Peace of Mind in Assisted Living

A senior woman wearing sunglasses and holding a cup sitting down and talking with another lady

“There were a lot of reasons I didn’t want to move to assisted living,” shares Betty St. John. She had lived in her apartment home since Prairie Ridge opened in 2000 before moving to assisted living earlier this year.

“I didn’t like the idea of not having a kitchen. I didn’t want to give up a lot of my furniture. Mostly, the thought of it was just overwhelming. I didn’t want to deal with it.”

But slowly, Betty began to recognize that staying in her apartment wasn’t best for her. She grew tired of scheduling help in her apartment—or relying upon her kids to do it. Betty knew her family would feel better if she was in a more supportive setting.

“By the time I did what I felt like I needed to do, I didn’t have the energy to do anything else,” shares Betty. Meals were becoming a big problem for me. After I finished preparing a meal, I was too tired to eat it. Once I ate, I was too tired to clean up. The dining room was a long walk. It was discouraging.”

One of the most common reasons people choose Oakwood is that it offers one of the few true “continuums of care” — apartments, assisted living, memory care, and rehab — in the Madison area.

“My family is relieved. They don’t have to worry about me. I’ve enjoyed my move and I think it’s been a gift to them.”

Residents appreciate the peace of mind that comes with priority access to additional services. They’ve done their homework and positioned themselves for the future should they need health care services. Many consider a move to Oakwood a gift to their children, who worry less about mom or dad knowing support is available if it is needed.

So why, then, are so many residents reluctant to make a move to assisted living when it becomes apparent they could benefit from more help?

Barbara Lawton, whose mother Helen Smith moved to Tabor Oaks assisted living on the University Woods campus earlier this year, says her mom expressed serious reservations about making a move.

“I had observed that she struggled to get clothes out of the washing machine, and she clearly was unsteady and unsafe when changing clothes,” explains Barbara. “Managing food for meals and medicine seemed to be overwhelming. With the help of the pharmacy, we could quickly react to the latter, but we had to recognize it would take more help to be sure she ate well. And as that was becoming clear to her children and we worked to find help for her, her physician made it clear that a few hours a day weren’t going to be adequate to make her safe.”

A senior woman sitting in chair outdoors with someone’s hand on her shoulder

For us, the move meant Mother’s daily life now was freed of the tension of trying to manage meeting her basic needs.

And how did her mom feel about a transition to assisted living?

“At first she refused to consider the idea…..even at 95, it made her feel old.”

From Overwhelmed to Relieved

As health issues begin to limit residents’ ability to enjoy opportunities previously available to them, the interaction and services offered in assisted living or memory care can open up a new world. Residents often benefit from being a part of an assisted living community, as opposed to hiring individuals to provide support for them in their apartment home.

“We could tell that mom was getting lonely. She was not leaving her apartment as much and not visiting with others like she had in the past,” explains Betty’s daughter Sherri Jo St. John. “We knew she wasn’t eating well, but when we asked her about it she said she just ‘didn’t feel like eating’ or ‘wasn’t hungry.’ That just created a downward spiral and she started calling for more and more help.”

Since moving to assisted living early this year, “mom is more relaxed and can enjoy more things” says Betty’s daughter, Sherri Jo St. John. “She seems to have gotten some purpose back in her life and socializes more.”

“For us, the move meant Mother’s daily life was now freed of the tension of trying to manage meeting her basic needs,” shares Barbara. “She no longer feels inadequate and under pressure to accomplish things that had become too much. Now she has time to read and engage in extensive correspondence, to reach out to friends old and new. The move eliminated the guilt and frustration inherent in coping with the rhythm of aging.”

Peace of Mind for You and Your Family

Staff availability around-the-clock, assistance with dressing and bathing, medication management, and meals are just a few of the basic services that come in the assisted living setting. Each resident, as well as their family, tends to appreciate different aspects of staff support, depending upon their needs and concerns.

“Oh, for sure knowing that there is someone watching her, or being available at a moment's notice to help her in any way that she needs,” responds Sherri Jo, when asked what she believes is the biggest benefit of her mother’s move to assisted living. “I know it has been an adjustment for her to ask for help, but I think we have finally convinced her that the staff is there for her and they want to know what's happening so they can help.”

“Having meals cooked for her has also been very helpful,” explains Sherri Jo. “I know that she is eating better and that makes her feel better. If she skips a meal, I know the staff will still make sure she eats something, and there is always something around to snack on. I am also much more comfortable knowing she is getting help bathing. She used to do it all by herself and I was always uneasy about that. I feel better knowing she is being watched so she does not fall.”

According to Sherri Jo, while the family certainly wanted Betty to move to assisted living, they did not want to make this decision for her.

“It was so very important that this decision was hers. We had input, but it was ultimately up to her. We are very fortunate that mom can still make her own decisions. Yes, we help and monitor or 'suggest', but ultimately she rules.”

A senior man and a lady both talking and seated outside wearing masks

At the end of the day, “I know that all family members are much more relaxed because mom is being looked after and cared for so well,” says Sherri Jo.

Barbara cites a number of reasons why she appreciates her mother living at Tabor Oaks.

“Having help should you need it, reliable delivery of meds and meals, help with showers and getting dressed, laundry handled — just being as safe as possible, in the hands of a well-trained and led staff, and having her health status regularly monitored,” are all reassuring to Barbara and her family.

“We also arranged for the very reasonably-priced service of a daily session with a personal trainer at Oakwood, guaranteeing a longer one-on-one time with someone entirely focused on her, but also ensuring physical strength as much as possible.”

“Mother had the great foresight to have 5 children to tend to her in her dotage,” explains Barbara. “But even with that crew, there wasn’t one of us that had the capacity to provide her a truly safe place to live when she needed more care. Her move means our visits and calls are focused on remembering together, laughing and storytelling, catching up — and not dominated by quizzing her about her needs or driven by concerns we feel helpless to address well.”

Overcoming “Sticker Shock”

While the cost of assisted living and memory care can initially cause sticker shock, there comes a point when a move to assisted living or memory care helps preserve resources as well. It is cost-effective to hire services in your apartment home to a point but, as hours and services increase, the financial and health benefits of a move to a higher level of care becomes more clear; particularly at Oakwood where all meals and services are included in the daily rate. Cost savings become especially apparent if the resident has a long term care insurance policy – taking advantage of this policy can save residents thousands of dollars each year.

Barbara indicated that cost was one of the reasons her mother objected to moving to assisted living, even after it seemed apparent it would be beneficial.

“Her move means our visits and calls are focused on remembering together, laughing and storytelling, catching up — and not dominated by quizzing her about her needs or driven by concerns we feel helpless to address well.”

“She was worried that it was expensive and she would spend down her savings before she died,” shares Barbara. “When I did the math and showed her what it would cost to hire someone on an hourly basis to provide as much care as the doctor wanted her to have, she saw that this was a reasonable move to make.”

It’s About Quality of Life

A conversation with someone who has just moved to an apartment home at Oakwood often leads them to revealing two common truths; acknowledgement that they probably put off a move to Oakwood too long because they felt they were “not ready,” and then the realization, “I wish I would have done this sooner.”

A similar scenario tends to play out when it comes to a move to assisted living.

“Don't wait,” advises Sherri Jo to those who are struggling with living independently. “You can still be involved at Oakwood when living in assisted living. Assisted living should be about quality of life! Any service you need is available for you to use or take advantage of. Staff is there to help you. It's about companionship. It's about knowing that someone is there to help, if you need it. It's about peace of mind.”

“Just do it, now,” agrees Barbara. “The doctor pushed us — even in some sense shamed us — into recognizing the dangers mom faced daily while living on her own. We made arrangements to see available rooms in Tabor the following day, and Mother was moved in within 10 days. A sense of profound relief and peace await you.”

And what about advice from Betty, who had to make the adjustment from her apartment home to assisted living?

“At a certain point, you might just have to rely on someone else for help,” she explains. “Don’t wait too long. You’ve got more life in you if you just get a bit of help and some care. I’m less anxious and less worried now. My family is relieved. They don’t have to worry about me. I’ve enjoyed my move and I think it’s been a gift to them.”

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