On Your Health

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Exploring Assisted Living: What to Consider During the Transition

Did you know that of the almost four million people living in Oklahoma, 15 percent are 65 years or older? As the generation of baby boomers – those born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s – barrel into retirement, how will you know when it’s time to talk to your aging family members about where they will live?

Aging is a natural part of life. The decision to move from an independent living situation to something new can be difficult. However, the difficulties ease when you have the facts and information you need.

When do you need to have a conversation about moving?

Have you noticed that your loved one is forgetting to take a medication or wearing the same clothes for multiple days? It might be time to start the conversation about moving into an assisted living community.

Common signs to look for in your aging family members:

·         Are they eating properly? The difficulties of cooking for one, combined with a decreased appetite, can make it tough for older Oklahomans to get proper nutrition.

·         Are they wearing the same clothes as the last time you saw them? Carrying laundry, bending over to retrieve clothes from the dryer and other accidents can cause issues where laundry is concerned.

·         Are they taking their medication properly? Keeping to a medication schedule is not only important to prevent negative drug interactions, but also to keep our loved ones healthy.

·         Is the house clean? Simply managing to sweep, dust and vacuum a home can be difficult as people age.

·         Are the bills getting paid? As we age, it’s easy to lose track of day-to-day activities. However, if the bills aren’t paid, you could be looking at bigger memory issues.

·         Are they able to operate in-home appliances? Are their appliances in good repair? Can they easily access them? Are they able to take care of themselves?

·         Is the yardwork getting done? Yardwork becomes a hassle and a burden to those with mobility issues as they age.

What is the difference between long-term facilities and assisted living?

Do you know the difference between the services offered at long-term facilities versus assisted living facilities? There are several options to choose from based on the level of assistance needed.

Independent living

Many communities are focused around helping seniors live their best life. Apartment-type housing with an age restriction helps keep the independent living neighborhoods full of people in their age group. These neighborhoods are meant to help people who are mostly capable of living on their own and require little or no assistance from professionals.

Assisted living

Moving into an assisted living community means your loved one will be able to live in apartment-style housing, while enjoying optional planned social interactions. In addition to a social calendar, this type of living arrangement provides private duty care. This type of care means your loved one will have help with cooking, house cleaning, laundry, medication management and physical assistance with bathing and hygiene as needed.

Skilled nursing facilities

A skilled nursing facility provides services for those in need of deeper levels of medical care. Registered nurses, physical therapists and speech-language pathologists, among other medical professionals, treat residents as needed. These services cannot be rendered by those without proper training and licensing, and therefore are often more expensive. If you or your loved one aren’t in need of specialized medical care, assisted living may be a better option than a skilled nursing facility.

Continuous care retirement community

This is the type of environment you might choose if you or your loved ones aren’t interested in moving multiple times. With a continuous care community, you’ll find residents who are living independently, those who are receiving private duty care and people who are receiving skilled nursing services.

When should you choose assisted living?

elderly women sitting on a bench

It’s hard for anyone to say goodbye to independent living or a family home. However, there are perks for you or your loved one that come with living with peers in an assisted living community.

·         Socialization – As we age, it’s difficult to visit with friends as often as when we were young. However, interaction as part of a community aids brain function, allowing you to stay healthy longer. Assisted living communities often provide field trips, ongoing educational courses, seminars, dancing or cultural events, enabling ongoing socialization.

·         Safety – Did you know there were more than 17,000 violent criminal offenses in Oklahoma in 2016? As we age, it’s harder to protect ourselves. Many assisted living communities use secure entrances, security cameras and staff to keep everyone safe.

·         Meals – Creating enticing, affordable and portion-appropriate meals for one or two is never easy. Changes in mobility make getting to the grocery store for healthy ingredients difficult. Changes in your appetite can cause a crash in motivation for meal preparation. While most assisted living apartments include a kitchenette for private meals, they generally offer a dining hall with a professional chef. When you don’t want to cook or want company for dinner – you’ve got in right there in your “backyard.”

·         Housekeeping and laundry – Not only do cleaning and laundry duties cause problems for those with mobility issues, but don’t we deserve a break? As part of an assisted living community, you or your loved ones can focus on your bucket list instead of hauling around a mop and bucket.

·         Daily living tasks – Simple tasks like bathing, dressing and grooming become more difficult the older we get. While you may be fully capable of taking care of yourself, you’ll have the option for help if there is a problem, like an arthritis flare-up. While you live in an assisted living community you won’t have to worry about not being able to accomplish tasks alone.

·         Medication management – As we age, it’s likely our body needs more medicinal support to keep running smoothly. Keeping track of when to take medications, which ones you can (and can’t) take together, and reordering them on time are all additional help provided by the folks in an assisted living community.

Other factors to consider

elderly couple sitting on a swing

Leaving the space where fond family memories were made is tough. If you are helping a loved one move from an independent living situation into a senior community, it’s important to be compassionate. Make sure your loved one has time to grieve and deal with the changing situation.

Have you talked about a plan for what furniture and personal items need to go, what is provided and what needs a new home? Planning and allowing the one who is moving to make as many decisions as possible can help make moving seem easier.

Bring in extended family and close family friends to make packing and sorting more fun. Not only will you have extra hands to lighten the load, but the whole work day will take on a memorable feel.

If your loved one is struggling with letting go of the independent life, try to be understanding. Learn the “whys” behind the frustration and fix the underlying problems. Don’t beat yourself up about the situation, it won’t help. Don’t let your loved ones do it either.

Plan for a healthy life

Don’t ruin the golden years for yourself or someone you care for by ignoring warning signs. INTEGRIS has health professionals and programs to support healthy lifestyles as you age. Whether you are looking for a specialist or a looking for an exercise class to fit your needs there’s help waiting for you. Read more about classes and events INTEGRIS offers for keeping your favorite seniors healthy.






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