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Making Plans

by Lindsey Getz
An aging parent can mean tough decisions and guilty feelings. For ‘moms in the middle,’ there is hope ahead.

Becoming a “parent to your parent” is a tough transition for most adult children. There is guilt associated with making decisions coupled with ongoing worries over whether the decisions made were the right choices. One of those biggest decisions is over where an aging parent should live. Mom or Dad may not want to leave their existing home, but it may no longer be safe or practical for them to stay there. While it can be stressful making this type of decision, once it’s decided to move into a senior living community, experts say both parties are typically happier. And that means adult children are able to say goodbye to some of that guilt.

Freedom Gained
For Christina O’Leary, a mother of three and director of branding and project management at Spring Hills Senior Communities, it’s all about balance. “Live the life you deserve by setting limits and boundaries so you can enjoy what’s important to you. By prioritizing to fit your lifestyle, you have a better chance at achieving your goals.” When making tough end-of-life and parental care decisions, she suggests asking for referrals and doing your own research—two keys in making tough decisions.

There is a tremendous amount of stress associated with getting an aging parent the help and care they may need as they age. “I find that many of these families are in a constant state of worry,” admits Janice Taylor, sales and marketing manager, Wynwood of Florham Park in Florham Park. “In fact, I’ve often seen that when they are finally able to make a decision to move the family member into our community, that they are incredibly relieved.”

While the initial reaction to moving out may feel like a loss of freedom, many older adults find they actually gain freedom by moving into one of the many senior communities available today. Some communities provide assisted living while others are fully independent living or offer a mix of both. But both cases can offer a variety of opportunities and activities for older adults to become involved in. When older adults stay in their existing homes, they often become isolated. If they don’t drive, they may be stuck in the house all day. And even when older adults live with their adult children, they may be home alone all day while the family is at work and the kids are at school. In a senior living community, there are always things to do.

“When somebody moves here, they’re able to have more of their own life than being stuck at home all the time,” says Tiffany McGovern, sales counseling for Voorhees Senior Living. “They can make friends again and participate in activities they used to enjoy doing. Once the adult children see their parents not only adjusting but enjoying a new lifestyle, those feelings of guilt should lessen. They realize that it was the best decision for everyone. And for the parent, there is suddenly so much more to take advantage of than to sit around the house and watch television all day.”

Overcoming the Battle
Still, don’t expect it to be easy, says Rachel Straight, community manager at Yardley Commons Retirement Community, an independent living community in Voorhees. “A lot of times, it’s definitely a struggle,” she says. “The parent may have their heels dug in and not want to make the move. There may be a strong emotional tie to the family home—maybe they’ve lived there for 50 years. They’re comfortable there and they have their memories there. Making the decision to move can be very emotional and sometimes those feelings can be transferred on to the child. It’s not easy for anyone.”

Straight’s advice to family members and caregivers is not to take the matter too lightly. It may seem like an obvious decision to move your loved one into community living, but, for them, it’s a huge step.

“Involve them in the process and help them see why it’s something they may learn to love,” says Straight. “Once older adults do finally move in, it’s like they become different people because they’re smiling all the time, making friends, and laughing. But that doesn’t mean it was easy getting to that point.”

A Better Relationship
Once moved in, oftentimes there are also some positive changes in the parent/child relationship. “When an older adult comes to live in our community, the child is relieved of feeling like the caregiver,” says McGovern. “They can go back to just being the child. They can come in and just visit and have a pleasant time without worrying about whether or not Mom or Dad needs to take their medication. We worry about those things. That’s a tremendous relief of burden for families.”

Taylor agrees. “A lot of the guilt associated with caring for an aging parent is about not spending quality time with them,” she says. “When the child is in the caregiver role, the relationship becomes all about checking on them and taking care of them. But once the parent comes here, we take over that role.”

Once the responsibility of caregiving is placed in the hands of professionals, adult children can become part of their parent’s life in a way they weren’t able to experience before, spending true quality time together.

“I have had many adult children call me to tell me how relieved they are of the burdens they were feeling,” says Yardley’s Straight. “It improves the relationship between both parent and child. I just recently experienced a great example of that. There is a woman moving in whose adult daughter was so overwhelmed by the stress of making these tough decisions that she was seeing a therapist. As soon as we signed the contract, she said she felt a huge relief. When people move here, it’s not just for the parent—it’s for the child too.”

In the end, everyone is happier, she says.

? For those who need assistance juggling it all, our directory has resources that can help—from childcare to eldercare.

BrightStar In Home Care
BrightStar’s LifeCare services range from companion care and hygiene assistance to 24/7 homecare, including elder care, skilled nursing services and more. Let them show you how they can make “more” possible for you and your loved ones. 700 Cinnaminson Ave Palmyra (856) 829-0034

Brookdale Senior Living
Brookdale Senior Living communities provide active retirement living for thousands of residents, serving seniors and their families since 1978. Today, Brookdale is the nation’s largest owner and operator of senior living communities throughout the United States and a leading national provider of senior-related services. With an outstanding reputation in the field, they currently operate more than 645 senior living, assisted living facilities and retirement communities across the nation. At Brookdale, their story is about helping you continue your story and what’s most meaningful to you in life.

Five Star Senior Living
Five Star Senior Living has three communities in South Jersey providing a large span of services to meet individual needs and wants for residents and their families. Offering every service on the continuum of care for assisted living and rehabilitation services, Five Star will give you and your family the peace of mind to get on with living a full, happy lifestyle.
490 Cooper Landing Road
Cherry Hill
(856) 482-9300

501 Laurel Oak Road
(856) 566-2340

600 Medical Center Drive
(856) 582-8700

Juniper Village
Juniper Village is the pearl of Williamstown with its beautiful surroundings as well as educated, friendly and active staff. They care for their elderly residents with thoughtfulness as though they were their own family. Assisted Living and Memory Care facilities are part of the community. Juniper Village Wellspring has received coveted awards from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
1640 Black Horse Pike
(856) 740-4444

The Manor at St. Mary’s
Honored to be part of the Diocese of Camden senior health system, The Manor at St. Mary’s is the area’s foremost, not-for-profit senior retirement residence. The Manor is committed to accommodating residents with an immense amount of support for quality of care and quality of life. Their residents enjoy a rich and fulfilling lifestyle, with the greatest degree of independence.
220 St. Mary’s Drive
Cherry Hill
(856) 874-5400

Nannys USA/American Nanny and Parenting
Now offering state-approved nanny services, wellness specialists and parenting classes from professional, certified career nannies. Offering programs on newborn care, pregnancy and childbirth for first time parents, breastfeeding from A-Z, baby sleep training, prenatal education for parents, and a nutrition series for children.
11000 Lincoln Drive W., Suite 11005
(856) 424-0800

Spring Hills Senior Communities
Spring Hills Senior Communities manages innovative and distinctive Senior Living Communities and Home Care Services. The cornerstone of their dedication to personalized care is through the Signature Touches program, created to enhance the lives of residents and clients through a holistic approach focused on mind, body and spirit. Since 1999, Spring Hills has led the way with integrative programs for senior adults.
1450 Route 70 E.
Cherry Hill
(856) 324-4600

Woodbury Mews
Personal Assistance at Woodbury Mews Assisted Living is tailored for each resident’s individual requirements. They provide 24/7 attention to the residents who enjoy their own apartment, activities, restaurant style dining and a comprehensive security system. Woodbury Mews, the community that treats you like family.
122 Green Ave.
(856) 384-6600

Yardley Commons
Located on lovely, charming, secure grounds in Voorhees, residents at Yardley Commons enjoy the convenience of being close to shopping, medical facilities and fine dining. At Yardley Commons, residents keep engaged and entertained in exercise classes, educational lectures and off-site outings. Their on-site management teams live right in the community and are available 24/7 to assist their fellow residents’ needs. You’ll love coming home to Yardley Commons.
209 Laurel Road
(856) 772-1313

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 12 (February, 2012).
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