Tips for Transitioning to Senior Living

Tips for Transitioning to Senior Living

When your loved one has lived in their own home for years, transitioning to a senior living community can be intimidating. More often than not, it’s one of the biggest adjustments a senior will make in their older years. There’s no way to completely remove the worries and anxieties that come with this move. However, there are some guiding steps you can take to help ease the transition for both you and your loved one.

Getting Prepared: Before the Move

Once you and your loved one have decided it’s time to transition to senior living, there are several steps you should take to prepare.

  • Choose the right community.

Take the time to research and tour multiple senior living communities in the geographic area you are planning to move to. This will help you get a sense of the social environment, dining, amenities, and overall feel of each location. It’s best to start researching early on before you have an immediate need to move, since you’ll be able to take your time more with the decision. When you visit a community, you should get the opportunity to ask their leadership, caregivers, and staff any questions you may have. Be observant of the level of cleanliness, friendliness of staff and whether residents seem content in their environment. When in doubt, trust your intuition.

  • Research senior living costs.

When making your decision, be sure to get a clear understanding of each community’s pricing model. Some communities will offer true, all-inclusive pricing, which means there is a single monthly fee that covers everything. Many others will offer “levels of care pricing,” which is a tier-based program with costs that vary based on the type of care your loved one receives.

  • After choosing a community, arrange a time to visit or tour it a least one more time before moving in.

After deciding on a community, it doesn’t hurt to get even more familiar with it before moving in. If you have time for another visit, use the opportunity to explore the campus, speak with current residents, participate in a community social event, or enjoy a meal in the restaurant. Be sure to arrange visits with your community ahead of time, as this will allow them to plan an agenda for while you are there.

  • Pack efficiently and deliberately.

First and foremost, check with your community to see if they offer packing services. Getting help with this process will go a long way in smoothing the transition to senior living. When packing, prioritize the most important items first, and don’t stress about doing everything right away. Creating lists to keep the process organized will save time. Start with essential items like toiletries, medications, clothing, bedding, and furniture. After the big things are taken care of, move onto smaller items that may still be important but are stuffed away in the garage or attic. If you approach packing in a step-by-step manner, without rushing it, the task becomes bar less intimidating.

  • Make sure all logistical and “housekeeping” items are taken care of.

Any time you make a move, whether to senior living or somewhere else, there are logistical items that need to be taken care of. Make a plan to cancel ongoing services like cable, internet, and utilities that will be provided at your loved one’s new community. Contact the postal service to have mail forwarded from their old home to their community address, and have their address updated on credit cards, bank accounts, magazine subscriptions and anywhere else it might be listed. Last, but not least, keep a record of all moving expenses as they are tax deductible.

  • Allow time for the “emotional transition.”

No matter how prepared you or your loved one is for a move to senior living, there still may be fears and apprehensions. No one is completely ready for this type of move, so feelings like these are completely normal. Take advantage of social circles for support, whether they be family, friends, spiritual guides, online resources, or elsewhere. Talking through your fears is a great way to overcome them. Our most important piece of advice is to be patient. Everyone has a different timeline for their emotional transition, and that’s okay.

  • Set up your loved one’s new living space.

One of the best ways to make your loved one feel at home is to make their new living space feel familiar. Arrange furniture and decorations in a similar fashion as they were in the previous home. Display sentimental items prominently since these little things can go a long way. Taking time to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing living space will go a long way in smoothing the transition to your new home.

Getting Acclimated: The First Week and Beyond

Getting adjusted to senior living doesn’t happen overnight. From the first day through the first week, your loved one will be very busy at their new community. Here are some tips on how they can make the most of their initial days in senior living:

  • Get acquainted with neighbors.

Your loved one will likely be living in an apartment with several neighbors in their hallway, on their floor, or even right next door. Each person they meet has the potential to become a new friend. Encourage your loved one to introduce themselves to as many people as possible. Other residents have gone through the same transition period and they can serve as a fantastic resources and support network.

  • Familiarize yourself with community caregivers and staff.

During the first week, your loved one will get acquainted with several staff members at the community. For those at an assisted living level of care, this includes meetings with caregivers to assess their need and create a care plan. They will also meet with nurses, dining staff, and activity staff along with others on the community leadership team. The job of the community staff is to make sure your loved one feels comfortable, so don’t hesitate to bring up questions you have for them at any time.

  • Spend time with loved ones.

Now that the majority of COVID-19 restrictions are being relaxed, be sure to visit your loved one regularly, or as often as possible. This is especially important during their first weeks at the community, since it will help them get adjusted to their new surroundings without feeling abandoned. Try to come with a consistent schedule for visiting if you can. Sharing a meal is a great way to spend time whenever you visit. Most communities offer a range of dining options from dine-in to take-out, so check and see what’s available.

  • Get involved in community events and activities.

One of the major benefits of senior living communities is the social programming they offer. Make sure your loved one gets a copy of the community’s activity calendar and speaks with other residents about their favorite activities. Attending social events early on provides a great opportunity to learn about what’s available and get to know other residents. Over time, they will discover which activities are their favorites and have new things to look forward to on a regular basis.

  • Dine with other residents and members of staff.

More often than not, the dining room is the center of socialization in a senior living setting. Encourage your loved one to schedule meals with their new neighbors and connect with other residents during meals. Members of community staff are often glad to share a meal as well, and they have the potential to become great friends.

  • Get involved in a group.

Most senior living communities have special groups focused on specific hobbies, interests, or values. Examples might be a playing cards group, gardening club, book club, bible study, or resident council. Your loved one should speak with the community’s life enrichment director as well as other members to discover what’s out there and see what they might be interested in joining.

  • Take advantage of fitness opportunities.

Maintaining your loved one’s overall wellness is important, and their physical health should be taken into consideration. Most communities have activities that engage the residents in recreational activities, so encourage your loved one to participate. Staying active is not only good for their physical health, but it can help them feel more mentally sharp, happy, and upbeat.

  • Stay involved in life outside the community.

Joining a senior living community doesn’t mean your loved one’s outside life gets put on pause. They’ll still have the freedom to go about their business where they like and when they like. If your loved one no longer drives, many communities offer transportation trips to the doctor, grocery store, and other common needs. For trips that aren’t covered by the community directly, your loved one can find transportation through a home care or ride sharing service.

There is no single piece of advice that is the magical answer for easing the transition to senior living. However, if you follow the above tips as guidance, it will go a long way.

Considering a Move to Independent Living Before You Need Assisted Living?

Considering a Move to Independent Living Before You Need Assisted Living?

Many seniors feel there is no real reason to move into a senior living community unless they need the services and support of assisted living. Their thinking is that as long as they’re healthy and mobile, they should continue to live in their own homes. For these folks, a move into a senior living community seems like surrendering.

There are thousands upon thousands of seniors in independent living communities who will happily dispel that line of thinking. Aside from health considerations, there are solid reasons to relocate before you actually need assisted living.

You lose the constant, nagging worries and the expense of home maintenance.

Take a look around your home. Is everything in good repair, or are there small signs of neglect and deterioration? If you see those signs, that may mean you no longer have the desire or the energy to keep your home in tip-top shape. Perhaps it’s time to move, before your home investment begins to lose value. And a big plus…housekeeping is also included or available in independent living communities.

Everyday transportation challenges are overcome.

Maybe your driving isn’t quite what it used to be. Or maybe you’ve found yourself spending longer in the car to get to the grocery store and pharmacy and the places you can buy things that are essential to your lifestyle. Either way, an independent living community can radically shrink the distances you have to travel. Most communities either furnish their own transportation or are contracted with a local transportation company. Many facilities also offer onsite canteen-like stores as well as beauty and barber shops.

Cooking becomes optional.

Speaking of buying groceries, are you tired of cooking? Residents of senior living communities often say that the food is the best part. If you’ve become bored with cooking and cleaning up afterwards, and understand that a steady diet of take-out is probably not meeting your nutritional needs, you will love that delicious meals are included or available in independent living communities.

Your social life will blossom.

Are you beginning to feel more and more isolated? Has your circle of friends diminished and does your datebook have blank pages? Maybe it’s time to make new friends. And one of the best places to make those new friends is at an independent living community.

First of all, the residents already living there are your peer group, which means no more trying to buddy-up to the young couple who moved in next door. Second of all, the social amenities and activities at most independent living communities are second to none. You’ll not only find companionship, but exercise classes, card games, painting classes, and other arts and crafts and hobbies of all kinds, movie nights, lunch and dinner outings, wine tastings, music, and much more.

The transition to assisted living is easier.

You’ve already made the “senior living decision” and probably discovered it was one of the choices you’ve ever made. If at some point you need it, assisted living is the next step on the journey. Think of it as independent living more personal services. In assisted living, you can continue to enjoy many of the activities and conveniences you’ve experienced in independent living, and now you know how fulfilling the senior living experience can be.

You may not fully understand this until you’ve made the move, but with independent living, you don’t give up your freedom and independence you improve it! Independent living can translate to more convenience, enjoyment, peace-of-mind, and yes…independence.

Tips to Easing the Transition of Moving a Parent to Memory Care

Tips to Easing the Transition of Moving a Parent to Memory Care

The process of moving a parent to memory care is often full of unknowns but placing a loved one a memory care community doesn’t have to be filled with frustration.

Key steps to take before moving a parent to memory care

Several important parts of moving a parent to memory care happen ahead of moving day. In advance, caregivers can focus on managing emotions, maintaining effective communication, and finding small ways to make new surroundings feel like home.

  • Stick to a simple family script

Before the memory care move comes the memory care conversation. Likely, you’ll need to frequently remind your parent that they’re moving. Because moving to memory care often involves the whole family, many different voices and opinions may chime in, which can overwhelm seniors with dementia. To curb disorientation and reassure your loved one, establish a script or a straightforward, comforting response that each family member can return to again and again. Be concise and make sure everyone in the family is using the same verbiage. Keep the message simple. You can tell your aging relative “You’re going to your new home,” or “This is a place where you’ll be safe.”

  • Pack for your family member

Moving can be an emotionally turbulent experience for anyone, but it can be especially overwhelming for a loved one with dementia. The process of taking down pictures and boxing up beloved items only adds to stress and disorientation. To minimize panic and outbursts, try packing when your parent is asleep, at an appointment, or spending time with friends.

  • Personalize your parent’s living space

The memory care community you choose will become your family member’s new home. You should try to create a homey feeling from the start by incorporating a senior’s decorations and personal items into the space before the move if possible. That way when the resident walks into their apartment, they will see their belongings and hopefully have less anxiety. It’s also recommended that family members prioritize meaningful objects when considering what to bring to a memory care facility. Instead of moving all of your parent’s belongings at once, start with a few to encourage comfort rather than clutter. It also provides an opportunity for caregivers to engage in redirection and practice asking questions. By asking your parent if they want a certain pillow or picture, this tactic will allow mom or dad to make their voice heard and play an active role in their transition to memory care.

  • Tips for a smooth moving day for a parent with dementia

Just as family members should handle packing, they can shoulder key responsibilities on moving day to take the pressure off of their senior loved one. Moving day also marks a milestone a time when you can set up future success for your parent and connection for everyone involved.

  • Encourage your loved one to socialize and participate

While you’re unboxing final additions to your loved one’s memory care room, they can explore the community and begin to adjust to their new surroundings.

Aim to move during a memory care activity your loved one might enjoy, like an art class, singalong, or game of bingo. Experiencing the benefits of memory care right away can decrease moving day stress and give your family member an opportunity to meet friends and get a taste of their new daily routine.

  • Acknowledge your parent’s concerns and questions

On moving day, your parent may ask to come home, wonder why they have to be in memory care, or otherwise express distress. In these situations, lean on empathy. It’s not unusual for the person to want what they had before, whether it was working for them or not. Saying things like, “I hear you…I imagine this is really hard,” can be beneficial.

  • Ask how they’re feeling about their transition to memory care

Emotional situations also stand out as an active listening opportunity. During these moments, delve into your family member’s mindset to deepen your understanding and bond. In order to meet them where they are at, ask questions like, “Where is home?” They may describe it as the home they grew up in. When they’re upset and confused, ask questions about what they’re thinking and feeling. This approach to communication may help you know what to expect the next time your senior loved one is upset or disoriented, as well as provide insights into what’s causing these emotions.

  • Have important conversations with community staff

After moving a parent to memory care, the community’s staff will become an integral support system. On the day of the move, make a plan for continued communication and connection. Some suggested questions to ask the staff are:

“How will you help my parent transition?”

“What are my opportunities to see my loved one?”

“Do you have a process of sending updates?”

“Do you record and share activities that show my moved one is being engaged?”

Express your gratitude to community staff for helping care for your parent as they acclimate, and for keeping you in the loop.

After the move: continuing the transition to memory care

Even after you’ve moved your parent into memory care, there are steps you can take to help them thrive. Ease the transition for them and you by continuing to reach out and monitoring how they’re adapting to the community. Avoid potentially triggering moments during your visits and recognize that the transition may take time.

Stay connected in a way that’s healthy for you and your senior loved one

Communication and regular visits with your mom and dad show you’ll continue to support them and be present. However, communication can be challenging during the first weeks or months after the move. During visits and phone calls, your parent may ask to come home, become disoriented, or be hostile.

Reduce distress for seniors with dementia by following these tips when visiting their memory care community:

Visit at the right times. Whenever possible, opt for morning visits and avoid evenings. While those with dementia are generally more alert in the mornings, late afternoon can coincide with sundowner’s syndrome.

Participate in programming and meals with your senior loved one. Visiting during a game, activity, or lunchtime can distract from potentially fraught emotions. It also marks a clear end point for the visit making goodbyes easier.

Focus on the positive. It’s not just people with dementia who get frustrated. Caregivers can easily fall into negativity while navigating the challenges of supporting a loved one with cognitive decline.

Accept that the transition to memory care might take several weeks

Moving into a memory care facility marks a big change one that requires time and patience from everyone involved. Families should expect a window of four to six weeks for seniors to become fully acclimated. During this time, family members should validate their loved one’s feelings, rather than simply push past them.

Be open to reassessing needs, and embrace flexibility

There’s no exact formula for assuring a memory care facility is the right fit but instead multiple opportunities to evaluate and readjust. While adjustment challenges are normal, watch out for persisting red flags. If your parent has difficulty making friends or engaging in community activities, consider talking with staff to address concerns, and working together on a plan to overcome the problem. If your loved one continues to express distress and asks to come home after six weeks, this may signal they feel trapped and abandoned. With a little flexibility, families can explore shifts within the community or as a last resort, seek a new facility that may be a better match.

Moving a parent to memory care during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupts many routine elements of moving a parent to memory care. Instead of taking a firsthand role in the moving process, caregivers may have to leave the bulk of tasks to facility staff. New residents might also have to quarantine upon move-in, and visitors will face additional screening and safety protocols.

These circumstances make clear communication even more essential. When moving a parent to senior living during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should ask the following questions:

  • Is there a quarantine period for seniors moving into a memory care community? If so, how long are new residents expected to isolate?
  • What role can families play in the move while maintaining safety and following established protocols?
  • What activities and programming opportunities are in place for residents during the pandemic?
  • In the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case, how will communities keep residents safe and prevent a potential outbreak?
  • How does the community handle caregiver visits during COVID-19? Are visitors expected to quarantine ahead of time, take a test, wear a mask, or see their senior loved one in an outdoor setting?

Power of Attorney for Your Elderly Loved One – A Basic Guide

Power of Attorney for Your Elderly Loved One – A Basic Guide

As a parent or relative ages, it can become a struggle to balance respect for his/her autonomy and independence while protecting them from negative consequences of mental or physical health problems. A Power of Attorney (POA) is one way to ensure that no matter what happens down the road, your loved one’s wishes will be prioritized.

A POA is one of the most important documents for elderly parents and grandparents, but it’s one that many families haven’t prepared. Fortunately, setting up a power of attorney is fairly simple, and it can save you from future complications. Executing a power of attorney is an important step to take sooner than later, even if your aging loved one is still physically and cognitively healthy.

To follow is information about the different types of power of attorney, common reasons why seniors need them, and how to have a POA executed for your aging relative.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is document, signed by a competent adult called “the principal,” that grants a trusted individual the power to make decisions on their behalf if the principal is unable to do so. The person designated to act in the principal’s best interest is called “the agent.” It’s the agent’s job to make sure the principal in this case, their aging parent or loved one is well-cared for.

Most seniors will execute multiple varieties of POA. An elder law attorney can help your aging relative determine the right combination for their needs.

  • General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney is comprehensive it gives a senior’s agent power to act on their behalf financially and legally. General power of attorney can be used for healthy parents who want help with financial or personal matters.

  • Their POA is sometimes called a financial power of attorney. It gives an agent power to:
  • Sign documents on the senior’s behalf
  • Open or close bank accounts, and withdraw funds
  • Buy and sell property, real estate, and assets
  • Trade and sell stock
  • Pay bills and cash checks on the principal’s behalf
  • Enter contracts for utilities and services like housekeeping or home health
  • Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney also known as a health care proxy or health care agent is someone who makes health care decisions for the principal if they’re incapacitated. It’s their job to ensure a senior’s wishes, as stated in their advanced directive or living will, are upheld in case of end-of-life care.

A medical POA only goes into effect when a senior is deemed incapacitated. The agent named is responsible for ensuring health providers follow instructions from the senior’s medical power of attorney documents. They also have authority over:

  • Medical treatment
  • Surgical procedures
  • Feeding tubes and artificial hydration
  • Organ donation
  • Selection of health care or senior living facilities
  • Release of medical records
  • Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney allows the agent to make financial and medical decisions through all mental and physical circumstances, unless the principal chooses to revoke it.

Even if the senior is in a coma, has experienced significant cognitive decline from dementia, or is otherwise deemed incapacitated, a durable power of attorney allows the agent to make decisions on their behalf. A non-durable power of attorney is void if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated, so it’s not recommended for dementia patients or seniors at risk of dementia.

  • Limited (special) Power of Attorney

A limited power of attorney is exactly what it sounds like a senior can give someone agency for a limited amount of time, which is generally stipulated in the document. For instance, a limited power of attorney could go into effect for a specific business transaction, like a real estate sale.

  • Springing Power of Attorney

A springing power of attorney is executed in advance, but doesn’t go into effect until a senior receives a declaration of incapacity. Seniors who want to maintain autonomy as long as possible may prefer a springing power of attorney. However, this decision could lead to complications and delays down the road. Medical evaluations related to determining incompetence can be costly and time-consuming and are subject to legal conflicts.

Six Common Reasons for Seniors to Consider a Power of Attorney

A POA grants a chosen relative or friend the ability to make decisions when a parent or grandparent is either unwilling or unable. Here are a few reasons seniors may feel it’s time to set up a power of attorney:

  • Financial responsibilities

If your aging relative has a hard time staying on top of financial obligations, or is in danger of overspending their savings, it may be time to establish a financial power of attorney. Check for overdue bills, duplicate checks, and fraudulent requests for funds.

  • Alzheimer’s disease

It’s vital to set up durable power of attorney for an elderly parent with dementia before they experience significant cognitive decline, since it can be complicated to execute legal documents once a senior is deemed mentally incapacitated.

  • Upcoming surgery

Invasive surgeries can lead to complications. A power of attorney ensures that a senior’s wishes will be respected in case of emergency.

  • Planned travel

Sometimes, a POA is established out of convenience, rather than medical necessity. If seniors are traveling in retirement, they may want someone at home able to cash incoming checks and handle bills.

  • Medical diagnosis

A senior with a terminal diagnosis may want to establish a power of attorney to ensure their wishes are met when they become incapacitated or too sick to make health care decisions.

  • Unstable family relationships

It’s common for adult children to fight about a parent’s care, especially if they disagree about finances or end-of-life decisions. A power of attorney clearly designates who’s responsible for upholding the senior’s wishes and can block ill-intentioned family members from intervening.

How to select a power of attorney for an elderly relative

Choosing an agent is often one of the most time-consuming parts of the process, since it’s important for seniors to ensure their best interests. To follow are five questions to consider when selecting an agent for a senior’s power of attorney:

  • Is a family member the best choice?

Many seniors select a relative as POA by default. There can be instances whereby this may not be the best choice if family relationships are strained. And advisor, close friend, or professional proxy can all be safe alternatives.

  • Is there a knowledgeable option?

Someone familiar with medical procedures and treatments may be able to make better decisions as medical power of attorney. Someone with experience in accounting would be an ideal financial or general power of attorney.

  • Should power of attorney be split?

A senior can choose one agent for general power of attorney and another for medical power of attorney. Or, they can choose multiple agents for both. If there are multiple agents who disagree, decisions could be delayed, however.

  • Will the agent be able to carry out the senior’s wishes?

The top responsibility of a POA is to comply with the senior’s directives. Sometimes, this is emotionally difficult. For example, a spouse may struggle with making the decision to end life support, even if it’s what their partner wanted.

  • Who does the senior trust?

A power of attorney agent should always put the needs and well-being of the senior first, no matter their own circumstances. Trust is imperative when selecting an agent.

Sometimes, adult children can feel hurt or jealous knowing their parent has named a sibling as POA. A family elder care planning meeting can be a forum to discuss choices and help people begin to accept them.

When and how should a senior set up a power of attorney?

A senior’s wishes may not be known or respected without legal documentation, so it’s important to discuss a power of attorney with aging relatives.

Now is the time to talk about a POA

Experts recommend establishing a power of attorney for an elderly parent before they need it especially if they’ve received a concerning diagnosis. Patients diagnosed with early-stage dementia should set up a power of attorney before the disease progresses. If an aging relative is determined no longer competent to make their own decisions and doesn’t have a POA, family members face a complicated, expensive legal process to set up a conservatorship or guardianship.

Contact an elder law attorney

While many do-it-yourself power of attorney forms are available, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer draft one tailored to your family’s needs. There are many issues to consider, and one size doesn’t fit all. To follow, are four common scenarios an elder law attorney can help address:

  • Springing power of attorney

If the power of attorney is springing, it’s important that the method for determining incapacity is clearly spelled out in the document. Otherwise, the need to determine incapacity can cause delays and extra expense.

  • Appointing a guardian

Usually, if guardianship proceedings become necessary, the court will appoint a guardian for a senior. However, if a lawyer has nominated a guardian in the durable power of attorney, the court will usually honor that nomination.

  • Executing the power of attorney

Requirements for power of attorney differ between states. A local estate planning attorney or elder law attorney can ensure that the POA is executed properly.

  • Bank acceptance

Due to potential legal consequences, some banks and other institutions are hesitant to accept a power of attorney, even if it’s executed correctly. Banks may have their own standard power of attorney forms for you to sign. An elder law attorney can ensure any documents you sign with a bank match the original power of attorney.