This series of articles will detail the experiences I’ve had moving my 88-year old mother into an assisted living facility here in Charleston, South Carolina.
My objective is to be humorous, practical and to offer some lessons learned. The move happened in phases and I will describe Phase I as the suggestion that she consider moving.
For years I never thought I would live near my mother again. Due to marriage and the military, I had moved away from my family in New Jersey almost 19 years ago.
Mom is now 88, and the majority of her problems started about three years ago. Her most challenging issues are hyponutremia (Sodium level in blood too low), dizziness and unsteadiness.
My sister and brother-in-law have been her constant caretakers and have taken her in for months after various bouts of rehab. She has a devoted “staff” (a collection of wonderful church friends) that would do anything they could for her.
In January, I was organizing a client’s residence in an assisted living facility close to me when I got the inescapable idea of moving my Mom down here.
I already knew and trusted the leaders in that facility. The price was about a third of anything in PA or NJ, I would be able to enjoy my mother being near me again, and at the same time allow my sister to regain her life with her husband.
Since I own a concierge business for baby boomers and seniors, (At Your Service Concierge)I would be able to plan and execute the entire move, including the sale of her unwanted items on a local online estate auction.
Since Mom has a great Long term care policy I didn’t want her not to benefit from it since she had been paying premiums for decades.
I called my sister before talking to Mom and asked her opinion; especially since I wanted to be sensitive to her feelings in case Mom actually did end up moving away.
She was very enthusiastic, especially when she mentioned all the bills Mom had incurred while living on her own that would go away. From every angle it was a win-win.
I intentionally made the telephone pitch on a blizzardy day in January; knowing that Mom hates to be cold. In that initial conversation I described the financial benefits, the amenities of the facility, the weather, the pleasure I would have to have her live near me and the relocation process.
I would fly up there, pack up her unwanted items, bring them back via a truck and sell them on auction while setting up her new place. With surprisingly little hesitation, she agreed and I was thrilled!
So began the planning process….
Lessons learned during this phase:
Get thorough pre-approval from the long-term-care policy provider to include the levels of care required before any contract is signed so there will be no future issues.
Give your parent ample time to downsize. I had the blessing of my patient sister who was able to take off for two weeks while culling items to sell or keep without overwhelming her.
Be sensitive to your parents’ idea of time. My time frame for being able to execute the move was far different from my Mom’s, whose main objection was the proper amount of time needed to sort through her mountains of “papers”.
Try to put yourself in your parent’s shoes. Moving is an exciting, yet stressful experience especially as you age and you feel you are losing control of your life activities.
Having moved many times and without having a lot of possessions beyond furniture, I thought it was far simpler than my mother could grasp. You’ll be surprised at the quantities of items your parents’ have gathered.
For example; why does Mom need 3 boxes of partially used tubes of various ointments?
My grandmother had dementia which encouraged my mother to buy the long-term-care policy at a time when they were not so well-known. From this, I am learning to plan for my own aging process.
I am sharing this information with my husband as well so we can plan for his parents. I realize that we may not be able to rely on our children to take care of us in the manner that we are trying to do for our parents.
There will be times when your parent gets stressed, tired and emotional. She used the term “railroaded” in a conversation which really hurt my feelings.
Don’t take this personally; if you are truly trying to make a better life for your parent and you are operating in your parent’s best interest, then proceed with patience but firmness so you can get your own life back on track.
Thoroughly vet the assisted living facility. Food and the meal-time process is crucial, especially when your parent needs to be on a restricted diet.
Be sensitive to the cultural food differences when you move your parent to a different region of the country. I suggest eating a couple of meals at the facility as well. Plan out the options your parent will have for transportation to and from appointments, shopping, etc.….
If your parent doesn’t get to see the facility before she moves in, make certain to plan according to the space provided so you can set up a cozy yet functional living arrangement.
I inadvertently misled my mother when I used the term “front porch”. This is the personal space available for decoration outside the resident’s room door, however my mother thought she would be have a patio right outside her room.
Finally my mother is still mentally sharp and desires meaningful conversation so be sure to ask about the possibility for companionship at mealtimes and during other activities.
The next phase will cover my flight with my son to retrieve her items including packing, organizing of her space and sale of her items in an online estate sale.