Finding That Sweet Spot . . .
It is always a challenge for people as they age to effectively time their transitions. No one wants to leave the familiar comforts of their homes too soon. I got a call earlier in the week from someone who I met almost two years ago. She is in her eighties, living in the home that she has enjoyed for over sixty years, and is planning to move into a retirement residence in 2014. She is widowed and has a busy family who are essentially spread out across the country. She definitely does not want to be a burden to any of her children and would really like to enjoy her backyard pool for one more summer. She is planning to begin her downsizing and sorting processes this spring with me but how does anyone know when the timing is exactly right to make such a major move?
I have recently been referred to another gentleman who also lives on his own, does not have any children but benefits from many friendships and strong community connections that have allowed him to live independently in his home. He is also planning to move into a retirement residence and has met with the marketing manager for the residence where he hopes to live. Having more and more mobility challenges of late though, he acknowledged to me that he may need to explore an assisted living option that may not be available through the property where he wants to live.
Both of these older adults are trying to get the timing just right and, of course, I want the timing to be perfect for both of them. It isn’t always thus though and sometimes people sadly miss that sweet spot. People can hold on just a little too long and opportunities for what could be a positive new chapter are missed. A bad slip or fall can wreak havoc on the best laid plans or the older person begins to isolate themselves if winter weather essentially keeps them housebound. For some, living conditions, personal care and quality of life begin to erode and they become clinically depressed and immobilized.
Making the move to a condo or a retirement residence is ideally done while an individual or a couple can enjoy at least some mobility and also the new social connections that such a transition can offer. Being able to join in group activities can go a long way toward building positive and sustaining connections in a new environment.
There is also the aspect of maintaining one’s autonomy throughout all aspects of the decision making processes. I am working with a client at the moment who well knows her own mind and wants to ensure that her family and friends get first selection on some of her treasures. She is happy to donate the belongings that she no longer needs but wants those closest to her to have the right of first refusal. We are going through everything in her condo, room by room, item by item, and as folks come by to visit they have the opportunity to relive memories shared and enjoy some personal keepsakes that they get to take home.
I have worked with a few family members who have been reluctant to have these sorts of “when?”, “what?” and “where?” conversations with their older loved ones and, even in the closest of families, aren’t really sure what Mom or Dad would want if a health crisis occurs. Even without a health crisis, I frequently hear quite different beliefs and understandings from different family members. Assumptions that something is really treasured by their Mom or Dad are often dispelled when I am working with their parent. Of course, I quietly smile and ensure that my older client’s wishes are sensitively met whenever that is humanly possible. It’s all about maintaining my client’s autonomy for as long as possible and helping them to find that sweet spot through what can be multiple and successful transitions.
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