By Michael Gill, President of Texas Senior Living Locators
I’ve found there are three reasons why senior adults and their families decide to move from a long-term residence into a senior living community.
The first reason is when the senior adult is a danger to himself or herself at home. Most frequently—but not always—this is a result of dementia. A senior may wander away from home, leave the stove on, be unsafe taking their medications properly, or be a fall risk both day and night when there are no caregivers present. They may engage in inappropriate behaviors, like trying to use a ladder, or may bother the neighbors or passers-by. The scenarios are endless, but the final result is a risk of a serious injury. When a senior adult is unsafe at home, a move is mandatory.
Second, the senior adult may simply be healthier in a senior living community. This may be because there was a degree of self-neglect at home, where the senior may not be feeding themselves properly, or where they were socially isolated, or weren’t taking their medications. Frequently a senior adult may simply need more encouragement, reminders, and support to live a healthier and more active life. A senior community can provide that structure.
Third, caregiver issues often necessitate a move. Sometimes a spouse is no longer able to care for their afflicted partner, either because the care requirements have become too high, or because the caregiving spouse is aging as well and can simply no longer perform as many caregiving functions. Or maybe the cost of outside caregivers has become too high because the ailing senior adult needs supervision too many hours a day.
Another scenario is when outside caregivers become no longer reliable. This can be because an outside caregiver doesn’t show up because of a sick child, or in a rural area where caregivers simply can’t be found consistently, or when a relative can no longer take so much time off from work. These scenarios create an unsafe environment for the senior adult and perhaps intolerable levels of stress for the family.
Usually when I meet families, they have been supporting their aging senior family members by assisting them to continue living at home for a number of years. But eventually something happens. Sometimes it’s a crisis described by one of the reasons listed above, such as a medication overdose or a fall. But just as commonly, a move is instigated by a subtle accumulation of factors—an accumulation that pushes a family’s coping mechanisms beyond their breaking point. At that point a senior community can give welcome support to the senior adult and his or her family.