Transitions are hard at any age and for the aging parent, it can be overwhelming and emotional. Recently, my mother-in-law made a decision to relocate from her beautiful home on the river to a retirement community. The decision was a struggle as she loved her sunset over the river view every evening. She came to the conclusion that a view without someone to share it with isn’t all that satisfying and could be lonely. Along with making the decision to move came parting with pieces of her life that made the decision a difficult one.
Mom reached out to me and asked if I would help her design her new reality and I was honored to do so. It is my intention to share this positive experience with you in hopes that it might help you and a family member have the same successful transition.
A Guide to Transitioning An Aging Parent
Marylou Brown with daughter-in-law, Patricia Davis Brown
Finding the Right Community
We all age differently and our needs will vary. I believe it is important to find a place that will allow our aging parent to age with dignity. What was important to all of us in mom’s transition was that we found a place that could accommodate her current needs along with her possibly changing needs without much disruption. One move is traumatic enough for the elderly and it is so important that the community is equipped to handle the changing needs. I am sure you are wondering how someone finds such a place for their aging parent?
There are two distinctions you need to educate yourself about when looking for the right community and that is continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and life care retirement communities (CCRCs). Both offer residents a lifestyle that includes on-campus conveniences, services, and amenities, such as banks, beauty salons, fitness centers, etc. Both types offer a complete range of lifestyle accommodations, from independent living to assisted living and skilled nursing care. So, what distinguishes them apart from one another is the type of contracts they offer.
- Extensive Contracts: Provides the resident with unlimited, lifetime access to independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care with little or no increase in the monthly fee resulting from the level of care needed at any given point.
- Modified Contracts: Provide residents with discounted rates for independent living and a limited period of assisted living or skilled nursing care. If the resident needs a higher level of care beyond that limited period, they pay daily rates for their care.
- Fee-for-service Contracts: Provide a lower monthly service fee for independent living but charge a daily rate to residents needing a higher level of care.
Designing Mom’s New Home
Marylou’s new home designed by Patricia Davis Brown Designs, LLC.
It was hard for my mother-in-law, for the first time, to not consider other people’s comforts. I had to keep reminding her that this was her place and she needed to surround herself with things that made her comfortable. This was a struggle and took patience on both our parts because as a designer what I do is create a comfortable home and lifestyle for people and for mom she just wasn’t used to the process of making decisions on her comfort alone.
The great thing about mom’s new community is that every apartment is demolished down to stud walls, meaning it is a brand new place designed just for her. I think this is so important in making the aging parent feel like it is their own new home. It’s also helpful to cater to their specific needs such as mom using a walker took special consideration when picking finishes for her apartment.
Together we got to choose her paint pallet, decorative faucets and light fixtures, appliances and I had a hand in designing her kitchen. We were given choices of materials like flooring, countertops and cabinetry finishes. Most were acceptable choices but I needed to step out of the box when it came to her plumbing fixtures as the offering didn’t quite meet her needs. My go-to with universal design is American Standard. They offer an array of faucet choices that I think are perfect for any age consumer but especially for the aging.
Mix New Furnishings with Keepsakes
Keepsake Cedar Chest by Richard Brown
Along with a brand new apartment, I felt mom needed new furnishings that made her comfortable and fit her style. Now, there were some keepsakes that meant a lot to her and they fit in perfectly with her new furniture and accessories. My father-in-law throughout their marriage had made certain pieces that were near and dear to her heart like a cedar chest he had made for her when they were dating.
She picked a new modern couch that reclined for her comfort and an accent chair that made the perfect spot for visiting with a new friend. I picked up new linens for her bed that gave a fresh new vibe to her bedroom.
At the end of the project, the mom was smiling. I think she likes her new place. Her new home was located near to the family and convenient for restaurants and shopping. She was in an active community of her peers and was quickly making lunch dates with new friends.
Images Courtesy of Canva.