My name is Jason Robertson. I am one of the owner’s of The Ivy Assisted Living Residences. I work primarily on the real estate development side of the family business. I am also the primary caretaker for my Nan and Pop. They are actually my Great Aunt and Uncle. Unfortunately, my own grandparents passed away before I was born. My Nan and Pop were our “grandparents”. That’s just what they were in every sense of the term. Some of the fondest memories of my childhood were spent with them. When my Mom passed away, I was a teenager and I knew someday I would have to care for them, even if that seemed so distant at the time.
As my Nan and Pop have gotten older, they are now 87 and 93, I worried about their safety living in a townhouse condominium with multiple levels. My Pop has severe dementia and my Nana was his primary caretaker. And while she did a great job, she also has health concerns with a history of losing her balance and falling. For a long time, we suggested bringing in a home health care aide to help or to consider assisted living. I love my Nana. But, she can be stubborn at times. And she doesn’t want to burden me.
This past fall my Pop had a health issue and ended up in the hospital. He was admitted, treated and released in a week. I had to navigate the hospital stay and treatment and decide where he would go to short term rehab. During the rehab stay, I was able to convince my Nana that a respite unit in an assisted living residence would be the safest option while he recovered.
Making a Difficult Decision
Although, they thought The Ivy at Ellington was beautiful and appreciated all of the help they, understandably, still wanted to go home. It was heart wrenching for me to tell them it was no longer safe for them to go home. With a heavy heart, I told her I couldn’t in good conscience let her go back and wait for something terrible to happen. She relented.
At The Arbors/Ivy we know first hand truly how hard making the decision to move someone you love and care about is to an assisted living community. We struggled with how much we should push this onto them, do we force the decision? I desperately wanted Nan and Pop to want to go to an assisted living community and for it to be their choice.
However, I think this particular generation thinks assisted living is more like a nursing home and have trouble envisioning themselves living there. Letting them participate in the decisions, in the tours, maybe trying out a meal or an activity, and giving them as much helpful information as you can is a great starting point.
My wife and I, along with our three little helpers, packed up decades of keepsakes and decided what to bring along for the move. We listed the condo and dealt with the process of selling. We hope our children absorb how you help others, family or otherwise. We moved them out of the respite and into their new apartment just before Thanksgiving.
In any situation, we would all struggle to leave our “home”. We accumulate a lot of “stuff” and along with it a lot of memories. Downsizing was a challenge in the moment, but the week after we made the move there was never another inquiry regarding their “stuff”. Their memories will always be with them. And “home” will always be where they are.
It took some time for them to acclimate to their new home. But, they soon had new friends, new dining companions and a safer environment. They have had some continued health issues. The difference now is that they have access to 24 hour care in an emergency. I have nurses calling me with updates and suggestions. The Ivy would arrange for PT/OT as needed or transportation to appointments. I have peace of mind. As does my Nan and Pop.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began to sweep through our area I worried I had made a mistake which I think is a natural reaction. My wife assured me that they were safer there. If they were in their condo they’d be leaving everyday for food, groceries, etc.
Unfortunately, my Pop had another health issue last week that required surgery. But, The Ivy is always very communicative about the situation and what we need to do. I often feel like I’m not doing enough while I balance my own job, my three children and my Nan and Pop. It’s hard.
That’s why I’m writing this story. Because, while I am in the senior living business, I never grasped just how many constant and evolving difficult decisions need to be made as a caregiver. I knew it was hard in theory. But, living through it has opened my eyes. And hopefully, my experience can help someone else with these difficult decisions.
When I brought my Nan and Pop back from the hospital last week she turned to me and said, “Jay, you made the right decision moving us here.” I teased her that she didn’t make it easy and she apologized.
A Happy Ending
We all know change is very difficult, even more so when you are in your 90’s and everything you know changes in what it seems as overnight. We must have empathy and compassion for what they are going through. Even the idea of losing their independence is enough to send them running in panic, so we must take a soft approach when having these difficult conversations.
I hope sharing a little bit of my own story and experience may prove helpful. My intention is not to create a testimonial for my own business but to give you the understanding of just how valuable our industry is to all of us.
Lastly, we must do what's best for our family. My Nan and Pop were in a crisis and no longer safe, the time came that we had to make a difficult decision to protect them. We can truly say it feels amazing to know they are happy living in an assisted living community.