5 Things No One Tells You About Moving into a Senior Living Community

Moving into a senior living community is not typically talked about in a positive manner, or talked about at all. Unfortunately, most of us still picture the old, dark nursing home halls from the past and can feel uneasy about looking at senior communities. They've come a long way since then but, even so, senior communities are often still considered to be a daunting topic. No one wants to move, the price is never right, and the decision is never unanimous. Many times the only way to learn how to navigate the senior care industry is through experience. I've come up with a list of my "Top 5" things that I think families should know when it comes time to pick a community and organize a move:

1. It isn't just about getting the right care, it's about finding the right lifestyle.

Most of the senior living communities are raising their standards and adding more care options to keep up with the competitive market. Once you have determined what type of community will meet your physical needs, it's important to visit your various options to feel out the type of lifestyle they offer. Make sure to visit each community multiple times, both weekday and weekend, to have lunch or join an activity so you will get the best idea of how a typical day goes. 



Things to Look For: how staff interact with the residents and each other (tone/eye contact), what types of activities and alternative activities are offered, manager presence on the floor, demeanor of residents (are they happy/engaged/comfortable).

2. Don't skimp on packing.

Moving to a senior community involves downsizing, but you still want your apartment to feel like home. Bring plenty of clothing options, wall hangings, textiles and personal touches. It's easy to resist moving too many things because it isn't your "real home". Most moves will be permanent and the apartment needs to feel warm and inviting in order to be a desirable living space.

Transition Tip: ALWAYS LABEL EVERYTHING! especially if the community offers laundry and housekeeping services. 99% of lost items can be returned if labelled properly. This includes photos, clothing, sheets, socks, shoes, pillows, and decorative items. 

3. No one is going to love your family member as much as you do.

The hardest part of transitioning, especially if you have been the one providing care, is coming to terms with the staffing ratio at a community. The personalized care you have been providing for your family member will never be matched... but that is okay! Speaking from experience, there ARE enough staff to care for the residents. However, there are not enough staff to give you or your family member individual attention at all times. If you have a question about care or staffing it's best to take it to the nurse in charge, or one of the management team, rather than asking a care-staff member.

Transition Tip: check in regularly, keep open communication with the management team, and continue doing a special activity with your loved ones. If you always had lunch out on Wednesdays then continue that tradition. One of my former resident's husband would take her on movie dates regularly because that was their special time together. Whatever your traditions, make an effort to keep them up.

4. You need to have your paperwork ready.

The admissions packet and contract are pretty lengthy, but there is a reason for every paper in the packet and most are state requirements. It is so important to complete all paperwork ahead of meeting with the community director to sign the contract. This will give you ample time to go over questions and address important topics, rather than using your one-on-one time with the community director filling out papers. Additionally, having paperwork in before the move in day will further reduce "things to remember" that may cause unnecessary stress.

Transition Tip: bring copies of your Power of Attorney, Medical Directives, and insurance cards to the contract signing. Most communities require these documents a before admission and it can be difficult to get them out of a safety deposit box quickly if you're scrambling at the last minute.

5. You can never fully prepare for move-in day.

It is completely normal to be emotional or experience stress on move-in day-- even if you have worked up to this moment for a long time. You will probably forget something, find yourself short-fused or feel like nothing is going as planned. Pause and give yourself a minute when you are feeling overwhelmed, and always ask for help. Bring a friend for support or approach a manager for assistance instead of trying to solve every little snag by yourself. 

Transition Tip: If you DO forget something you can always bring it later in the week if it is not 100% necessary. Keep a running list of things you need to bring during the first few days, and bring them all at once. Making multiple trips to the store will be stressful on moving day.

*Aging with Grace offers transition services to help with the various tasks leading up to a move in, such as paperwork, labeling and packing. We can also run errands for those forgotten items on move-in day!


Ask Me About My Cats

A while back, my friend Wendy shared a story of her encounter with an elderly woman at the grocery store. She was alone, carefully picking out produce, and something about the way she carried herself seemed lonely and worn. Wendy made eye contact and asked the woman if she knew how to pick out a good peach, feigning uncertainty in her own abilities. The woman's eyes lit up and she proudly showed my friend how to tell a good peach from a GREAT peach. Wendy thanked her and watched her walk away with a smile, standing a little taller and moving with a little more purpose, all because of a peach.

Little moments like that can make a difference in anyone's day. To be noticed, needed or helped feels good, especially for those struggling with loneliness or depression. As our loved ones age they can experience many different forms of loss. They face health struggles of their own or their spouse, lose abilities and memories, friends and family... it can be very lonely. 

Thankfully, just about everyone has a peach. For me, my peach is my cats. If you see me in my old age (or now) buying a bag of cat food, I would be so excited if you took time to ask me about my cats.

Speaking of my cats... Keats (left) and Biko (right).

Speaking of my cats... Keats (left) and Biko (right).

One of the services I offer through Aging with Grace is "Genuine Companionship". I didn't choose the word "genuine" because it sounded nice or sells well, but because I truly want to be there for those who are at risk for loneliness or depression. Since I am not hired to help with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) I get to focus on their "peach" and spend time talking about or doing something they love.

When I worked in a memory care community my favorite thing was hearing the stories our residents and their families would share. One gentleman enjoyed sitting outside, talking about his family and his time in the military. He was so proud to have served his country. Eventually, he had to move to another care home but because of the dementia he was not allowed outside alone. When I visited I would find him staring out the window into a parking lot, the room dim and lonely. 

Once, around Memorial Day, we were able to take a walk outside together. He saw the flag pole out front and stopped mid-sentence to salute. After a few quiet minutes he brought his hand down and began telling stories from when he was active duty, eyes glistening one moment and laughing the next. The stories flowed with ease despite his usually difficulty forming sentences. All it took was finding that moment, that "peach", that gave him joy. 

For more information, or to learn how to help the seniors in your life cope with loss: 
Depression in the Elderly: 7 Ways to Help
Words for Seniors Facing Loss 

What is a Concierge Service?

Fredericksburg is full of senior care companies. It is a fantastic network of personal care, assisted living, hospice, memory care, companion care, transport... you name it and we have it. Aging with Grace is the first Concierge Service in our area. Since it's the first of its kind, I'm learning that people are unsure what I do when I first introduce my business. I figured that the best way to start my blog for Aging with Grace would be to outline the basics of what I do. 

If you have ever been to a luxury hotel or apartment complex, or seen one in a movie, you may have noticed how the front desk will do various tasks for the guests and residents of their building. These concierge services are part of the tenants' fancy lifestyle, allowing them to sip martinis in their spare time because they don't have to do 'peasant tasks' like pick up dry cleaning or buy groceries. The Concierge takes care of it for them!

Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty Woman (1990)

What a Concierge Service can do for you:
Swamped at work? A concierge can make sure your pantry is stocked, dry cleaning is picked up and baby shower present is purchased + wrapped, so you can go into the weekend prepared, ready to enjoy your time off.
Checking in on a loved one? A senior concierge service can give you some time off with check in services, grocery delivery and a game of cards, all followed by a quick report or photo. 
Living independently, but find yourself slowing down? Let a concierge service take care of the laundry, basic chores, and grocery or personal shopping so you have the energy to keep up when the grandkids visit. 
Facing a move into a senior living community? An experienced senior concierge service can help pack, label items, help plan for the day-of logistics, and ensure all paperwork is understood + complete in time.

While I may not be serving my clients to allow them the time to sip martinis in their Givenchy, the services I provide enable my clients to let go of physical and emotional stress -- a luxury for many. Having a concierge service to go grocery shopping or do laundry can reduce risk of injury when it comes to lifting, stooping or balancing heavy items. Additionally, taking a few time consuming tasks off of your plate will give you time to rest, take some alone time, or spend quality time with those closest to you. 

Many companies have a niche and offer a few specialized services under one umbrella category. With a concierge business, I have a hand in many different tasks. My umbrella is crowded. To manage all my different tasks, though, I refer clients who begin to have greater needs to one of the specialized companies. On the flip side, someone who may not need enough assistance to work with one of the specialized companies can start with a concierge service.         

In short, think of Aging with Grace as your Personal Assistant, only with a compassionate approach and expertise in senior services. And if you're sipping martinis in your spare time as a result of my services, maybe I am doing more things right than I originally thought! 

The World is Not Enough (1999)

The World is Not Enough (1999)