An often sad and overwhelming issue facing many Boomers is the possibility of placing their parents in an assisted living facility. Within moments of speaking with Marion Owen, Executive Director of the Tri-County Office on Aging, this issue appeared far less ominous. Offering upbeat insight, creative alternatives, and practical solutions, Owen’s expertise instills beaming hope.
“The trend now is toward getting proper care in the home rather than in an institutional setting,” says Owen. “Nursing homes’ primary emphasis is also on rehabilitation and getting the patients back home.”
Her practical advice on how to approach caring for aging parents starts with a sobering statement: “Kids want their parents to be safe, but living in a nursing home does not mean they’re safe.” According to Owen, Michigan does not have a legal definition for “Assisted Living;” meaning some are licensed, some are not.
She explains there are plenty of suitable, cost-effective alternatives for Boomers’ parents. The Agency guides people through this difficult stage by focusing on creating a better quality of life for their parents and saving money. One alternative is moving the older adults into a senior apartment community like Misty Cove in Dimondale for example.
Tri-County Office on Aging has agreements with 25 in-home care agencies in the Tri-County area. Each must meet certain criteria, including a comprehensive checklist (found on their website), being licensed and bonded, and enduring a strict hiring process.
In-home private duty care agencies are an excellent alternative to assisted living facilities. One of Tri-County’s recommended agencies is Lansing-based Cypress Home Care. Lansing’s leading in-home private duty care agency details a helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions.
To satisfy the ‘safety factor,’ Owen recommends considering a Lifeline, which the older adults can wear around their neck. Coupling this with as-needed in-home care for issues such as bathing, cleaning, and laundry can keep a parent happier in their own home. Also, our community offers a host of social activities outside the apartment homes to engage the older parents, which aid in their long-term well-being and happiness.
“Older adults surveyed want to live at home where they’re in control and have more freedom,” explains Owen. She urges Boomers to:
1. Begin this process by talking with an Independent Living Counselor at Tri-County Office on Aging and obtain a professional consultation now – not at need. Their main objective is to reduce the intimidation and bureaucracy these intense decisions typically present for all parties involved.
2. Get an assessment and a geriatric consultation before making any decisions, especially about dementia, Alzheimer’s, and medication.
3. Pay careful attention to emotional and mental component of the parent. Boomers and parents alike need to understand this stage of life and move is not intended to put them in a place to go live out their life; it’s a move to improve the quality of life.
4. Communicate with and engage the parent early and don’t control the situation without their consent. She is adamant about cautioning the children to include their parents in decision making throughout the entire process. “This is the most important piece to remember, because otherwise it can cause depression, anger, and giving up,” says Owen.
There are various ways of engaging your parents to keep them bright and healthy. The professionals at the Michigan Athletic Club (MAC) agree.
According to Nicole Brillantes, Membership Services Manager at the MAC, there is a social and mind-stimulating component to staying healthy. As we age, it is more important to engage our minds and maintain mental acuity. Both Brillantes and the MAC’s Group fitness Manager, Leslie Polack concur especially in the gray winter here in Lansing, it is imperative to our mental and physical health that we engage socially and mentally as well as physically.
The MAC is one place to accomplish all angles of getting and maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit. A few highlights from these pros include:
1. When you engage your mind through a guided class, Wii, or DVD, you keep your brain fit at the least.
2. Perform basic range of motion exercises (shoulder and wrist rolls, arm lifts, and neck rolls) or download chair classes and exercises from the Internet, especially for aging parents.
3. Invest in a Swiss Ball, Stretch Bands (or Tubing), or Pilates Ring. (Most come equipped with DVDs or instructions for all levels.)
4. Consider joining classes or leagues to maintain a social and mental connection.
5. Perform basic stretches behind your desk throughout the day, or stretch out your chest by placing your hands on either side of the doorway, park further away in the parking lot, and take the stairs rather than the elevator.
6. Invest in a Zoomba DVD or try one of the Zoomba classes at the MAC.
7. Download music and take mental break to de-stress.
8. Walk away from stress and breathe deeply for five minutes before tackling yet another enormous obligation.
9. Close your office door (or sequester yourself to a room in your home) for 5-10-30 minutes and do anything physical like floor and abdominal exercises, stretching, yoga poses (for strengthening and cardiac), or follow a routine from the Internet or DVD.
10. Commit to something you can follow through on whether it’s one hour, four times a week or once a day for five minutes.
At a rapid-fire pace, Pollack and Brillantes summarized all of these activities help reduce stress and avoid health issues like cardiac problems, blood pressure, pump up metabolic rate, and help manage weight issues. “We have hands-on resources like weight management clinics and the adjoining pavilion (connected with Sparrow) works with people struggling with obesity and also has diabetes management programs.” In closing, both pros agreed that there is no one exercise that works for everyone, and caution those considering exercise to consult a physician and a fitness trainer to ensure they’re getting proper guidance for all health and wellness issues.