Retirement homes are a relatively new invention, and the era of a broad range of senior living options is still in its infancy. Only forty years ago, the first assisted living facility was invented in Oregon, and today the choices for retirement can seem endless. A general list of options looks like this:
- Residential care facilities
- Assisted living facilities
- Memory care facilities
- Adult foster homes
- Independent Living facilities
- Age-restricted housing
- Continuing care retirement communities
- Skilled nursing homes
Within each of these categories are multiple options such as shared rooms, studios, private rooms, kitchenettes, laundry service, and the list goes on. Making a decision is no small task, especially since any of the above options means a large financial commitment. Once a family decides it is time to move into a senior living community, how do they make such a big decision? The purpose of this article is to make the case that, although many factors should be weighed, only one thing truly matters more than the rest–relationships.
Consider the following scenario: A couple in their 80s has a substantial nest egg from equity in their home and retirement accounts. The husband is beginning to show signs of dementia and needs regular care which the wife is unable to provide. Furthermore, the home is becoming a burden to keep up, and downsizing seems to be the best option. They have decided, along with input from their children, that moving into a retirement community will give them the enjoyment, the community and the assurance of having their needs met. But where do they begin?
This particular couple could likely find any one of the above options workable. In fact, there are about twenty of these communities within a ten mile drive of their current home. Some have large rooms but minimal services available. Some are inexpensive but outdated. Some are behemoths with theaters, bowling alleys and more. Others are are quaint and home-like but provide minimal opportunities for friendships. And that only scratches the surface! What can make the choices seem even more daunting are conflicting desires between the couple. One may love the idea of a “Man-Cave”, but the other would prefer serene outdoor courtyards. Maybe they’ll just wait until next year to make a decision.
Consider, on the other hand, what led this couple together in the first place so many years ago. They had difficult choices throughout their marriage, but the one thing that kept them together, regardless of the choices they made, was their love for one another. They were committed to each other through thick and thin, through good times and bad. Why not use the same reasoning to make the decision to move into a senior living community? Where will they receive the most love? Which community has the people with the biggest hearts? Which one has the staff that would do anything humanly possible to ensure the couple’s safety, dignity and enjoyment? Let’s call communities like this “Big Hearted Communities”. Even though there may be no “Man-Cave” at the Big-Hearted Community, the staff knows that is something valued by the husband, so they go out of their way to make him his very own space complete with NFL Sunday ticket and a kegerator. No swimming pool on campus? A loving staff says, “Let’s go find you the best pool where you can swim to your heart’s content.”
Room size, price, amenities and level of care are all extremely important when deciding on a retirement community. However, if home is where the heart is, then the loving family in that home will make sure all of those needs and desires are met one way or another. Relationships are the most priceless and rewarding thing about life. Fancy decorations and computerized caregivers are at best temporary pleasures. Please consider that when it comes time for you to make a decision about where to spend the best years of your life. Consider what is truly priceless-love.