My Mom Moved Into Senior Housing - And Found Fun and Friends
Last updated: September 2023
I have been a caregiver for my mother who lives with Alzheimer's for 8 years. During that time she has lived independently at home, then spent a few years with me and my family in our home, and now lives in a senior home.
This was a huge decision for our family and for my mom. My preference would be that she could live safely in her own home; however, we ultimately made the decision for Mom to move to senior housing for safety and quality of life.
The good news: It has been a great move for her!
More people need to know that finding the right senior home can really benefit someone living with dementia. These group settings can provide stimulation and socialization that family caregivers sometimes cannot.
Hobbies are more important than you think
There are many brain-boosting effects of socialization and hobbies. According to the National Institute of Health, research is showing that physically and mentally stimulating activities may have positive effects on memory. More variety is key.1
Another study found that having a cognitively active lifestyle in old age (measured by how often subjects read newspapers or books or magazines, visited a library, wrote letters, and played games) might boost those subjects' cognitive reserve. This boost can delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by up to 5 years.2
Don't underestimate today's Activity Director
After my mom moved in with me and my family, we helped her with cooking, cleaning, and driving. But though I tried my best as a caregiver to provide her with access to hobbies and activities she enjoyed, it was tough to motivate mom to do these activities with me or my kids.
The senior home my mom lives in now has a team of employees dedicated to a robust schedule of daily activities that change every week. And the ideas they come up with is nothing like what I pictured when thinking of senior homes of the past.
Yes, there is the occasional game of bingo, but mostly they offer exciting options like a wine tasting club, reader's theater, and live music and dance performances every week. They advertise the highlights each week with brightly colored posters and flyers all over the building and sometimes it makes the building feel like a college dorm.
Looking back, I see that I was no match for a dedicated Activities Director. I also realized that while living with us, my mom had very few friends close to her age. Maybe my mom might enjoy these activities more with her peers.
Socialization with peers is important at every age
Not only does mom love the activities at her senior home, but she has also made so many friends and excitedly attends the events with them. When I call her to check in, I am always interrupting another game or activity that she's involved in with others.
Research supports the idea that socialization is very important for those living with dementia. The authors found that less frequent social contact, higher levels of loneliness, and lower levels of social interaction were related to higher incidences of dementia.3
Living in a group setting has also given my mom, who isn't able to drive, friendship and socialization without even having to leave the building (though she does get to do that with friends too). She is greeted by staff, friends, and visitors every day, and regularly interacts with new people. Though each place has its pros and cons, I am grateful to have found a place that fits well for my mom.
Friends and hobbies are good for our brain
I wish I had known before starting the process that it would work out so well in the end. There are some very good options in senior housing these days. And for those living with dementia, they can provide fun and friends that are good for the brain.
I am confident in sharing that my mom and my family are happier and safer now that mom is in her senior home. And I hope that other caregivers can find some reassurance when they are going through the same journey.
Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with Mild cognitive impairment?