Transitioning to Assisted Living

This Week on Sage Aging

<img src="assistedlivingcommunity.jpg" alt="Moving to assisted living"> I think that we can all agree that there is no place like home. Home is our happy place! It’s our safe place and it’s the place that, for many of us, holds the most precious memories of our lives. According to a 2020 survey by AARP, nearly 90% of people over the age of 65 say they want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. And 80% believe that their current residence is the place that they’ll spend the rest of their life. For many, with the help and support of family and friends and possibly bringing care services into the home, that’s exactly what will happen, but for others, staying home is not possible when it compromises their safety and wellbeing. There are also those that simply prefer a communal environment. So sometimes it’s necessary to make the move to an assisted living community. And although assisted living is a wonderful option, a significant move like this can cause a lot of stress and lead to a host of other issues.

In this episode of Sage Aging we discussed the challenges of transitioning from home to an assisted living community and what you can do to lessen that stress. Listen to the full conversation here or keep scrolling for the complete transcript.

My Geust

<img src="charissedurhamslm.jpg" alt="Charisse Durham Senior Living Management Corporation">For this episode, I was joined by Charisse Durham of Senior Living Management.  As is the case for so many, Charisse found her way to the senior living industry after her family struggled to navigate the care of her grandfather. She is dedicated to helping other families avoid the same struggles by providing resources and education about their senior living options and how to best advocate for themselves and their loved ones. To learn more about Charisse see the links section below.

What we covered
  • When it’s time to make a move
  • Respecting your loved one’s needs and wants by listening
  • Communicating with staff at the new community
  • How to ease the transition stresses
  • When to enlist the help of a professional (counselor, placement specialist, social worker)
Links & Resources
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Transcript

Transitioning From Home to Assisted Living

Liz Craven: [00:00:00] The Sage Aging podcast is brought to you by Polk ElderCare Guide your guide to all things, senior care and resources. Find the 2021 guide in English and Spanish at polkeldercare.com.

[00:00:15] [00:00:15] Welcome to the Sage Aging podcast. I’m your host. Liz Craven, Sage Aging will connect you to information and resources you need to navigate the aging and caregiving journey. I’ll bring you education, inspiration, amazing industry guests and caregivers spotlights to shed some light on the topics of aging. Information and resources can be so hard to find if you don’t know where to look, but don’t worry,

[00:00:46] we’ve got you covered. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax. As we chat. Are you ready? Hit subscribe now and let’s get started.

[00:00:58]  I think that we can all agree that there is no place like home. Home is our happy place. It’s our safe place. And it’s the place that for many of us holds the most precious memories of our lives. According to a 2020 survey by AARP, nearly 90% of people over the age of 65

[00:01:20] say they want to stay in their home for as long as possible. And 80% believe that their current residence is the place that they’ll spend the rest of their life. For many, with the help and support of family and friends and possibly bringing care services into the home, that’s exactly what will happen

[00:01:39] but for others, staying home is not possible when it compromises their safety and wellbeing. And some simply prefer a communal. Environment . So sometimes it’s necessary to make the move to an assisted living community. And although assisted living is a wonderful option, a significant move like this can cause a lot of stress and lead to a host of other issues.

[00:02:04] Today’s conversation will focus on understanding this transition from your loved one’s perspective. And we’ll also share some tips for how to make the transition a more positive experience. My guest today is Charisse Durham. Charisse is a corporate sales specialist for Senior Living Management Corporation

[00:02:24] and she’s dedicated to providing families with resources and education about senior living options and how to best advocate for themselves. Charisse is also very passionate about teaching others, how to assist families in care crisis to learn more about Shariece check out the blog post for this episode at sageaging.com or you can find a link in the show notes in your favorite podcast app.

[00:02:49] Welcome to the show, Charisse thanks so much for joining me.

[00:02:52] Charisse Durham: [00:02:52] Thank you so much for having me.

[00:02:54] Liz Craven: [00:02:54] Oh, it’s a pleasure. I love running into people who have just a treasure trove of information for people, and you definitely followed to that category. But before we get into that, I would love to hear a little bit more about you.

[00:03:12]Charisse Durham: [00:03:12] I guess the most important thing to know is that I grew up in a small town in Georgia and spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather was an amazing man, very salt of the earth and. The whole reason that I am in senior care is because of our experience with his aging. It was not pleasant.

[00:03:35]Never is, but we did not get the resources we needed. No one asked the right questions and there were a lot of options that were left on the table and the impact that had on my grandmother and my entire family and his close friends and church was. So impactful. I mean, it was just such a struggle and it shouldn’t have been.

[00:04:02] And after he passed away I had been in non-profit organizational management and really just said, you know, no other family should have to go through this. There’s got to be some way that there can be more resources or someone asking the right questions or listening to what was going on. And so I Hopped out of nonprofit organizational management and took a part-time job.

[00:04:27] A friend owned a company that did in-home nonmedical care. And I just said, I just want to live in this world for a little bit and see if there is something that I can do to help others. And so through that experience with my grandfather, I arrived in senior living and there are a wide variety of careers, but the thing that most attracted me was that counseling option, the financial legal, psychological counseling that goes along with aging, that a lot of times people don’t have access to those resources.

[00:05:01] So. Every time that I do a podcast like this, or any kind of web show or radio or anything like that, write an article. And before I talked to every family, I keep a picture of my grandfather on my desk, by my computer. And I just take a second to remember that moment where I realized we just didn’t get the resources we needed.

[00:05:24] So. It’s just my absolute passion to be able to never meet a family or come to a table or a phone call or a web chat or anything like that without at least getting them one foot in front of the other. And so that’s what has shaped my entire career in senior care. And that’s why I’m here with you today.

[00:05:47] Liz Craven: [00:05:47] I just love that. And you know, I think that most of us who work in this industry do have a personal story to tell, and it always comes back to the same beginning. And that’s an experience where we found that access to resources or just even knowing where to begin was a big issue. I know that was the case for my husband and myself.

[00:06:12] And so we went in a bit of a different direction. We created a resource guide .  That was 27 years ago and we’ve come a long way since then, but I’ve met so many people and every single time, the beginning is about the same. And I love that you allowed the situation with your grandfather to lead you to a place that you could be a help and a place of safety for other people.

[00:06:37] So thank you for dedicating yourself to that. That’s an amazing story.

[00:06:41] Charisse Durham: [00:06:41] I appreciate that. Thank you.

[00:06:43]Liz Craven: [00:06:43] So transitioning,  we’ve been talking about mental health this month, and I think that this is a piece that we often leave to the side when we shouldn’t, because it’s a very big one when you’re making a transition from home.

[00:07:00] That place that is your soft place to land and the place that you thought you would spend every single day of your life. When it’s time to make a transition to assisted living, that’s really what I want to talk about today because I think it’s a piece

[00:07:16] of the puzzle that we often ignore or sweep under the rug, or just don’t recognize that how much of an issue it is when you’re transitioning from the place that you’ve always called home from the place that holds all of your precious memories.  The place where you’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries and births and all of those wonderful things, it can be very difficult to leave that behind when you’re transitioning to an assisted living community or a nursing home.

[00:07:46] Many don’t have a choice about making that transition. And when that’s the case, there can be some affects to their mental health. So can you give me an overview of that piece of the puzzle?

[00:08:02] Charisse Durham: [00:08:02] Sure. So,  the first thing to really discuss about  assisted living or the transition to, is that there’s so many misconceptions about what that looks like, what that means when it’s time  all those things.  Realistically, there’s no clear answer. , Realistically, you need to be looking at the whole person, not just the health.

[00:08:25] I mean, a lot of times we forget that we need to look at medical, spiritual, financial, psychological as well as just their social and their lifestyle. And. When you look at all those pieces, there are lots of different reasons to make that transition. A lot of common reasons are because of a health change and needing more support in that facet.

[00:08:49]A lot of times it’s the loss of a spouse or most recently in the past year, we’ve all felt isolated and that has been surprisingly a very Good way to open up a conversation. There are things that we’ve learned through the past year that we had not addressed previously because we didn’t quite realize what an issue it was.

[00:09:13]We do know that seniors have an alarmingly high rate of depression, anxiety, and even suicide. And we hadn’t been really talking about that. I mean, we really hadn’t talked about mental health for very long. We’re just now really starting a lot of conversations. So in transitioning to assisted living, we’re talking about some of the misconceptions, what it isn’t how it’s beneficial.

[00:09:38]But once a family really starts talking about, maybe this is the option, you have to talk about what that looks like for them. Because there’s so many different options out there, but once you do decide that this is probably the next step, there is no wrong decision. And a lot of people can’t really internalize that.  If you do your due diligence and do it in the proper way and you do everything decision-wise.

[00:10:07] With, like I said, your research or due diligence and out of a sense of compassion and love for that person. And they are respected in that process. There’s really no bad decision because it’s never a permanent thing. So I love talking to families about, Hey, it’s not a forever thing. It’s what’s right at the time with the information you have from the right place.

[00:10:32] Liz Craven: [00:10:32] Right. That’s so important. It is really exciting. To acknowledge the feelings that people are having when they’re going through this process, because I’ve been through it before. It’s not an easy process at all.

[00:10:44] Charisse Durham: [00:10:44] Well, it’s stressful. And we all have had many conversations about what stress does to the mind and body.  I would liken it to some kind of trauma. I think any time you move, it is a trauma. You are letting go of some things and experiencing new things and nothing is exactly what you pictured or expected in any way, shape or form.

[00:11:07] So it is some kind of trauma and a lot of times through that stress or trauma and transition, we need to even  more put a eye on what’s happening with this person and are we giving them all the resources they need? And  first of all, are we listening to them in a variety of different ways, their demeanor, their body language, their voice, the words they use, are we really paying attention to what they are telling us?

[00:11:35] Liz Craven: [00:11:35] That is an extremely important point. And I have my own story that goes along with that. My father. In LA he stayed in assisted living before he came to live with us. He had dementia. He was early in his dementia, early enough to know what he wanted and still had decision-making capacity. And he had made the determination that it was time to transition from his home.

[00:12:00]To an assisted living community because he was worried about the upkeep of the home and his memory beginning to fail. So we went along with him and we toured a lot of communities and it was a bit alarming to me, how many failed to address him directly? And in the end, the choice that was made was the community that directed a hundred percent of their conversation to him and allowed the family to be

[00:12:29] the secondary party. Most of the communities that we visited addressed us as the primary party and him as a secondary.  I think that’s a big problem that communities need to really pay attention to the older adult themselves and make sure that they’re , like you said, listening to what they’re saying, what their needs are, what their desires are and figure out what the best placement is that way.

[00:12:55]Charisse Durham: [00:12:55]  A well-trained  they call them salespeople or marketers or tour guides or whatever you want to in assisted living, but they are counselors.  When I am teaching, the first technique I teach them is you’ve got to listen. You’ve got to listen to what they say and ask the appropriate questions to really have them clarify what they are saying.

[00:13:16]And when you do  an appropriate what we call discovery of what the situation is, that’s when you can move forward and say, okay, well then what does a solution look like for you? And. When you’re doing that directly with that particular senior. And to the seniors that listen, you know, our desire is that seniors are respected and in as much control as possible that they’re allowed to voice their concerns.

[00:13:43] My suggestion to families that do the initial reach out is don’t force a conversation. Don’t say, okay, dad, it’s time or anything like that. That’s not really a positive way to go about it. It’s Hey, just, can we sit down and talk about this? And it is very beneficial to sit down and talk with a professional who does hear these same stories that are all very personal, but there are some things that come up all the time.

[00:14:09]And when you sit down with someone and they are paying attention, they are talking the conversation changes from what it would be just between an adult child and a parent or caregiver and their spouse or whatever that may look like. It’s very different when you’re talking to a professional who is trained to listen and trained to ask questions and be respectful of that senior.

[00:14:33] Liz Craven: [00:14:33] That’s a great point. And that’s something I really hadn’t thought of as it relates to bringing in a professional on the front end before you actually make the decision to make a transition. And I also want to add, you know, some people really do want to make the transition to assisted living, but that’s still a difficult transition, even when it’s something that they desire, because like you said, things change.

[00:14:59] There is a change in environment. There’s a change in routine. The things that they’re used to and their personal habits, all of that changes when you go to an environment where there are a lot of people living in one building together,

[00:15:14] Charisse Durham: [00:15:14] Yes. And I will say that,  the preparation for the move once that discussion has happened. And once everyone has kind of gotten on the same page with, okay, this is our trajectory. And you’ve you started to do your research or your visits, things like that. There are a lot of ways to help. That transition and prepare for that.

[00:15:32]The first thing I always say is really focus on the positive, because it is very easy to go in a rabbit hole. Most of us that care about a senior know that sometimes they can be in their own head a little bit and go down a rabbit hole  worrying about downsizing, or how am I going to do this and how am I going to do that?

[00:15:50] And it just becomes overwhelming.  I get overwhelmed thinking about a move or a transition, so, you know, they’re overwhelmed. So my first point is always focused on the positive. And you can do that with. The community because you are acquiring a ton of resources, so do frequent visits, make friends before the move, join them for the events, but make a reasonable plan about the timeline focusing on the positive.

[00:16:19]Most seniors will obsess over the fact of downsizing. And I frequently talk to families that have transitioned two weeks, two months, six months a year, just to say, is it what you thought were your expectations met? What should I know to help another family? And I have never had a family say, oh, we should have waited a couple more months.

[00:16:42] It’s always, we should’ve done this sooner. They focus on that downsizing, but realistically I’m saying let’s turn that conversation around and focus on how you may downsize your personal space, but you are upgrading a lifestyle. So a lot of the seniors that have been isolated or,  their routines have been disrupted either by friends passing or change in condition, whatever that looks like, the.

[00:17:10] The upgrade of having a gardener, a chauffer, concierge, chef, a housekeeper, and  the activities crew. I love to call them cruise directors because assisted living is very much like living on

[00:17:24] Liz Craven: [00:17:24] it is.

[00:17:25] Charisse Durham: [00:17:25] So, I usually introduce them as our chief fun officers because  that’s what they do is create the fun and the happiness.

[00:17:31]But,  you focus on replicating what makes them happy? So one of the things we don’t focus on is the downsizing. We focus on the upgrading, but when you’re talking about the material things, I’ll say to the seniors, where are you happiest in your home? Is it a particular chair? Is it where you can see particular

[00:17:53] pictures? I had one lady that she loved this particular piano she had, and I said, bring it if that’s what makes you happy. If that material item is what gives you joy, bring it with you and start to think of that pack and the transition like that, what can I not live without?

[00:18:14] And what’s going to make me happy when I look at it and what is going to remind me of good times. So we changed the focus on that.  Some of the ladies like to shop for new things, maybe they want,  new linens or bedspread. Maybe the gentlemen want a new display for some of their military memorabilia.

[00:18:32] Make it something that is positive and be excited for them and be excited of the new admin amenities they’re going to be able to join. It’s just really all about perspective and where you’re coming from. If you come from a negative space, you’ll be in a negative space. If you come from a positive space you’ll be in a positive space.

[00:18:51] Liz Craven: [00:18:51] True statement. That is in life in general, isn’t it? But I think sometimes as the families. We tend to project our stress on our loved one and that makes it harder for them. So I love that tip.

[00:19:05] [00:19:05] Charisse Durham: [00:19:05] I love that. And I also like to encourage the families, to be supportive in surprising ways, maybe you know, if the senior has some. Stress about not being able to join their breakfast club that meets once a week, let’s make that happen.  We provide transportation and assisted living. We can talk about that.

[00:19:28]Maybe the family wants to do that, whatever that may look like. Is it the Sunday lunch after church? Is it,  the Tuesday night poker night? Whatever that looks like for anybody,  encourage those things to remain the same. Maybe surprise them with a move-in thing. You know, a new door decoration that, you know, maybe the ladies have some, they love the wreaths fun.

[00:19:50] Let the families be a part of creating a special space and helping introduce them to, and then involve that community. All communities want an easy transition. All communities want everyone to be happy. That’s why we do what we do. So if we know that there’s a certain thing, that’s going to make them happy.

[00:20:10] We’re going to do that.  There’s a variety of things I’ve done before. You know, the family said, Hey, she’ll really like it. If she has jelly bellies, all right. We got the biggest gift package, jelly bellies in the world, you know, is it a particular bottle of wine she’s from Italy? Her family owns a one or a yes, I’m going to get that bottle of wine.

[00:20:27] What does that look like? You know, I’ve had a gentleman that he loves his honeybuns, Hey Sam’s club here I come, you know,

[00:20:34] Liz Craven: [00:20:34] Yes.

[00:20:36] [00:20:36]Those are easy things to do.  Those are the pieces that really make a difference. My father-in-law, there were certain foods that he just did not like. Forget about Mayo don’t ever put Mayo on anything he was going to eat.

[00:20:48] And that kitchen staff knew from the first week that he was there exactly what he enjoyed and didn’t enjoy. And when they were serving a meal that had Mayo, they’d make him something different just for him. And every morning they served him, his oatmeal with a little bit of cinnamon and raisins on top, just the way he liked it.

[00:21:10] Even though that’s not what everybody else was eating because that’s what made him comfortable. And that’s what made him feel at home. So I agree with you. Those little things are the things that can make such a big difference.

[00:21:22] Charisse Durham: [00:21:22] I think when you get right down to it,  focus on,  the one extras or the wow factors or, giving some spark to life, whether that is for a person who enjoys small groups, large group activities, whether it’s a particular interest of theirs, you know, is it the fact that it’s seven 30, every night or six 30 every night, we’ve got to go into their apartment and help them make sure they’ve got family feudal and whatever that looks like.

[00:21:50]It’s just gotta be where you are treating that person as an individual. You’re listening to them. And for families, when we teach them about listening, They sometimes don’t even realize it, but we’re also giving the keys to advocate because when it comes all down to it, it’s all about communication.

[00:22:07] We want to know what makes it special for a senior. We want to know what their likes and interests are. And we want to translate that throughout our entire team of dining activities, everything . We are treating that person as a whole person and meeting their needs as best that we can. And if we fall short communicate, if we do something great communicate, but we don’t know if you don’t tell us and for the families to be able to advocate during the transition in that transitional time.

[00:22:39] And then ongoing is a huge benefit to the senior, first and foremost, but also for the team, because it makes our lives so much easier if we know how to make somebody happy, instead of just guessing about it.

[00:22:52]Liz Craven: [00:22:52] So we’ve been talking a lot about the common transition challenges for the older adult, but there are also challenges for the caregivers and families as well. What do you most commonly see as those transition challenges?

[00:23:08] Charisse Durham: [00:23:08] I think unfortunately the first is control. I think just as the seniors need to maintain control, a lot of times the families seek to gain control the opposite. They a lot of times will not have those hard conversations and say, we do think it’s time, what do you think? Or we’re just really worried.

[00:23:32] We’re so concerned about you and this situation, we don’t think it’s healthy.  They don’t. Have those conversations from a place of respect. And sometimes they’ll try to railroad and control and that’s unfortunate. So it’s just as hard for adult children to respect their parent or the senior that they’re helping advocate for.

[00:23:55]A lot of times we do see what we call the sandwich generation, where they’re caring for a parent in a way, but they also have children they’re caring for, and they tend to fall into the same patterns as they do with their children. Because they become task managers rather than just children adult children, but still the children.

[00:24:13] So I think we really have to be honest with ourselves, with the caregivers and the stress. Stress forcing a conversation or forcing a decision or taking control or talking down to, or treating a senior as a child is unacceptable. They deserve our respect and sometimes we don’t agree with them.

[00:24:35] Oftentimes we think we’re making  a decision that is in their best interest and it may very well be, but at what cost are we making a decision that’s best for them, but then we’re impacting them in a negative way because of the way we go about it. So for caregivers,  a lot of times we’re not even talking about transition.  I’ve talked to families for years before any changes have been made, but you have to just continually sit in back and listen to what the challenge is.

[00:25:05] And brainstorm some solutions and pull in professionals if needed. There are so many of us out there. That. Yes. We may come from a company and yes, you may see us as salespeople, but we don’t do this because of a number or a widget. It’s not a storefront, no one calls us that isn’t already in some type of care crisis.

[00:25:28] And those caregivers need to understand that caregiver stress is very real and there’s tons of books about it. There’s tons of podcasts. There’s tons of resources that have all these cute catch phrases, like put your own mask on first, or you can’t give from an empty cup, but you really have to think about that.

[00:25:47] And the hardest one to have that conversation with is a spouse. Spouses that are caring for someone, especially with dementia, which is on the rise and a real passion for me. Always hear, well, we said we’d aged together. I don’t, I want to take care of them. Understandably that was my family experience, but then we talk about quality of life.

[00:26:07] What is your quality of life? What is their quality of life? Are you just weighing two guilt, one, you know, that he could get better care with professionals or two that  you made a promise based on information you didn’t have because neither one of you imagined this. Especially with dementia until you are in the throws of it.

[00:26:27] There is no way you can absolutely empathize with that. And I’m not a spouse with a dementia spouse, so, I can’t truly empathize, but I’ve seen it enough. I can sympathize and I can speak from experience of other families. And the spouses are the ones that, that it breaks my heart the most, because. It’s just not what they imagined. And it is an affront to their reality.

[00:26:55] Liz Craven: [00:26:55] That’s so true.  It’s devastating. Honestly to the family of someone, especially with dementia, because the person that you once knew is very different and the way that you communicate and the way that you interact are very different. Not that it’s absent of feeling because my personal experience is that it is there and it’s still very deep.

[00:27:19] It’s just very different.

[00:27:21] Charisse Durham: [00:27:21] Well one of the  families that’s near and dear to me that I’ve worked with for many years now brought up a point of a conversation we had I’m guessing five, seven years ago, and I was helping them with the initial diagnosis phase. And I said,  to the spouse and the family, I said, you know, the hard part about dementia and directly related to mental health is upon any kind of diagnosis or even realization without diagnosis. You kind of know what’s coming and there is a grief process. And then that person is they’re gone, but they’re standing in front of you. The person you knew is not the same person, they are gone to a great degree. And that is an entire grief process in and of itself. And. Dementia is unfortunately a terminal disease.

[00:28:15] We’re shooting for that first survivor. We really want that first survivor, but until then they do pass away and there’s another grief process. So, you know, when I can be very honest with families and it’s appropriate, I will say you need to think about what you know about bereavement counseling or grief counseling at diagnosis during the progression of the disease and still.

[00:28:41] Understand, you’ve got a whole other grief process to go through. And most times people do need help and oftentimes they do not seek that help.

[00:28:54] Liz Craven: [00:28:54] That’s a really difficult place.  How do you know when it’s time to seek professional help? And furthermore, who are you reaching out to? There are lots of options.

[00:29:04]Charisse Durham: [00:29:04] I think that it’s very true that when you start to ask about assisted living, even then, it’s probably a little past time. I think the same is true is when you start to question, maybe I need some help or maybe mom needs help, or maybe dad needs a grandma, whoever it is. I think by the time you’re asking that question, you might be a little far past when you did need help.

[00:29:25]Because there is a realization that you’re not doing this successfully on your own. So you have to look for some very different clues in seniors, I think. Sometimes they’ll put on a happy face or sometimes their demeanor will change or personality changes in a senior really are what we’re looking at.

[00:29:44] And then behavioral changes is their routine disrupted, do they not? Engage in activities they once enjoyed are they isolating themselves, things like that. But I really believe that once you start to ask, if there is help, that’s needed that you’re past the point. And  as far as asking for help, we are so fortunate in the assisted living world that we have so many resources for seniors that are at home.

[00:30:12]You know, there was, there were a lot of news stories about how, oh, I see the residents and communities were, and it was really MIS misperception. I mean, our restaurant was right there and it was open. Our activities were right there. It was open. I mean, everything that we experienced in our communities, it didn’t change to a great degree.

[00:30:30] Not as much as those that were isolated in their homes, our grocery store, our regular thing, all of our regular things were still there. So. One of the lovely things about assisted living is that we do have the option to bring in resources. And one of the things that we have done is we do really have the opportunity for every new resident to be screened for

[00:30:54] concerning issues that may be health-related or mental health related. And most often we have behavioral health that is available for our seniors and they do house calls within our community, which is something that isn’t a resource for those out in their homes. So having resources for professional behavioral health

[00:31:13] with the ease that we do and the eyes on is a great thing. But reaching out for any kind of behavioral health is hard. Sometimes it needs to start with a conversation with say another trusted person. Is it , a religious contact? Is it a trusted friend? Is it your primary care physician? Is it your best friend?

[00:31:35] Is it your family member? Sometimes you also need to be proactive and say, I’ve noticed these things. Can I help you? And the one thing I’ve learned about help is sometimes when someone does need, especially mental health especially in seniors, it’s hard for them , to ask for that help. It’s a generational thing asking for help is hard for anyone.

[00:32:00]But especially that older generation that was really pulled up by the bootstraps and do it for ourselves. So a lot of times, especially with dementia care too, where if you’re concerned about the spouse, just saying. Can we help isn’t enough. We have to say I’ve noticed X, Y, Z. I would like to help you by, would that be okay with you?

[00:32:23] And that could be, let me cut the lawn. Let me take the dog to the vet. Let me run and get the groceries. Let me bring dinner over. There are a variety of people that can help in whatever way is most comfortable for them. And if it is comfortable for both parties, it’s less intrusive. And maybe that will encourage them to open up and ask for professional help.

[00:32:44]I do have to say that anytime you have a senior that exhibits any kind of symptoms of harming themselves or others, that’s a pretty immediate need. And luckily the state of Florida particularly, has a tremendous number of resources. So we look at the behavioral health, we offer those resources.

[00:33:01] The other thing that we do as a community, as a company that, that has senior living communities,  Is we do what we call spark lifestyle. And when we have a new resident come in, we really spend a lot of time learning about, you know, were they politically active.

[00:33:15] Are they religious?  What are their hobbies? Do they have favorite sports teams where their favorite foods, this whole long list of who is this person and sharing that with all of our managers and then really taking time to say, okay, Our residents  maybe they need a wine and cheese and pretend we’re in Paris one night, or maybe they need a senior prom and want to do something special with that.

[00:33:41]One of our communities has a standing tradition of a resident’s gone wild evening.

[00:33:46] Liz Craven: [00:33:46] I love it.

[00:33:47] Charisse Durham: [00:33:47] and it’s it gets a little crazy with the fireman showing up and,

[00:33:52] Liz Craven: [00:33:52] I love it.

[00:33:53]Charisse Durham: [00:33:53] I mean, literally unmentionables hanging from the chandelier’s like it does happen.  But we really take the time to focus on who each individual person is with that spark lifestyle and do things that are purposeful and how they would like them done and what they would like done.

[00:34:10]When I’m talking to people who are new in the industry and I find that there may be trying to. Project their own ideas onto what it should look like or what it should be like, take a second, ask what they want and fill that need.  I’ve had the conversation recently where, you know, Elvis is going to leave the building one of these days, every 10 years or so, senior living has to evolve and sooner or later we’re going to start seeing more Woodstock parties than we are Elvis visiting the building

[00:34:42] Liz Craven: [00:34:42] Very true.

[00:34:43] Charisse Durham: [00:34:43] We’re going to go to taco Tuesdays instead of soda shop stuff like it’s just a transition into what people what is their normal, what are their happy places and meeting those needs. So with the sparkle lifestyle, we really especially after all we went through with COVID, we launched this program to be able to say, all right, things are changing.

[00:35:07] They’re never going to be the same normal, but this is a new normal. And we have the ability as an organization and as a leader in senior care to say, let’s ask, let’s find out what are the needs, what are the wants? What are the desires? Because our residents set the expectations and we fulfill it. We are in their home working every day.

[00:35:29] We are allowed to be there. They are not in our workplace. We are in their home.

[00:35:34]Liz Craven: [00:35:34] I love that those are the best practices that are in place. And I find that most assisted living communities have their distinct personalities. And when you’re shopping for an assisted living and visiting the communities, it’s so important. As you mentioned earlier, Spend some time and go to some of the activities and interact with the staff and interact with the other residents, because you’ll probably find that one particular residence is going to strike you more than the others.

[00:36:05] And that’s a good indicator that you’ve found the right place.

[00:36:10] Charisse Durham: [00:36:10] It’s all about building relationships and  whatever you do,  through any kind of addressing the needs of a senior, it’s all about communication. It’s all about building relationships. If they have a trusted doctor or home health, or other resources building the trust and building the relationship should be first, it should be first

[00:36:31] for who the family has reached out to. So if you don’t feel like you said with your father-in-law, if you didn’t get the feeling that they were trying to build a relationship that was going to be based on trust and communication might not be the best thing. So being available to families and listening and addressing all those needs, however off the wall they might be, we want to know those things so that we can address them.

[00:36:54]And the ultimate goal is to give each and every senior, the best quality of life, whatever that looks like for them, between their health, their mental, their social, anything like that.  That’s one of the things that we strive to do on a daily basis. And as you are in that transitional phase, again, it’s all about communicating both ways and building a relationship.

[00:37:20]Liz Craven: [00:37:20] Well, I want to recap just a little bit. So this has been a fantastic conversation, a really important conversation that I hope is helpful to the families who are listening,  The first point is that transition is hard. Assisted living is amazing and wonderful, but even if somebody has intended that for themselves, it’s still hard.

[00:37:42] There are things that happen. There are going to be transition challenges for the older adult. There are going to be transition challenges for the family and caregivers. So it’s best to approach this with the end in mind, understanding that you might need some outside help. And here’s the place where I want to say, asking for help, as it relates to behavioral or mental health is not something that should carry stigma. Unfortunately society tells us we should be able to handle things on our own, but that just isn’t the case. I’m very happy to say that there has been so much more conversation surrounding mental health, especially over the last year that people are beginning to realize that it should not carry a stigma.

[00:38:31] I think every single person walking this earth could use a little helping hand now and then as it relates to working through what’s going on in their heads, So let’s just put that out there and take that stigma away from all of you. If you’re having an issue working through your current situation, ask for help.

[00:38:50] That’s what people are there for. They’re trained and they’re there to make the transitions easier for everybody. The next tip was to really prepare for your move, understand what your loved one needs and wants and understand how to communicate with the community they’re moving into to make sure that those things happen, but you need to play an active role in that as the family member or a caregiver. Also, make their space feel like home, take some of their loved and precious things with them and really take the time to discover how they visioned their home and make that vision come true for them.

[00:39:28] And lastly, As the transition is happening again, if it’s time to seek professional help, if you’re having trouble dealing or coping with the transition you or your loved one, then seek the help to make that transition easier. Ask for help from those who are staffing the community, they’re there to help you and can connect you with anything that you need.

[00:39:51] So did I miss anything in that recap?

[00:39:54] Charisse Durham: [00:39:54] I don’t think so. I think it is absolutely what you said. Have a conversation, get help when needed. There’s no stigma attached and we are all here to help.

[00:40:03] Liz Craven: [00:40:03] So, do you have any favorite resources or other places to point listeners to where they can dig deeper on this topic?

[00:40:11]Charisse Durham: [00:40:11] If you’re dealing with dementia, of course, the Alzheimer’s association has a wide variety of resources that are available. Another place that a lot of people don’t think of, but has a ton of free publications and web publications is the National Institutes of Health.

[00:40:27]Generally speaking, when we are even talking about mental health, we are talking about some things that contribute to that and the National Institutes of health has a publications website that truthfully addresses so many. There’s so many challenges caregiving from a distance diabetes, elder law just everything that could factor in,

[00:40:49] so there is a resource on the National Institutes of Health for everything.  The other thing that I would say is it has to be personal. So if someone is struggling and they do need some help, think about what’s helped them in the past or resources they’ve used in the past or a trusted friend trusted professional in a crisis situation. There are  one 800 help lines for every topic and we have the internet please just reach out to a trained professional to at least get some guidance on the next step, because that is the key to mental health is sometimes when you’re in it, you can’t see it and you can’t see your way out.

[00:41:27] So reaching out to get a traffic signal of where you’re supposed to go next can be the one thing that you can do for yourself or for another person.

[00:41:37] Liz Craven: [00:41:37] Good advice. And I failed to mention support groups.  There are so many wonderful support groups. And honestly, the best idea is to start to look into some of the organizations and associations dealing with your specific situation, whether it’s diabetes or Alzheimer’s and dementia or whatever the case may be.

[00:42:01]If you’re a caregiver and you’re looking for support, seek those out online. If you have trouble finding those, please send me an email. You can reach me@infoatsageaging.com and I would be absolutely happy to help you locate a support group that is going to be beneficial in your particular situation.

[00:42:22]. All right is there anything left that you would like to share specifically? Do you have a piece of sage advice you’d like to leave with our listeners?

[00:42:34] Charisse Durham: [00:42:34] I think  if you’re listening this podcast, you have an interest in seniors and in health and in the betterment of people. And my advice is always to go into any conversation because it’s about conversations go into any kind of communication with a level of respect and a level of support.

[00:42:57] And when you need a professional, I’ll say mediator, but counselor, whatever to help intervene, we’re out there. And no matter what comes of that conversation or the resources. If everything is done from the right place of care and compassion, there’s no wrong choice. So, I really feel like people hesitate to make a right decision because they’re afraid of making a wrong decision. Talk, be respectful, enlist, help, and know that there are no wrong decisions if you’re doing it with due diligence and from the right place in your heart.

[00:43:34] Liz Craven: [00:43:34] Great advice. Thank you so much Charisse for joining me today, this has been a great conversation.

[00:43:41] Charisse Durham: [00:43:41] Well, I appreciate you having me. Thank you so much.

[00:43:43] Liz Craven: [00:43:43] It’s absolutely my pleasure. And thank all of you for listening.  I’ll say it again, bringing the conversation to the surface is the way that we begin to chip away at the stigma that’s associated with mental health and make it as normal as it is.

[00:44:00] The truth is that we all need help at some point in our lives. And we should never have to hide from that. And especially when you’re dealing with a transition like this one, moving from your home to a new home, instead we should be embracing this journey and using every tool that we have available to us to make it a good one.

[00:44:20] So, did you learn anything today? Well, I sure hope you did.  If you did, I’d like to challenge you to share the Sage Aging podcast with someone else who might benefit from the content we’re delivering. And if you’re enjoying Sage Aging, let’s get social. Look for our daily posts on Instagram and Facebook.

[00:44:37] And Hey, did you know that you can get the Sage Aging podcast sent straight to your inbox? You absolutely can. And it’s very easy to do. Simply go to Sageaging.com. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and put your email in there to subscribe. Thanks again for listening friends. We’ll talk real soon.

Liz Craven

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As I’ve been preparing to launch this podcast I’ve enjoyed revisiting stages of my own life and reflecting on how this topic became such a passion for me. While I’ve built my career on helping older adults and their families connect to needed education and resources, my connection to the aging and care process goes much deeper.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my own multi-generational family living together in one home. I was 4 or 5 when my grandmother moved into our home to help care for my sisters and I while our parents worked. Soon after, her father and grandfather moved in as well. We had 5 generations living under one roof! That was a beautifully chaotic adventure and knowing what I know now, I have so much respect for what my parents and grandmother did.

Fast forward to age 24. Newly married and pregnant with our first child, I spent several months with my in-laws to help care for my husband’s grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. Fast forward again to about 2009 – Wes and I have two teenagers about to head to college and his mother is diagnosed with cancer. Several years later, my mother is diagnosed with cancer. Several years after that Wes’ stepdad is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and his father is suffering from severe dementia. You can see where this is going right? For the better part of the last 10 years we have been the caregivers. We see it as an honor and privilege to have been able to do that for our parents.

The key to navigating our later years is being proactive about gathering information before we get there and staying engaged once we do. To be sage is to be wise. There is wisdom in taking the time to ask questions, seek solutions and know your options before the need arises.

Each week we will discuss relevant topics of aging with experts who can help us to understand and be better prepared for aging. We’ll also introduce you to some Sage Agers who are totally owning their journeys through life. No topic will be off limits and we will deliver open and honest conversation meant to educate and empower our listeners. Each episode will also be available in video and blog formats.

Whether you are proactively seeking to broaden your own knowledge, a caregiver for a loved one or a professional working in the aging care industry, this podcast is for you. We hope you will join us as we explore and celebrate Sage Aging.