Those are some of the words adult children use to describe their roles as advocates for their aging parents, particularly when they are called upon to help those parents transition into assisted living.
“Parents don’t generally volunteer that they need more assistance,” says Judson Services, Inc board member, Doug Wang, whose 91-year-old father, Carter, moved into Crane House at South Franklin Circle in July 2017. A series of falls was one of the first clues to his father’s changing needs, a situation that was only magnified when Carter lost his way for several hours one day while driving.
For Steve Warner, whose 99-year-old mother, Ethel, moved into the memory care unit at Judson Park in March 2016, the decline was harder to pinpoint. But one of the early signs was Ethel’s difficulty handling her checkbook. “When you first start to notice a change, you think, ‘Huh. What’s up?’” says Steve. “But it was only when mom started getting overdue notices that she was willing to hand over her finances.”
“It’s often hard to see the big picture,” Doug adds. “Sometimes we don’t see how bad it’s gotten until we have a chance to step back and observe.”
Knowing when, and how, to intervene can be challenging. “Paying attention is the key,” Steve offers. “It’s a slow process, and it’s hard for a child to move into that caretaker role. But generally, you know when it’s time. Look for where you can intervene gently and remember there really are no answers. Some problems you can solve, but there are some you never will. Just do the best you can.”
Other tools include patience, kindness and even a sense of humor, says Doug. “There are moments that are either sad or funny, depending on how you look at them, like my dad still wearing his PJs in the middle of the afternoon. But I’ve learned to move forward without the expectation that he’s still as he was. This is how he is today, and the question becomes, how are we going to help him?”
That’s when the customized care at Judson can prove invaluable. Assisted living services include everything from onsite physical therapy and 24-hour skilled nursing care, to a dynamic program of educational, social, cultural and fitness opportunities. With art classes, music recitals and book clubs, “it’s a very cultured crowd who live at Judson Park, which went into our decision to have Ethel, a classical musician, move there,” says Steve’s wife Carolyn. And it is all anchored by a comprehensive, person-centered approach designed to honor residents’ individuality every step of the way.
“It’s a hard move to make,” Doug admits. “I had a lot of helpful conversations with the social worker at South Franklin Circle, wondering if I was doing the right thing. But I am much more comfortable having Judson’s professionals taking care of my dad than I would have been trying to keep him living independently.”
“You have to choose a solution that works for you,” adds Carolyn. “Judson works for us. And in the process, it’s good for Steve’s mother, too.”