Making the decision – to to move to a campus of care?
By Sharon Simpson
As we tour seniors through our campus of care, we explain what is involved in the various levels of care that are available in our buildings. It generally takes time to cover how our health care system will help seniors and the potential benefits of living on a campus of care. For many, the explanations are complicated and make them weary. They bring along their children and together, they try to wrap their heads around whether or not there is a benefit for them to move to a campus of care.
I recently toured a 99 year-old woman around our Assisted Living apartments. She said that she felt all alone in her current care home. All of her friends had passed away and she was longing for a spiritual community. The care was good, the food was excellent, but the Christian community that she held dear for her entire life was non-existent. Should a 99 year old, frail woman make a move away from her children just so that she could live out the end of her life among others who also follow Christ? She’ll have to weigh the hardship that the actual move will have on her against the benefit of living in a Christian community. At lunch, she wept as the prayer was spoken and a hymn was sung in the dining room. “This is all that matters to me”, she said.
What about a man in his early 90’s who is as healthy as a horse? His mind is clear and his memory is sharp. It’s his wife who needs support. She has dementia and although he has cared for her for more than five years in their home, he is getting weary and even short-tempered with her. They live on the same farm they first bought when they married 70 years ago. He has fulfilled her deep desire to live out her days on the farm. He doesn’t want to move and although his children are far away, they have a special monitoring system set up for him that informs them of the movements in the house through an app on their phones.
He weighs the guilt of sending his wife to a care home with the option of hiring additional care support. He wonders who will pass away first. If it’s him, she’ll have to move to a care home immediately. It is only because of his support that she is still living on the farm. If it’s her, he’ll be glad he never moved. He loves it on the farm. And so they stay on the farm, making their kids crazy with worry. There will be a crisis. They all know it. Maybe he’ll have a stroke or break a hip or fall and not be able to get up. He decides to learn how to use a cell phone, get a Lifeline button to press if there is an emergency and get Home Health support twice a day for his wife.
What about the widow who feels she is a burden? Her chronic ailments make activities of daily living next to impossible without help. She doesn’t want to, but she is often calling her daughter-in-law to help her make it through the day. The nursing support that she gets from Home Health can’t seem to prevent the gloom of depression that fills her every moment. She’s lonely and feeling worse than worthless. She doesn’t think she can carry on. Should she move to a campus of care? She knows that being around people every day will boost her spirits. She feels confident that the nursing support will help her consistency with her medications. She feels relieved that her daughter-in-law won’t have to jump at her every need. She decides to move into Assisted Living the next week even though the costs are higher than waiting for financially subsidized Assisted Living. She has saved for a rainy day and these days, it has been pouring.
What about a man in his mid 80’s who lost his wife one year ago? His daughters bring him in for a tour of the Independent Living apartments. He hates it right away. The suites are small and there is no woodworking shop. He still drives and wants to live life the way it has always been. But, it isn’t like it has always been. When his wife got sick, she stopped cooking and he never had the appetite or interest to learn how. He can fry an egg, so that is dinner most nights. Most mornings, it’s toast and coffee. He’s also started to feel unbalanced on his feet. He bought a walker but won’t use it outside of his home.
His daughters are worried about his health. He is losing weight. He doesn’t care. One daughter is moving away and the other has just been promoted into her dream job. There won’t be as many visits in the upcoming months and years.
Should he move to a campus of care? He likes the idea that the food will be good, he’ll miss his space, even though he hasn’t been in the basement for four years. It will help to speak with others who live there and look at how they have made a home out of a smaller space.
These stories are the everyday stories here on our campus of care. Every day families are working together to help their loved ones find the best way to live out the last years of their lives. How will you know when it is time to move to a campus of care – an Independent Living apartment or an Assisted Living apartment? There are five questions to ask yourself :
When can I do the research so that I can make a decision?
Do you have the energy to do the research to help inform your decisions? Is there someone who can assist you? Sometimes, the “feel” of a place is a key piece of the decision-making. Make sure you have a tour of where you may be moving.
Will a move to a campus of care help my spouse? When your spouse needs help before you do, the timing of a move can be a challenge. It’s your spouse who is the one who is gaining the most from the move – or are they? What about all the care and worry that you can release knowing that there are others who are nearby to assist?
What matters most to me in my life? Which losses will be most difficult for you? Which gains will be most beneficial?
Who is supporting me to live my life right now? Will they be able to continue supporting me at the same or increasing levels of care?
Can I afford to make a move? How will you pay for your needs on the campus of care?
Working through these questions with trusted loved ones will help you to make your decision. Be honest, allow others to be honest with you and trust God to give you peace, joy and contentment that resides not in your home but in your heart.
Sharon Simpson is the Director of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at Menno Place in Abbotsford.