My flight landed in Raleigh, NC on Saturday, February 6, 2016. I had planned a week’s vacation to spend time with my parents. On the agenda, was an appointment with an elder law attorney to get their estate planning documents in order. Dad is 84 and has multiple chronic illnesses. Mom is 74 and in relatively good health. Mom had slowly become dad’s primary caregiver. During the past year, my parents had started to give cues that continuing to live in their two-story home was becoming too much for mom to manage. We just had to listen.
A few weeks prior to my arrival, discussions had started on the different living options. My parents thought it would be a good idea to have a family meeting, to discuss their options. This turned out to be very valuable in our preplanning processes; everyone contributed different ideas and suggestions and we compiled our personalized checklist for touring different senior communities. I thought it was important for mom to see and understand the different levels of care provided at the different communities. Our first stop was at a personal care community. After talking with the staff and viewing the community, it was clear that this was too restrictive of an environment for them; they did not require this level of care.
We were then able to focus our time on touring five different independent senior communities. Without the checklist we never would have remembered all of the details of each community. My dad was able to tour two of the communities, and he fell in love with the very first one, which turned out to be the one they selected. We shared our findings with the rest of the family and by Thursday we had our second family discussion about moving forward.
The community they selected included moving services where they “packed, moved, and unpacked” new residents. My brother and his wife took charge of the items that remained in the home, after the move. My sister and her husband were the most experienced in handling real estate, so they took charge of selling or leasing my parents’ home.
By the end of February, my parents were in their new home; an apartment in an all-inclusive, resort-style community, developed exclusively for adults 55 and over. Their new home has two bedrooms, two bathrooms with walk-in showers, a full kitchen, washer and dryer, all utilities, including high-speed internet, 24/7 professional staff, medical alert system, concierge services, free scheduled transportation, freedom dining, room service, valet parking, weekly housekeeping, maintenance staff, secure access for safety, health & wellness programs, daily social invitations & activities, shopping & outings, fitness center, a stadium seating theatre, library, computer center, and on-site banking services, pharmacy/gift shop, salon/barber, and caregiver agency. It reminded me of a cruise ship.
My parents chose to be proactive instead of reactive. We have been blessed with a close and loving family. Although we all have our own opinions, our parents continue to make their own decisions and are in control of how they live their lives. We are all there to support them. I was able to personally experience how very different the government elder services and community resources vary between the states and counties.
Each Friday night, the community has a happy hour. My sister and her husband enjoy this event with our parents. One of her recent texts said, “Dad is a different person. He is singing, dancing, laughing and talking to everyone.”