sooner.”
When they move to a senior community they immediately see the benefits; lack of home ownership concerns, worrying about yard work – all the burdensome things that are difficult to manage as we age.
Another issue with waiting? There are wait lists to get into some senior communities. If someone is 80 and it’s decided now’s the time to move in, they may not get the chance for another 12 months. Hutton says that is why thinking about this option before you’re ready to do it is extremely important.
How do you approach that conversation with your loved one and family?
Moving to a senior community isn’t “the end”. It’s actually where independence begins. Unfortunately, not everyone is always on the same page and that can be problematic. When family members disagree, it’s time to sit down and have a frank discussion before making any big moves. “If you wait, what happens is that mom falls and breaks a leg and ends up coming into skilled nursing,” Hutton said. “So, an event in their life has made them come in – it wasn’t a choice.”
Try laying out the facts and figures; how much the parent is spending on their home versus cost of home health aides versus cost to live in a community (where everything is taken care of). Visit communities, narrow those down and present that information to the family. Garner and Hutton both emphasize families come speak with them because they are there to walk you through your options. A senior community might not be the best choice. Bottom line: families need to come together and make the best decision for their loved one.
What are tips for transitioning from home to a senior community?
You may encounter obstacles. What freezes people in place often? Their stuff. Stuff is sentimental, and it’s hard to let go of those memories attached.“I’m going to write a book called What Do I Do with My Great Grandmother’s Baby Grand Piano,” Hutton joked. “Parents think that they want to pass things down to their kids because it means something to them, but do you want your mother’s china or silverware? Probably not these days.”
Take photos of cherished items and create an album so the memories remain, but they can physically let it go. Not letting go of things can keep your loved one from moving forward with their health and wellness. “There are many different resources in our community that we work with,” Garner said. “I always offer families that information, whether they use it or not.”
Relocation companies such as Caring Transitions specialize in senior relocation. They help haul possessions and setup online auctions for items and more. It‘s crucial that the family are actively involved in these processes, otherwise it will likely NOT be done. Garner also adds having all medical information updated, power of attorney in place and financial matters addressed so there are less things to worry about during transition. “Try to have a plan,” Garner said.
“[Many parents] try to take care of this while they’re still able,” Hutton said. “So they aren’t leaving it on top of their kids to do.”
How does this type of transition affect the child or spouse, and how can they better feel at ease about it?
Families want their loved one to take care of themselves more than anything, regardless of cost. There is relief because their loved one is being taken care of and they can focus back on their own lives. A big roadblock for some is the negative reputation that “nursing homes” acquired somewhere along the line. Isle at Watercrest Bryan and Crestview are not your typical nursing homes. These communities are not only for those who need extensive care, but also for independent retirees who want to downsize, socialize and have access to high-quality (and personalized) amenities right down the hall. These communities are like country clubs or cruise ships with a lot of options and attention to personal preferences.
Spouses may have a hard time moving their loved one to a senior community because of guilt. There are support groups available at some senior communities for this very reason. Once a spouse arrives and can see that their spouse’s quality of life is improved, their quality of life also improves.
The point of senior communities is for residents to move in while they are still independent, leaving the worry of caring for themselves behind. Hutton and Garner explained they want residents to come into Independent or Assisted Living and transition through their differing levels of care as it is needed – in a happy, safe and healthy environment. These communities have the expertise and resources to make that a reality.
For more information about senior living communities, contact Eva Hutton at Crestview: 979.774.6953 or visit mrcaff.org/crestview and Jessica Garner at The Isle at Watercrest Bryan: 979.774.3401 or visit jeaseniorliving.com/bryan-al.html.