As a senior housing consultant, one of the most difficult requests that I get is from couples, who are “differently-abled” but want to continue living together. In these couples, one spouse has dementia and the other is acting as caregiver. Many of these couples would benefit from moving into a retirement/assisted living community.
Regardless, the couple that plans ahead will have more control of their own future and may be able to be more independent for much longer.
Early discussions and planning are crucial
Couples that anticipate memory loss should have open and detailed discussions with professionals who can help them understand the changes and burdens that they face. They should try to plan for the increasing issues and problems of the spouse and the resulting increases in care-giving that will be needed. Both people need to be well aware that the demands of care-giving frequently take an unnecessary toll on the care-giving spouse. This results in their becoming ill or injured to the point that they can no longer function as the caregiver.
And yet, some couples may decide to continue to live at home. There are many in-home care agencies that specialize in providing for in-home care. The cost in California is roughly $22-27 an hour, usually with a four-hour minimum per visit. As needs increase, in-home care can be increased. However, some couples may find that living at home with a visiting caregiver does not meet their social or emotional needs.
Other couples move to assisted living communities. If a couple does this early enough, they can take full advantage of support systems in the assisted living community, make new friends, and get involved in new activities.
Two couples, two decisions
Every couple is different. The Smiths and the Braxtons, two couples that Senior Seasons has worked with, have made very different choices, and had different results.
All four people are in their eighties. They’ve been married to their spouses many years. Both wives have dementia and the husbands are the primary caregivers. Both couples have two loving adult children who live locally and come by regularly to help and check on them.
The Smiths remained in their home. Mrs. Smith refused help from everyone except her husband. He became more worn-out and stressed. His doctor warned him that his health was declining and they needed to move or get help. Their children’s marriages and careers have suffered because of multiple emergencies. Mr. Smith passed away before the wife for whom he was caring. The daughter had to quit her job and move back home to care for her mother.
The Braxtons sold their home and moved into an active assisted living community. Together they made new friends, expanded their activities and remained independent far longer than if they stayed at home with the burdens of self-care, maintenance and repairs. As Mrs. Braxton’s dementia worsened, her husband had help from staff and friends as well as his children, who are able to continue with their own careers and lives and visit regularly. Mr. Braxton’s health is holding up and their children’s lives are on track.
Many adult children have told me that the best gift their parents gave them was when the parents made reasonable, advance provisions for their own care and support.
By Kaye Sharbrough, President of Senior Seasons