Making a move to a retirement home is often challenging and sometimes upsetting - for the whole family.
If you’re a senior contemplating a move, it can be tricky to figure out which home will fit you and your lifestyle. If you are an adult child, trying to assist your loved one is often a balancing act between wanting what's best for them and not stepping on toes.
If you’re the adult child in this story, maybe you have been helping out your senior parent here and there - and sometimes even over there, and over here, too. In addition to being the primary source of support, caregivers often become the sounding board to the people they are caring for.
But now that the decision has been made for your parent(s) to move, you just want them to be well cared for in a home they are comfortable in. You also need some of your time back for your own family, and gosh forbid, for yourself. And that’s okay.
The day has come: the senior in the family has decided to make a move to a retirement home. This decision does not usually come lightly and brings with it a lot of emotions.
As an adult child, you may be happy with this decision, and hopefully are supportive. However, that is not always the case, and instead, you may feel overwhelmed, sad, guilty, angry, and more. Hopefully, though, you are still being supportive.
The importance of planning
You may not even realize it, but just starting this search and being open to the possibility of a move puts you further ahead than many! Some folks choose to do nothing, nothing at all. Those are the folks who eventually find themselves in crisis. If that isn’t bad enough, the person moving usually has lost some of their options due to cognition, hospitalization, or availability of a retirement home.
And then there are those who move to a retirement home - and move out again.
Because you have come so far, I’ve put together a list of reasons seniors move OUT of a retirement home, to help you on your path and show you what to look for so you don’t find yourself unhappy after such a tough, hard decision.
1.The CARE talk wasn’t in-depth enough
Care - what’s needed, how much it costs, and what it looks like - is a hard topic for almost everyone in a family to discuss. Knowing some terms used in the retirement industry will help you ask more in-depth care questions when you are considering a retirement home. Understanding the terminology will help you make an informed decision about your future needs and living situation.
If you are looking to make only one move going forward, then it will be most important for you to have a full understanding of how the continuum of care works in the home you are considering. Top four questions I would ask:
1. Can your home care for someone who requires a one-person transfer?
This means you need one person to help you out of bed, off the toilet, or out of a chair.
2. Can you care for someone who requires a two-person transfer?
This means you need two people to help you out of bed, off the toilet, or out of a chair.
3. Can you help someone who requires feeding assistance?
This means you need someone to physically feed you.
4. Can someone continue to live here when they require palliative/end-of-life care, and how does it work?
This is important because if you are terminally ill, you may not want to move to another residence during the process of dying. Also, remember to consider that if the home does a one-person assist and palliative but NOT a two-person assist, what will happen if you become a two-person assist?
Knowing this information will help you make educated decisions about not only the home you want to live in but also how long you can remain there. Many people choose to move to long-term care homes after a retirement residence, which makes the need for these questions less pressing. However, if your preference is to never have to move anywhere else, these questions are a great place to begin.
2. Food was a disappointment
Meals at a retirement residence are not your cooking. They’re just not. Meals are often served in a large dining room, not an intimate dining room. It’s often at a set time, not whenever you feel like eating. But - it’s also not a frozen meal, not a lonely meal, or a cold meal. It’s not a meal that someone in your family had to prepare and bring to you. (consider that.) Try to keep all of this in mind, and be open to this new experience for what it is.
A good way to help with the food debate is to have a few meals at the home you are choosing to move into. My suggestion would be to decide which home you’re interested in, place a deposit to hold it, and before signing the lease agreement, have a few meals there. This will give you peace of mind that the food is good and the atmosphere is pleasing.
3. Didn’t engage in home activities and events
Sometimes, people have been living on their own for a long time before moving into a retirement home. This can cause them to feel more isolated and have difficulty socializing and meeting new people. I get it. It takes a minute to get used to new surroundings. My suggestion is this: try out a few different activities in the retirement home. Activities cover a range of interests and there are usually lots of events taking place. I often find that residents who take part in these activities enjoy their experience in the home more fully.
4. Had false/too high expectations
Much like the dining experience, many seniors and families have inflated expectations for what a retirement home is like, or what it should be like. This is best described in this example.
I once was working with a man who was searching for a home for his loved one. She was almost in a crisis situation and would require memory care very soon. He wanted to find a place for her within 10 minutes of a particular hospital, not in the hustle and bustle of the city, and with a lot of green space and trees…
Within 10 minutes of the hospital, there were three retirement homes, out of 90+ in the city. One was right in the “hustle and bustle,” one did not have memory care, and one was nestled back into a neighbourhood backing on protected green space.
Can you guess which one he chose? None of them! He decided that he could do a better job of finding what he was looking for and continued the search on his own.
As you can see (hopefully), the “ideal” of what he was looking for didn’t physically exist, but he still thought he could find it.
Keep in mind that even though you want this move to look a certain way, it might not be a reality. If you are really unsure about expectations, you should speak with a professional who can help you through the process.
5. The budget wasn’t kept or monitored
It’s not unusual for families to call my team at Tea & Toast to get help with their retirement home search without any sense of budget in mind. This happens for two reasons:
They have absolutely no idea what a retirement home costs, and have no past experience.
They have not been proactive or looked into the senior’s financial situation to set a budget.
The other budget hiccup that happens is when someone has a set budget and pushes it too far, not leaving the room or planning for any additional care needs in the future.
It’s important, especially when working with a tight budget, to know exactly what you can comfortably afford. You need to determine if there is any flex room, and what that looks like. Also, if funds are getting tight, you may need to think about making a move to accommodate the need for more care. Some people will move to long-term care, while others might move to another retirement home.
This also applies to Question 1 (care needs), but it’s really more a question for yourself, your family, and/or a financial planner, and it should be looked at before you begin your search.
There you have it. If you reverse engineer these move-out reasons, ask great questions, and pre-plan, your retirement home search will be more accurate and - who knows? - even a little bit enjoyable!