Moving to Senior Housing Can Improve Quality of Life
There are a lot of difficult decisions to make when caring for someone with Alzheimer's. When is it not safe to drive anymore? When is my loved one no longer able to live at home? Deciding if my Mom needed to move from my home to senior housing was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make.
To simplify it for myself, I focused on safety (which I talked about in a previous article) and just as importantly, quality of life. Would a move into senior housing improve my Mom's quality of life and would it also improve mine, as her caregiver?
Consider your loved one's quality of life
I am a sandwich caregiver and my husband and I are raising our 3 kids at the same time as caring for my Mom. A few years after my Mom's diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, she moved out of her home and came to live with us a few states away. Living with us eased the transition out of the home my Mom had lived in her entire life.
After a couple of years, Mom's dementia was progressing and she wasn't as happy as she was when she first moved in. She spent a lot of time with our family, but lacked her own friendships.
Dementia was forcing Mom into a place where structure was very important. The disease had made it harder for her to tolerate the noise and chaos of my children. She was easily bothered when my kids did things that never bothered her before - like moving her things or snacking on her food in the fridge.
Then Mom took a fall and suddenly could not navigate the stairs in our home. It was time to start looking at senior housing options.
Could senior housing improve my Mom's quality of life?
When I started looking at options, a staff person told me that many older people like to be among peers. They are patient with one another in a way that younger people sometimes aren't. This was something I hadn't thought about for Mom.
Senior housing also provides a steady routine, with mealtimes at the same times every day, and regular schedules of activities and cleaning. There is privacy and quiet in each apartment - a place to retreat, and where things don't get moved or misplaced by others (i.e. my kids).
Many homes have a team of employees dedicated to a robust schedule of hourly activities that change every week. The activities are not just the typical Bingo game, but also include exciting and diverse options like trips to the theater, professional live music performances, and regular community events where families are invited to join in.
Though I tried my best as a caregiver to provide my Mom with access to hobbies and activities she enjoyed, it was tough to motivate my Mom to do these activities with me or my kids. I was no match for a dedicated Activities Director.
In addition to improving safety, I was starting to see that my Mom's quality of life could really improve in a move to senior housing.
How is the caregiver's quality of life?
Don't forget to consider the caregiver's quality of life. Are you sleeping at night? Are you able to prioritize and enjoy the other parts of your life? How is your own family and work life?
Caregivers are usually prone to ignore their own well-being. But this can be a big factor in the decision to move a loved one to senior housing.
At the time I was thinking about senior housing, I felt an immense sense of guilt. It felt like I couldn't handle taking care of Mom in my home anymore. I felt like a failure, or like others would think I was a failure. But I realized that I was neglecting my own health appointments, had put off a needed surgery, and was descending into unhealthy patterns of eating and exercise.
Most compelling to me was that my family was suffering. My kids were at a crucial age when they needed their mother to be more present and involved than I could currently be. I did not want to miss this time of their life and I could see it happening.
If your health is suffering or your relationships are deteriorating, you might need to consider looking at senior housing options for your loved one.
Brain-boosting benefits of senior housing
There are also many significant brain-boosting benefits of senior housing, like socialization, learning new skills and trying new activities, and an inherent sense of purpose. These important qualities can stave off depression, loneliness, and even improve thinking abilities.1
When I looked at the options, I could see more clearly that my Mom's quality of life could really improve with a move to senior housing. I knew that my own quality of life would improve too. This did not make the decision easy, but it did make it easier. Remember that your loved one would want you to take care of yourself and your family too.
This is a huge decision that requires care and thoughtfulness to make sure it's right for your loved one. Considering safety and quality of life are just 2 things that can help make the decision a little easier.
Which, if any, of the following most often trigger agitation in your loved one living with Alzheimer's disease?