The best time to research an older adult community either for yourself or a parent is when you don’t need one. Time is on your side, and the pros and cons can be weighed without the stress of a time constraint. Searching when your health takes a turn not only limits your choices, but decisions can easily be made in haste without a thorough consideration for the results.
“Lately I’m seeing a lot of families who have waited too long,” said Gail Hinchliffe, president, United Active Living. “It’s laudable to want to keep a parent at home, especially if they continue to be independent. But it’s heartbreaking when a family comes to us after the person’s health has deteriorated. What a difference it would have made if they had started their search earlier.”
Where do you start? Have a look at our article, five questions to ask yourself when looking for an older adult community.
And after you’ve made a decision, how our welcome team smooths the transition.
United’s two communities offer fully independent living, plus assisted living and memory care options. Staff are trained to support those needing extra care whereas family members might not be, which can be very stressful on caregivers.
“Often the deterioration in cognitive or physical ability can be slow to recognize. It sneaks up on you,” said Bridget Coulter, United Minds coordinator for United’s Garrison Green community. “Often the older adult doesn’t recognize the weight they are placing on the family. And the family doesn’t see it either – at first. It can start out with help getting dressed and maybe some meal preparation, but at some point the family members find themselves spending more and more time with the parent until they are forced into a decision to leave the family home. By then they may find themselves with limited options.”
Bridget is working now with a resident at Garrison Green who was physically mobile but couldn’t recognize her surroundings and was unresponsive to communication. She worked each day with her, exposing her to artwork, music and other stimulating activities. Within a month, the resident was engaging in conversation, laughing with staff and participating in the music programs. Bridget said the family was stunned at her progress.
“Watching someone who was so withdrawn interact again with people and activities is so rewarding,” said Bridget. “It’s because our environment looks at the whole person. We are not an institution or medical facility. Our focus is social, not medical. Our staff are trained to work with residents as individuals, with the goal of restoring the quality of life they once enjoyed.”
“That’s really the key to the whole thing,” said Gail. “Quality of life. If you can dress yourself and prepare your meals and go out to enjoy activities, that’s fine. But when an older adult needs constant support, can no longer go out and becomes lonely, depressed and withdrawn, it should be obvious to the family that quality of life is deteriorating, and that’s where we can make a real difference. But the key is to focus on maintaining an independent lifestyle rather than waiting.”
Resident Wendy Martin was living in Phoenix, but her family is in Calgary. “I had many friends there, but I didn’t have my family. I came to Calgary to be closer to them. We looked at several places, but when I came to United I could hear the laughter. It really is active living.”
Residents Gordon and Jeanne Schnell’s motivation was similar. “We were living in Sidney, B.C. but we moved back to Calgary to be closer to family.”
Families should pay attention to the social life of a parent. As family and friends move away, the life of a senior can shrink, leaving them isolated and bored. In a United Active Living community, life expands. Living in a United community helps to build a new life.
“People are living longer, and it’s important that we retain a high quality of life in our later years,” said Gail. “Don’t wait until health pushes a parent out of their home. Talk to us while there is still plenty of time to ensure you or your parent finds the right community and lifestyle that will keep them active and engaged.”
Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help!