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No Parking Zone

Posted August 22, 2012 in Advice Column

The definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy is the process by which one’s expectations about another person eventually lead to the other person to behave in ways that confirm these expectations.

In the senior living field, we see this often in the form of family members “parking” their loved one in a facility that exceeds their needs in order to be proactive and avoid another move in the future. For example, Jane Doe puts her father in a nursing home even though he only needs help with picking out his clothes and making sure that he takes his medication. Jane’s father has the early stages of dementia, and she knows that he will soon need more care than he currently is requiring.

What happens next is sad and preventable: After Jane’s father moves to the nursing home and  is surrounded by people who cannot feed themselves, sleep all day, and do not initiate activity for themselves, he follows suit and becomes one of them.

Fortunately, in independent and assisted living communities, we also see the exact opposite in many cases: Family members move a loved one to a facility with more activities, interaction, socialization and where independence is encouraged and rewarded. In these cases, the loved one often exceeds his or her family’s expectations and blows us all away by starting an exercise regimen, participating in a spelling bee and signing up to go to a local classical music concert. He or she makes new friends, reunites with old ones and is feeling better than ever.

It’s the difference between believing that there is still a lot of life left in their years and placing them in a facility so that it’s more convenient for those left in charge of their care. This is not to discount the value of nursing home facilities, for those who require that level of care. But why hold your loved one back from enjoying life and living it to the fullest potential?

One way that the continuum of care concept promotes the “No Parking” philosophy is by making the move from one senior care community to another seamless, both for family and the resident.

Jane Doe, for example, might introduce her father to accepting help and living in a safe, secure environment by procuring an apartment for him in an independent living community. As he gets more forgetful and less likely to initiate a conversation or remember to take his medication, she looks into the connected assisted living facility that’s associated with the apartment that he currently lives in. In addition seeing some of the same staff in his new home and Jane knowing the philosophies and procedures of the senior living community, his deposit is transferred, paperwork is passed on and Jane’s father receives continuity of care and his move is painless for everyone. What a great concept!

Information provided by Kristen Sheston, assistant manager/activity director, The Continental at St. Joseph’s, 19999 St. Joseph Drive, Centerville, (641) 437-1999.

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