August 25, 2015

I Put My Mother into a Nursing Home & She Thanked Me for It.


Okay, I admit it. I was never very good at giving gifts.

When I was nine, I saved up my allowance to buy my homeroom teacher reading glasses. She gave me a B on a test; obviously there was something wrong with her eyesight.

And I’ll confess my younger siblings didn’t think that signing my mom up for a nursing home was the best Mother’s Day present this year. But, I’m pretty sure they were wrong.

Making a senior living plan with my mom is the best gift I’ve ever given, and here are five reasons why:

1. “Set it and forget it” is more than just a Ron Popeil rotisserie chicken catchphrase. If you come up with a plan early, then you don’t have to worry about it later. Future you will thank you.

2. Father Time closes off options. Your parent’s health is going to deteriorate and then certain choices won’t be available. Plans are like insurance. It’s better to have it and not need it versus need it and not have it.

3. Waiting lists aren’t just for hipster preschools anymore. Some of the best residences and facilities have years-long waiting lists. Get on the list now or end up at your “safety school.”

4. You and your siblings may have different ideas as to how to care for your parents. You should ventilate your thoughts now rather than fight World War III later.

5. Doing it now means that both parties can come to the table on even footing. You won’t be making decisions for your parents. You’ll be making decisions with them.

These are the options we considered before reaching our decision:

Aging in Place

My mother wants to age in place. That means she wants to grow old in the comfort of her own home. My mom is not alone; everybody wants to age in place. And most do, for a while—until they need more care. Also, aging in place can be really lonely. My mother is the de facto mayor of her sewing circle. She’s the sort of woman who takes 95 minutes to make it through the produce department because she’s busy chatting. She needs an audience for her hijinks. She needs to be with other people.

Living with Me

Well, I am other people. She could live with me, right? Aging parents living with their adult kids and their grandkids is incredibly common. The Census Bureau says a quarter of children under five are cared for by grandparents who live with them or nearby. On the upside, a multigenerational family compound would create closer familial bonds and give the opportunity for three or four generations to share one roof. It’s also the most affordable option since we would combine incomes and reduce childcare costs. But, a small two bedroom in San Francisco is not the sort of place that my country-loving mother is going to be happy in. We both realized living with me wasn’t an option. Plus, I’m not sure I could tolerate the lack of privacy.

Home Care

After we ruled out the cohabitation option, we investigated home care. On the positive side, she would get to live at home with a dedicated professional and a care program customized to her unique (weird) tastes. We know some other seniors who have home care, and it works great. But on the downside, it can be lonely, expensive and a bit of a trial and error process. You have to vet and trust the specialist. It also requires a ton of time to manage the caregiver depending on what your parent needs. It would be tough for me to manage from California.

Independent Living or Assisted Living Communities

We toured a few Assisted Living Communities together online. She liked the thought of living with people her own age, and the idea of a short commute since everything is walkable. Given the East Coast winters, she wouldn’t mind a smaller home with fewer maintenance needs than her old house. The downside was that if she ever needed more care, she might have to arrange it separately. She’s also not ready to leave her home and move somewhere new quite yet.

The assisted living places tend to come with more care options like medication management, incontinence care or personal care. Like a new F-150 truck, assisted living facilities also come with a dizzying array of various package levels. Some provided meals and activities and options for self-managing her life. On the downside, they tend to be super expensive.

Nursing Home

We decided on a nursing home, despite it being the most expensive option ($5,000-$10,000/month). She’s going to age in place until she can’t, and when that time comes, she wants the platinum treatment. More care options around the clock means less stress for all of us. She wants trained, on-site nursing professionals.

We’ve still got to find the right facility and we’ll have to make sure the response time is there. She’ll have to give up some independence, but at that point, she’ll be ready for it— because we have a plan.

“Will you move into assisted living?” is probably not the most romantic question my mom has ever heard. But it’s easiest to plan for your aging parent or grandparent’s future while they’re too young to need it.

Many of the gifts I’ve given my mom were about my ideas for her. This gift was a collection of our ideas for the next 20 years that we made together.



Contemplating the Aging Process.


Author: Shayne Fitz-Coy

Editor: Travis May

Image: Owned by Author

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