If you’re thinking about making the move to retirement living, there is a lot to consider under normal circumstances let alone during a global pandemic. While health, safety and security have typically been factors influencing the transition to retirement living, this has become an area of concern for seniors and their loved ones during COVID-19 and understandably so.
Indeed, many seniors have delayed their plans to move into a retirement community over the last year. Along with missed family celebrations and holidays, the social isolation measures meant to keep us safe during this time, while necessary, have also brought unintended health consequences. Physically and socially isolated seniors are at greater risk of becoming inactive and disengaged, which can lead to increased frailty, physical decline, a higher risk of falls, and depression. Video meetings and phone calls have helped, but it doesn’t replace in-person connection.
Thankfully, with Canada’s vaccination campaign well underway, the light at the end of the tunnel is within view and people are once again revisiting their plans for retirement living. Laura Polegato, founder of Supporting Seniors, a complimentary Ottawa retirement home search and transition support service, believes that now is a good time to do just that.
“For over a year we’ve been balancing safety and isolation with our mental health and well-being, and that has been a real challenge. Seniors and their families have been delaying a move over the understandable fear of COVID-19, but now they are reaching out, ready to move forward and start their next chapter.”
Retirement homes have socially focused amenities like lounges, libraries, outdoor patios and activity rooms, so there is always a place to chat with friends and practice social distancing. Unlike living alone, living in a retirement home means your friends are just outside your door, in your own community. Even the staff can become like an extended family. Every day there’s a friendly face, warm greetings and connections to be made. Even though social interaction has been limited, it’s still helped reduce the negative impact that isolation has had over the last year. Now with residents and staff becoming fully vaccinated, retirement homes are feeling hopeful that things will begin to return to normal.
A retirement community is designed to be an engaging and dynamic place where people receive the support they need to live independently. Some people worry that they’ll lose their independence by moving into a retirement home, even if they need support. As Ms. Polegato explains, quite often the opposite is true. “A little support can go a long way in improving quality of life. When you no longer have to worry about all of the cleaning, cooking, laundry and home maintenance, that frees up your time and energy to do the things that you enjoy and want to make time for. It’s wonderful to see people after they’ve settled in and they’re excited to tell me that they’ve started painting again, or that their strength has improved and they’ve been going out for walks again.”
In fact, some people flourish when they move to a retirement community. With so many programs and activities to enjoy, like music, aquafitness, cribbage and card games, outings, social events, movies, guest speakers, yoga, pet therapy - it’s easy to see why some people say it’s like living at a resort! For others, it’s a supportive environment to maintain their independence, and avoid a decline in health. Retirement homes provide a variety of well-balanced meals and snacks and not only make it easier to eat well but they also make it easier to get regular exercise, with fitness programs like strength training and fall prevention classes to support mobility and balance. Retirement homes are well designed to be accessible, safe and secure. Bathrooms have walk-in showers, built-in seating, and grab bars. Residents are provided emergency pendants or bracelets and have access to 24-hour emergency care and nursing. Depending on the residence, assisted living care and memory care may also be provided.
Retirement homes provide a range of benefits, but it’s not just for the seniors who live there. Family members and caregivers benefit as well. The pandemic and isolation have also taken a toll on caregivers. Whether their loved ones are living with dementia or need a lot of care, when community support systems like respite and adult day programs stopped or decreased, many were stuck to manage on their own or with little assistance. This lack of support and engagement can accelerate cognitive decline and for the caregivers, cause burnout and put their own health at risk.
Many retirement homes provide short-term respite accommodation so that caregivers can have a break from caregiving. Memory care in retirement living has many benefits for both caregivers and the person living with dementia. It allows spouses and family members to go back to being spouses and family members, instead of caregivers. It provides essential relief and time for self-care. For the person living with dementia, it not only provides a safe place to support their physical care needs, but it also provides social engagement, cognitive stimulation and therapeutic activities, games and outings. Still, making the decision to move your loved one into memory care is not always easy. Speaking to a Retirement Living Guide about how to choose the best place for your loved one’s needs will help make the decision easier.
Many people make the move into retirement living when living at home is no longer providing them with the social engagement they need to be happy, or is no longer manageable or safe due to health changes. If you’ve been thinking about making the move to retirement living, contact Supporting Seniors to start your search and we’ll discuss your unique situation. When you’re ready, we’ll help you find the place that makes you feel Happy, Healthy, Home.