First, you talk to your mom about taking away her car, then all of a sudden her health declines to the point where you’re faced with another difficult conversation. Is it time to move to a care home? And is that the same as a nursing home? You’re filled with so many questions.
Can’t She Stay in Her Own Home?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all afford to age in place? And many of us can – to a point. All things being equal, having a healthy life partner makes aging-in-place totally achievable. With the divorce rate the way it is and the lifespan difference between men and women, the likelihood is that this conversation will be with your mom.
“During their young adulthood, Baby Boomers had unprecedented levels of divorce. Their marital instability earlier in life is contributing to the rising divorce rate among adults ages 50 and older today, since remarriages tend to be less stable than first marriages.” Pew Research
Though the average lifespan in the United States is 77, the CDC reported that in 2020, males at 65 were likely to live 17 more years, females 19 more years. That puts the average at 82 and 84 years old, respectively.
When caretaking becomes more than a weekly visit and the odd trip to Costco or Walmart, the costs of in-home care for housekeeping and meal prep can add up – quickly.
“According to insurance company Genworth’s 2020 survey on the cost of long-term care, the national average bill for a home health aide is $4,576 a month.” AARP
Are Care Homes the Same as Assisted Living Facilities?
Wait. Is assisted living the same as a care home? As advocates of care homes or residential facilities, we believe there is a huge difference. However, one setting is larger, more clinical, and often has transitions available for memory care like Alzheimer’s disease. Care homes are smaller, cozier, and do not typically care for memory patients. Care homes incorporate the comfort of being in a smaller facility, of being known, and not feeling lost in the crowd.
“There are many differences between assisted living care and nursing homes. Overall, the main difference is that nursing homes provide medical and personal care in a clinical setting, while assisted living primarily provides personal care in a home-like, social setting.” Elder Options Texas
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Put Your Parent in Assisted Living?
Assisted living or care home living is exactly what it says. It helps provide day-to-day care for your aging parent. Typically this includes meals, laundry, community activities, medication management, and the like. Neither care homes nor assisted living facilities are intended for those who need continuous nursing care.
How to Have The Conversation with Your Mom About Care Homes
Where You Live Matters advocates for empathy (not sympathy), having the conversation early and often, and using open-ended conversation starters, like “How is it living at home alone? Do you still feel safe?”
This conversation is best had in person, and with your siblings if possible. Don’t go into the conversation as if you’re the parent, that is demoralizing to your mom. Remember, she’s the one who brought you up. You may feel a sense of duty or urgency for the move, but your mom, step-mom, grandma, or auntie may not. They’ve enjoyed living on their own. They’re happy about it. No one likes their independence and agency ripped from them.
But I feel So Guilty. Shouldn’t I take Care of My Mom?
Perhaps you have a demanding job, marriage, children, or whatever. You may even be estranged from your mom. That’s okay. It’s not really your job to personally take care of your mom. This is why asking about her plans early (before major illnesses) is important.
Be educated on the differences between home care, care homes, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities. Many older people see all of them as “nursing homes” – a place to go to die. That’s where their defensiveness can be triggered. But a care home isn’t a nursing home, it’s a place to call home without burdening your family with housekeeping and meal prep.
“However, in some cases feeling that you are the only one who can offer comfort is a wish to be special rather than reality. In that case, as painful as the guilt is, it is the price for feeling special. Feeling less guilty involves the realization that you are not the only person who can provide some comfort for your mother, allowing you to mobilize other people to do so.” Roberta Satow Ph.D., Psychology Today
If you’re really struggling with having this conversation, it’s something to talk to your mentor or therapist about. It’s hard to not insert yourself when participating in this decision. But remember, unless your parent is incapacitated and has assigned power of attorney, where and when they move – if at all – is completely their decision.