One of the most painful decisions a person may make in their lifetime is to leave their home. It is a question that Diamond Geriatrics has been assisting clients with since 1996, and we know how difficult it can be. So this month, Elder Voice talks directly to Seniors about what makes the decision difficult, and what might make it easier. Our advice comes from the stories of people who have been in your shoes.
Giving up one’s home feels to many people like losing a part of themselves; both the house and the possessions that they will have to sort through are their memories and lives.Letting them go is a process of grief; it takes time to pass through. Psychologists talk about the process of grief as having stages–they have different names, but you may feel resistance, resentments, ups and downs and back and forths, and sadness before coming to decide. Grief is tricky—you may need to ask yourself if the decision you come to is because you have thought it through, or because the grief is preventing you from thinking it through. Allow yourself the time you need to make your decision. For some people it is months, for some a year or more.
Talking with friends and family can help you through the process, but make sure the person you talk to will really listen, and not try to talk you out of your feelings. Family member have their own feelings and fears, and with the best intentions, it can be hard for them to listen and be totally objective.
It may help to talk with a professional Counsellor who is not involved. That gives you a safe place to explore what you are feeling and thinking without pressure. A Counsellor with experience with older people and housing can also help you discern what is realistic about what you are thinking. Your feelings and outlook will change when you are ready to let them go.Adult children can also benefit from counselling to help them through the feelings of guilt and sadness and find ways to help as they talk to their parents and watch them go through this process.
A successful move to Seniors Housing entails both emotional and practical processes. Successful moves are the ones that have dealt with both.By successful, we mean not only does the actual move proceed smoothly, but also at the end of the move, when the furniture is set up and you open the door in your new home, you are satisfied that it was the right thing to do.
How to make a move successful? Here are a few things that can help:
- Think about moving as the next stage of your life.The earlier you begin to think about it, the more time you will have. Think ahead several years and what you might want and need as you grow older. By thinking and planning ahead, you can work to avoid the chance of a crises forcing a decision upon you.
- Write down the pros and cons of a move. This helps you to identify and consider the positive aspects of moving, not just the loss and sadness.Be realistic in what your needs are and how you see them changing in the next few years.This will help you see the value in the change.At the same time, think about the help you will need from family or friends to stay in your home. Ask yourself how much help you can expect without causing undue stress to them and the relationships you have with each other.
- Learn about what Seniors Housing looks like these days. Many people have an outdated view of them, especially if you are looking to move to Assisted Living or Independent/Supportive Housing. Seniors housing has changed and improved dramatically over the years. The reality may be much different from what your memories and beliefs are.
- Talk to people who have made a move. What was making the decision like for them? How did they do it? Most importantly, what are their thoughts now about their decision? Very often, people end up saying they should have done it earlier. They say things like, ” I never realized how much of a burden the house was,” or “It is such a relief to have a choice about whether or not I cook.”
- Look inside yourself and identify the things you tell yourself and the beliefs you have about moving that are getting in the way of your deciding to move.Write them down one by one and ask yourself if they are true and valid or not.
- One thing people often say about moving to Seniors Housing is “There are too many old people there.” It takes a while to be able to see yourself as one of the people who fit in there. Once you have moved, you will see there is a range of types of people, and you will see them just as other people.
- A second thing that holds people back is fear. Sometimes it is a fear that this is “the last stop.” In some ways it is facing one’s own mortality. However, remember you are going there to live–as we said above, it is the next stage of your life. People often find that their life after a move is better than it was before. For some people, the fear is of the unknown.Once you have thought through all the pros and cons, what you might have to do is take “take the plunge,” as one woman said to us. Sometimes people don’t even stop to think about what it is they are actually afraid of. When you are writing down the thoughts that get in the way of moving, try to identify and write down the fears as well.
- A third major roadblock for people is facing the task of “downsizing,” and what to do with all the things they have accumulated (many of which are now in the boxes in the basement!). Not only do some of us have a mountain of things, many of those have special meaning to us. Letting go of some of these is also a grief process. For help on a practical level, there are a number of professionals who focus on helping seniors move and downsize. They have excellent resources for dispersing of clothes, furniture, etc. They will do it with you or for you. They will arrange everything about a move including packing and unpacking and setting up your furniture for you.
- If you have chosen a couple of places where you think you might be happy, go to visit a few times. Many have guest suites, so you may be able to “test drive” one for a while, by staying for a week or more. Remember too, that the door swings both ways. If you do not like where you have moved, you can leave. If you think this may happen, consider putting your belongings in storage, and put off selling your your home for a few months until you are sure.
- Learn about what you can expect from the housing you are choosing. Understand the services they provide and do not provide, the costs involved, and how those costs may escalate. Most important, find out the circumstances under which they may say to you they can no longer provide you with enough services to your needs, and you will have to move. See our book: Nursing Homes and Assisted Living: the Family’s Guide To Making Decisions and Getting Good Care
- Finally, remember the decision to move is yours. Make sure it is something you want to do, or at least accept it is the right thing for you. If it is not, don’t make the decision to do so. Consider carefully what your family or friends or doctor may say,but in the end, you are the one who is moving.
- Here is some advice from our website which may help you:
Since 1996 Diamond Geriatrics has been helping people with the decision to move. We will help you navigate the system and find the place that is right for you and provide counselling to you and/or your family to talk through the stumbling blocks. We help you find all of the services you need for both before and after the move and will work with you, your family and caregivers to help make moves successful.
Do You Feel Your Ears Burning?
If you are feeling your ears burning as you get older it may not mean it’s time to visit the doctor, but rather that your children are talking about you.
“Having ‘the talk’ With Your Aging Parents” is a popular subject in the news these days. We just wrote a couple articles on this. The reason these articles are common is because adult children often want to talk to their parents about what the future may bring but are anxious about how to start the conversation and what to say when they do.
Your children are already talking to each other and maybe their friends who also have older parents, about their concerns for you. We know because they are talking to us at Diamond Geriatrics too. They see you getting older and wonder what will happen when you need help around the house or with personal care.They are thinking about decisions on housing, about handling finances if you are no longer able to do so, about what to do if they have to make health care decisions for you.
Talk to them about what you want, when you will want it, and how they will know. Let them know about your finances. Be clear about how you want things handled, and what kind of dispute resolution process you want used if they cannot agree. Write it down, and make a Representation Agreement (British Columbia’s legal document which allows you to decide in advance who makes decisions for you, if you are not able to make decisions on your own.)
These discussions may be difficult for you and for your children to initiate,but they are necessary to have. Down the road they may help to prevent fighting between your children if they are called upon to make decisions on your behalf. At the same time, they can bring you and your family closer together.