Your parents promised to be with each other in sickness and in health. Now your mom has Alzheimer’s disease and needs memory care, but your dad, who is still playing golf every Wednesday, doesn’t want to leave her side. Fortunately, there is a growing movement among assisted living and memory care communities to cater to couples who have opposing senior care needs.
Catering to Couples
Couples don’t always age at the same rate, so maybe one parent is worried that their spouse is going to need assisted living before they do. But there are assisted living options that can meet the needs of both of your parents.
For example, if one spouse needs the extra support that the memory care wing offers, the couple can live in a one- or two-bedroom apartment in that part of the community, but they can move freely throughout the entire campus, participating in the traditional activities program, eating with their fellow residents, and going on excursions.
“We get up at 5:30 a.m., and we get to the YMCA. We exercise. We shower. We have breakfast, and then we have a busy day,” says Henry, who lives at The Ivy at Ellington with his wife, Ruth. “We have a normal, fulfilling life.”
Making the Transition Easier
Making the move to a senior living community is always a major life change, but when a couple can make that move together, the transition becomes a little easier.
Peg and Hank, residents at The Arbors at Dracut, appreciate how they’re able to sleep in, stay in their pajamas, and make breakfast together before joining the other residents for activities. And although the couple enjoys some meals in the dining room with their fellow residents, Peg still loves to cook dinner for just the two of them in their apartment.
“In fact,” she says, “I’m cooking dinner tonight. We’re going to have pasta…”
“… and a nice meat sauce,” Hank interjects.
Couples in assisted living can choose the apartment size, features, and levels of care that are right for them. And it doesn’t mean double the price. If the couple lives together, then they are only charged for one unit, often with an additional fee for the second occupant.
Handling the Objection
If your parent objects to assisted living by saying, “I don’t want to leave my spouse,” reassure them that you don’t want that, either. The thought of living apart after 50 years or more of marriage would be heartbreaking for any couple.
Try saying something like, “I know you take your vow seriously. Did you know there are actually a lot of married couples in assisted living? Dad, if Mom gets the care she needs in an assisted living community, it may take a lot of pressure and responsibility off of you. You could go back to being a couple and just enjoying each other’s company again.”
Talk about how moving into assisted living will offer a pleasant quality of life for both members of the couple. They can live in the same apartment and one spouse can seamlessly receive health care services.
In addition to getting help with basic care services such as medication management and assistance with activities like getting dressed or taking a shower, community activities and events are also regularly scheduled and available.
“They keep us busy all the time,” says Shirley, who lives at The Ivy at Ellington with her husband, Ed. “There’s always something to do. There are events going on all the time. It’s great for my husband, but it’s also great for me. The kids call and say they can’t get ahold of me.”
It’s often very important for the caregiver spouse to make sure the less healthy spouse is well enough taken care of before they can feel confident about engaging themselves and getting back some semblance of a life. But they will always be their spouse’s advocate, which is an important role. This can provide a sense of control and self-importance your parent may still want to experience.
Explain how the move will take some effort up front, but it will ultimately reduce everyone’s responsibilities, which means your parents will be able to focus on simply enjoying each other’s company.
As you help your parents transition to a new stage of life, it helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns. For more insights into common objections and strategies for how to handle them, download our eBook The Standoff: Coping with a Parent’s Objections to Assisted Living.