As the holidays approach, I find myself becoming more concerned about my mother. Since my father passed away she lives alone. I know she is lonely, especially now that she isn’t driving.
I’d love to talk to mom about moving to a senior living community before the holidays begin. Maybe even fly home in the next week or so to take her out to tour a few. But I feel so guilty and I’m concerned this isn’t the best time of year to discuss it, or for her make a move.
Do you have any advice?
Heralding the Holidays in Senior Living Communities
Dear Kristina: We hear this question often. Many adult children are reluctant to raise this issue and “ruin” the holiday season.
The truth is the holidays are a great time of year to make this move! For older adults who have been living alone, this time of year is even more difficult. Most adult children are busy with holiday parties or shopping, and tend to spend a little less time with their loved ones.
Your mom can take part in the holiday festivities that occur every day in a senior living community. It will likely make the season brighter and less lonely for her. And it can give you peace of mind knowing she is not alone anymore.
The trick is HOW to talk to your mom.
Rather than asking her to take a tour, you may want open up a dialog around how she is feeling about the upcoming holidays. See if she will come to the realization that there are other opportunities on her own. Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask your mom how she is feeling about the upcoming holidays. See if she is willing share any thoughts about how it is now versus how ‘it used to be’.
- Explore the reasons why things have changed. She might begin to acknowledge that she doesn’t have the circle of friends she used to, or that she finds it hard to figure out what activities are offered for people her age, or how to get to them since she isn’t driving.
- Offer up suggestions as to how she might be able to still have those things while living in her home. Such as having a friend drive her, or inviting people to her home, or learning how to use the computer. If these suggestions are welcomed, you have helped her. If the suggestions are not viable, then she may have taken a first step toward realizing it might be time to consider other options.
The point here is that often, when we bring our thoughts about the realities of our limitations to the conscious surface, we become more in tune with our current state. We are then more prepared to consider new solutions. Most importantly, we come to this conclusion ourselves versus being told what to do. This is important for people who are aging and becoming more dependent on others. Once the door is open, you can begin to share some of the wonderful benefits a senior living community, including:
- New relationships. Moving from an isolated environment to one filled with people of similar age and abilities means more opportunity to create friendships, provide and receive support, and equally important, feel safe. This is both emotionally and physically beneficial since studies have shown that isolation can put seniors at higher risk for health issues ranging from depression to high blood pressure.
- Transportation. In-house transportation means no more worries about how to get to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store.
- Social Opportunities. A wide variety of life enrichment and wellness programs to participate in every day, new friendships, and plenty of holiday activities!
Another option, if you are just too uncomfortable having this conversation with your mom, is to contact a Family Advisor from Benchmark. Ask them to schedule a Home Visit. Our Family Advisors and team of Community Relations Directors are trained in helping seniors who are in need of care work through their thoughts, fears and hesitations.
If you or one of our Family Advisors talk with your mother and she still isn’t ready to make a move, there are steps you can take to help her feel less isolated:
- Call the Area Agency on Aging to ask for a list of local transportation providers who work with seniors.
- Check with your mom’s church or synagogue to see if they have a friendly visitor program where volunteers routinely visit seniors.
- Encourage your mother to join a senior center. There she will likely find a peer group she can relate to and enjoy spending time with.
- Help her find a volunteer opportunity. Some even offer transportation. The United Way can probably help connect your mom with an organization that interests her.
Because we know adult children often struggle to talk about difficult issues with a parent, we often recommend the David Solie book, How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders. It might help give you the confidence you need to begin this discussion.
Until next time,