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Aging is inevitable; aging gracefully is a blessing.
As children, we relied on our parents not only for essential comfort and care, but their love and support throughout the pursuits of our own dreams and goals; even helping us through the challenges of extending the family. And as we all meander through our stations in life, the great cycle of life continues, with great appreciation for those who brought us up along the way. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrates them, while acknowledging the debt of gratitude we all owe our parents.
And so life goes on, we age and we witness change. Perhaps you saw your parents in the same place you find yourself now: Parents in their Golden Years, enjoying retirement, spending time with family and relishing the fruits of their labors. And then things began to change. Maybe it was subtle. Maybe not.
Perhaps physical or cognitive abilities began to decline. They just weren’t their same active selves, or the house just became too much. Or Heaven forbid, there was an accident, health or other life-altering event that suddenly necessitated a lifestyle change.
Stay observant; listen and look for clues that mom and dad may need help.
Signs to look for can include an overall decline in or expressing the difficulty of housekeeping and home maintenance, forgetting to take medications, social withdrawal, financial management errors or omissions.
Get out in front of problems early, regardless of how minor they are. Simple suggestions, reminder mechanisms or other backstops can avert the need for more drastic measures. Sign them up for a bill payment service. Program a device with medication reminders. Introduce your parents to social activities in the community they may not be aware of.
And so here you are, mulling over the options on how to best support your own mother and father when they need you the most. You know something has to change and they are counting on you to do the heavy lifting.
The good news is you’re not alone, and in fact, in the best place in the world to continue to assure them the quality of life they so richly deserve. Florida, and the Suncoast in particular, is not only one of America’s premier places to retire, but to relax in the comforts of a growing network of resort-style Senior and Assisted Living communities all up and down the Gulf Coast.
Whether you’re intervening out of an abundance of concern, or responding to an unexpected change, you’re in good company. There are good options to consider.
One is to see to it that they remain in the area in close contact with long-time friends, family members and familiar surroundings, which is extremely important at this time of their lives. The other, which is also healthy, is to relocate to the care, comfort and close proximity to family in other areas of the country.
Keep their quality of life at the forefront.
It is important to consider that what you want for your parents might not necessarily be what your parents want. They may want to remain here in Florida. Or, they may express interest in “going back home,” to be closer to family. The decision, to whatever degree possible, should reflect their wishes. After a lifetime of independence, forcing unwelcome change can be met with resistance and some undesired aftereffects, including a sudden and rapid decline in health. We can’t underscore the importance of a consensus, including parents, siblings and any other family members who may play a role in your parents’ care.
You don’t have to pore through exhaustive studies to understand that mental and physical activity are essential to longevity. For the physically able, this means an active senior lifestyle community or home environment with access to active lifestyle amenities. Ideal amenities could include walking and cycling paths, exercise rooms and watersports. For active seniors and especially the less physically active, it should include an active social environment, which can be activity-based clubs suited to their interests. Everything from cooking to cards, the arts, crafts, day trips, even volunteerism. We once had an uncle making Meals On Wheels deliveries to younger seniors. Individual needs at this level, such as healthcare, medication and other lifestyle needs are easily accommodated.
Because needs vary with age and health, there are a variety of levels of care, ranging from “Resort-Style Living” for the healthy and active, to full-service, around-the-clock nursing care for non-ambulatory seniors. The following is a general breakdown of the various levels of care, as outlined by care.com.
Senior Living Communities cater to active, independent seniors requiring minimal care. Resort-style living would be more apt, as these communities often offer café, lounge and dining room service, resort pool and spa areas, exercise rooms, and an elaborate social program with numerous activities within a well-appointed club room.
At some point, seniors need an elevated level of care based on mobility or health issues, complicated medication schedules and any other challenges that make independent living untenable. Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) offer 24-hour staffing, laundry, local transportation and many other helpful services. Otherwise, residents continue to enjoy their own level of independence. It’s not uncommon for ALFs to be imbedded in Senior Living communities. In fact, some communities cater to every degree of needed care.
Where cognitive issues are apparent, Memory Care is perhaps the best option. These facilities are dedicated to the many challenges of elder care, including Alzheimer’s or dementia. Memory Care facilities focus on quality of life, while providing a safe, secure environment with appropriate medical attention.
Home Care is a very common and beneficial solution. Depending on the level of care needed (such as 24/7 care) Home Care can be expensive. It also won’t address home maintenance issues that may be associated with overall health decline. The upside is that keeping parents in a familiar living environment is ideal – especially in their later years.
There is a strong argument in favor of the less disruptive approach to let mom and dad ‘age in place’ in their familiar surroundings. Age In Place can mean in-home care in their current residence, or downsize and introduce in-home care. If their current home is problematic by size or accessibility, then it is wise to consider a move to a more appropriate environment. That being the case, you can get an early jump on planning by downloading and reviewing our Seller’s Guide at the bottom of this web page. The Guide walks you through the steps of listing and selling, with tips on staging, downsizing and closing the sale as quickly as possible.
As mentioned, there are ample options suited to a variety of needs and budgets. The caring.com website has a useful directory of Independent Living Communities both in the Venice and Sarasota areas. It can be found here. As an added plus, your parents greatly benefit from the continuity of keeping all their present healthcare providers in place.
As you’ll see in your search, the network of Senior Living, Assisted Living, and Independent Living communities supporting physical and mental activities is both robust and growing. The Suncoast has seen a surge in new facilities over the last 10 years, which is largely in line with the area’s demographics. People want to move here and spend the remainder of their lives here.
Maybe you’ve already had a conversation with your parents about their wishes. It’s all the more comforting to know they already understand what to expect. If you haven’t, it’s never a bad time to talk about their future, especially if you show them your true concern for honoring their wishes. The fewer surprises, the better.
Looking for some Purging Pointers? human good at humangood.org walks through the entire process in a very thoughtful and dignified manner.
Need help starting the conversation with your parents about downsizing and simplifying? Here are some tips to consider:
Especially in later years, even the most subtle change can negatively impact a senior’s disposition. That’s because the older we get, the more resistant we become to change. So changes in diet, daily routine, living arrangements, health care providers, even weather can be extremely disruptive to their lives. Therefore, it may be prudent to introduce change slowly and carefully in the forms of suggestions and discussions, sightseeing excursions and otherwise limited exposure to potential changes in order to establish comfort levels.
In one particular case, a neighbor’s children sought a more economical approach to quality care and took their mother to a full-service facility with insufficient notice or explanation. Within a week, she became completely despondent and refused to eat. Panicked, they returned her to in-home care where she thrived once again.
Five Thoughts, In Summary:
As area professionals, we’ve helped many families just like yours navigate through seemingly difficult times. In every instance, we carefully considered the stakeholders’ interests and objectives, and orchestrated a smooth and seamless lifestyle transition to the next level of care. In concert with a variety of concierge service partners, we’ve staged, listed and sold property, managed downsizing efforts, packed, moved and unpacked entire households, right down to the clothes in the closets, pictures on the walls and silverware in the drawers. We’ve worked with many of the area’s leading Senior Care Community specialists to find the perfect fit for moms and dads living their Suncoast Life on the Gulf Coast.
Though not all-inclusive, we hope this article is helpful. It was prepared based on over 25 years of experience working with Seniors and their children to find the ideal Senior Living solution. We’re always available to answer your questions and address your concerns about helping parents transition to a care-free lifestyle. And if you find yourself in need of immediate action, please call us for a free Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) of your parent’s home and a no-obligation consultation. We’re here to help.