As the years carry our parents through life's ups and downs, there comes a poignant moment when we must carefully navigate the balance between independence and safety. For many, the thought of moving mom away from the warmth and familiarity of the family home can be heart-wrenching. For aging loved ones, the idea of moving can evoke sadness, fear, and even anger.
In this article, we'll delve into the journey of keeping aging loved ones at home, offering empathy exercises to guide thoughtful reflection on the experience and needs of aging loved ones. Navigating the challenges and decisions involved requires first embracing this emotional path with empathy and understanding.
Our parents hold a treasure trove of memories within the walls of their homes, making it a place filled with love and comfort. Not to mention, home is familiar where they have established routines and rhythms. The thought of leaving that haven behind to move to an assisted living facility can evoke deep emotions and concerns, particularly for loved ones who may also have negative impressions of senior living communities. Understanding a loved one's desire to stay home and acknowledging any fears and worries are vital in making choices for their well-being.
Empathy Exercise: Imagine your loved one’s home, visualize their favorite spaces, their routines, their favorite photographs and furniture. .Visualize packing up the space, downsizing, and establishing rhythms in a new fresh space. Consider the emotions that come up - Sadness to say goodbye to a home filled with memories and milestones? Anxiety at the thought of packing? Embarrassment of sorting through junk that has piled up over the years? Fear of having to start over? Keep these emotions in mind when conversing with your loved one so you’ll be prepared to validate their feelings and emotions.
As our mothers age, their mobility, balance, and memory may come to present challenges. We find ourselves worrying about their safety and ability to juggle daily tasks. From managing medication and preparing nutritious meals to navigating their physical space, the fears of what could go wrong may feel daunting. These concerns can weigh heavily on both family members and our aging loved ones. To ensure both her independence and safety, as well as everyone’s peace of mind, one must explore compassionate options that resonate with her desires.
Empathy Exercise: Spend an afternoon with your loved one in their space, making mental note of things that are or may soon become challenges for your loved one. Later, make a list of challenges along with possible solutions. Envision installing grab bars in the bathroom, adding handrails to support her balance, and minimizing clutter to prevent trips and falls. Consider smart home devices, such as automated lights or a voice-activated assistant, to bring both convenience and safety to her daily routine.
As loved ones continue to age, new challenges will continue to present themselves. The ability of the individual’s support network to meet those growing needs may not be enough. Providing a safe, healthy environment for a loved one aging in place may require enlisting the support of a professional.
Empathy Exercise: Make a list of the tasks that are or may soon become too much for your loved one. Consider hiring a compassionate caregiver who not only assists with appointments or groceries but also spends quality time engaging in conversations and sharing laughter. This may be the right support option that enhances her safety and promotes her independence, while making her feel valued and cherished.
For parents who have shared a lifetime of love, the journey can be a bit trickier when both mom and dad are living together. Making decisions about living arrangements requires the harmony of both their desires and needs, especially in cases where one loved one has become a caregiver for the other.
Empathy Exercise Visualize your parents sitting hand in hand, expressing their heartfelt wish to grow old together in the home they built with love. Your role becomes a delicate dance of respecting their independence and caring for their safety, as they cherish each other's companionship. Find time with each of them individually to discuss their desires, and concerns (it’s not uncommon for a spouse in need of additional support to withhold their opinions to appease the other!) Gather information that will help you understand the big picture of their needs, collectively and individually. Also take note of any additional support one may be providing the other, such as medication management, physical support, or assistance with hygiene routines, that may eventually require outside support.
Supporting mom or dad at home is a collective effort, where family members play an integral role in their well-being.Establishing open communication about expectations, priorities, and personal bandwidth is important to avoid burnout and ensure the sustainability of the support network.
Empathy Exercise: Picture you and your sister working together, taking turns to check on your mom, assisting with household tasks, and organizing meals. Make a list of your loved one’s needs and who is best suited to respond. Consider if the burden is distributed evenly. Find time to check in with everyone who is providing support to make sure they are feeling supported themselves. With clear communication and intentionality, this shared responsibility will not only ease the burdens of your aging loved one but also can strengthen family bonds.
The journey of keeping mom at home is an intricate tapestry, woven with love, practicality, and creative solutions.. As we hold our loved one’s hands through the passage of time, it is a delicate balance to cherish her wishes, address her concerns, and create a safe haven where she can embrace life with joy and dignity. With a compassionate heart and the support of our families, we can enrich her days with love, filling her home with the essence of heartfelt care and cherished memories.
If aging in place is no longer a safe, sustainable option, it may be time to consider assisted living options. Our Chapters team understands that these can be difficult conversations and stands ready to support you and your loved ones as they decide what’s next. You are always welcome to contact our team for answers, resources, or to schedule a no-pressure tour of our spaces.