Having a parent in an assisted living facility gives you peace of mind-your parent’s medical needs will be cared for while they still enjoy most of the benefits of independence. After the death of a spouse or as a result of declining health, assisted living is often a brighter alternative that offers several facilities like raised toilet seats than a traditional nursing home for your parent who can still mostly function on his or her own. There some aspects of assisted living that might surprise you, though. Here are some things to be aware of your parent in an assisted living facility.
Resentment from neighbors about the frequency of visits
Believe it or not, competition with the neighbors doesn’t end with a move into assisted living. If you live nearby and visit your parent frequently, it is only natural that residents who do not have visitors will feel jealous. Sometimes what starts as mild jealously can turn into full-blown resentment, and your parent may be the victim of snippy comments or a not-so-neighborly cold shoulder.
There isn’t a whole lot you can do to avoid this. You certainly don’t want to stop visiting your parent because of a neighborhood rivalry, but you don’t want your parent to feel socially stigmatized. The best thing you can do if you find your parent in this situation is to reach out to the neighbors as much as you can. While you are by no means responsible for the happiness of everyone in the assisted living community, going out of your way to chat with your parent’s neighbors will make them feel included in your visit. Go with your parent to group activities or eat in the community dining room and spend time with your parent and his or her neighbors together. Token gifts and flowers on holidays will brighten the lives of your parent’s neighbors who don’t have anyone and cut down on some of the resentment they feel toward your parent.
Interest in finding a new partner
Should your parents be single or widowed, an assisted living community is a great place for your parent to find a new partner. Today’s seniors are more active (physically and sexually) than ever before, and it’s natural that your parent should want someone to spend their twilight years with. Don’t be alarmed if your parent expresses a new interest in romance, no matter how attached he or she might have been to a deceased spouse. In an assisted living facility, your parent will be in an environment that fosters social interaction among many single seniors. The opportunity for a new relationship might not have been as available before assisted living. So be supportive of your parent’s new love interest.
Isolation can occur despite available activities
One of the advantages of an assisted living community is that your parent will have a range of activities to choose from. A good assisted living facility will offer everything from physical therapy and exercise classes, Bible study, book clubs, guest performances, holiday parties, and game nights. The drawback to assisted living as opposed to a nursing home, though, is that these activities are voluntary. No one will make your parent leave her apartment to participate.
If your parent spends too much time alone, feelings of isolation may occur despite the community environment. Make sure that your parent is aware of the wealth of social activities offered at his assisted living facility. If your parent has trouble getting to community areas to participate in these activities, make sure your parent knows (and isn’t embarrassed) to ask the staff for a walking or wheelchair escort.
You might still find yourself more responsible for your parent than you might have liked
Placing your senior parent in an assisted living facility relieves much of the burden of care you would experience if your parent lived with you. The staff at an assisted living facility is trained to respond to your parent’s medical needs in ways that you can’t. Still, you may find yourself responsible for some aspects of your parent’s care. You may be the person who arranges for services like medication dispensation or sorting, or you may find yourself responsible for dealing with your parent’s finances. Don’t assume that because your parent is in an assisted living facility that everything will automatically be taken care of.
Make sure you stay on top of your parent’s needs so you can arrange for additional services when they become necessary. Don’t be afraid to consult with staff on a regular basis for updates, either. Your parent might not be completely open with you about increasing needs that come with declining health.
Your parent might start planning death
Going from complete independence to assisted living can be a blow for some seniors, who might not have previously acknowledged their declining health. It makes sense that your parent in assisted living will start contemplating her own death. Don’t be surprised or upset if your parent comes to you with instructions for a funeral or memorial service. From a practical perspective, the more you know now about your parent’s wishes, the easier the decision making will be when the time comes.