This is the first of the Moving Mom series: as published in The Savannah Morning News - Aug 17, 2012
Moving Mom...Is Staying at Home an Option?
Mom and I reached the same conclusion on the same day: she needed to be in a smaller residence, without the upkeep she has with her current home. Many of my clients and Baby Boomer friends are having quite a different experience. Their parents are not accepting the fact that they can no longer take care of their homes, yards and sometimes themselves. The next transition is a difficult one for many to make, but with some guidance it does not have to be so daunting.
I am one of the lucky ones…my 81 year old Mom decided by herself to move to a progressive retirement community, where there would be “people to meet and places to go”. The women in my family live well into their 90’s, so I have the comfort of knowing she will have the growing level of care she will need as she ages.
We briefly explored another option: moving Mom in with me. Without hesitation, she promptly thanked me for my offer, but explained in her sweet way that she wanted more to life than just waiting for me to come home every day. At first I was surprised, but then realized that her choice to move to a retirement community would be the best place for her to continue her social life and cultivate new friends. Seniors can become reclusive and lonely, so I was happy with her decision.
Many times it is not that easy. Some seniors are afraid of the next step, and fight giving up their home. There may be safety and health issues that make it impossible for them to stay at home in its current state, but sometimes “aging in place” solutions make that an option.
Architects and contractors familiar with Universal Design can create a living space that accommodates wheel chairs and walkers, with ramps, wider doorways, lower light switches and outlets, countertops, etc. Bath tubs can be replaced with roll-in showers, and bathrooms may be redesigned to accommodate wheelchair access.
The misconception is that all aging in place solutions are not attractive, but that is not so. For instance, there are many fixtures that serve as towel bars that are quite beautiful in their design, but are really grab bars in disguise. There are many design choices which may be incorporated without using the basic grab bars you see in the home improvement stores. They certainly are functional, but if you want pretty, there are options.
Stagers can rearrange furniture to create a safe living environment that will minimize the risk of falling and maximize visibility for aging eyes. Lighting, paint and floor coverings can be changed to create contrasting visual aids to differentiate where the floor ends and the walls start, again minimizing risk of falling. This is crucially important for seniors returning to their homes after suffering a stroke and being released from rehab. The home should be prepared in advance of their return, not as an afterthought.
Working together with the senior’s health care providers, the stager will learn about the senior’s special needs and what is necessary to make them safe. The physical therapist or nurse will map out the proper position for grab bars, and point out specific issues or items that need to be altered in the home. If the floor plan allows for the alterations, the potential is there for the senior to age in place.
Next is the need for in-home health care. Does the senior have Long Term Disability Insurance that can provide the daily health care necessary for them to be able to stay at home? If not, is there enough money without insurance to sustain day to day care? Are there family members that can move in to assist with day to day care? If not, moving the senior in with family, or dependent care and nursing facilities are an option.
It is imperative that we understand the emotional and psychological effects the moving process has on our loved ones. The next place they move may be their last, and the process to get there is sometimes overwhelming. We are tired, they are upset, and we are too close to the situation to sometimes show the compassion and understanding we feel needed during their transition.
Senior Move Managers are trained to deal with these sensitive situations and can be the intermediary both parents and children need to smooth the way. They can also refer you to professionals in their network who can help you navigate the next step.
Coming next, in the “Moving Mom” Series – Choosing the Right Retirement Community
By Brooke Bass, Associate Broker with Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners and owner of Gracious Moves LLC, a Savannah based Staging and Move Management Company.
A nationally award winning Realtor, Brooke has been successfully selling and staging homes since 1985. She has earned the National Association of Realtors “Seniors Real Estate Specialist” certification, and is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers and Greater Savannah Coalition on Aging. For more information, contact Brooke at 912-655-9299 or visit www.GraciousMoves.com.