When Grandma Isn't Safe At Home Anymore: 5 Questions to Ask
We've all been here before. We've all had a grandparent, parent, great aunt or neighbor who just makes us nervous! Not nervous in the "I don't trust them" kind of way but nervous in the "how do I hold onto them for dear life without offending them because I am so scared for their safety" kind of way.
Or how about that time when you finally visited grandma (or ANY aging friend/neighbor/relative) for the first time in 6 months and experienced a wave of shock and overwhelming concern when discovering how she is REALLY living now- the realization that maybe this life and home have all become a bit too much for her.
She may tell you that she is fine. She may deny any difficulty in caring for herself and her home but a picture says a thousand words and when you are present, you can see the struggle for yourself.
That realization is hard but what's harder is knowing what to do about it!
In one sense the options are simple: find a way to make the home safer, down-size, or move grandma in with family to oversee her care.
But the answer can also feel complicated.
Questions to consider:
1. What does Grandma want? Regardless of whether or not you can grant her wishes, understanding what Grandma wants will help you understand what she values. If you can understand what she values, this will help you to be able to find ways to ensure that her values are maintained (even if those values are preserved in other ways).
For example, if grandma says she wants to be able to stay in her home that may be because she values her independence, or the familiarity of her environment, or the memories she has built there. If she values the memories, then perhaps allowing her to be a part of the downsizing process by selecting the household items that hold the most precious memories in order to furnish her new living environment would be one alternative strategy that allows her to preserve her value of memories.
By asking questions you may be able to better understand why she wants to stay in her home and what exactly she values about staying in her home. This in turn, will help you to find creative solutions to preserve what she values most even when changes or alternative plans are necessary.
2. Is Grandma safe? This is often more of a gut feeling. You may not be able to put your finger on all of the underlying safety concerns (an occupational therapist can help with this!) but if you feel worried or concerned about her safety, chances are- you have reason to be.
3. Does Grandma have good safety awareness? Does grandma demonstrate caution or does she throw caution to the wind? Does she try to cover up areas where she is struggling to maintain her abilities? Does she get irritated, argumentative or defensive when safety concerns are expressed to her? At the end of the day, there are many modifications and services available to compensate for almost any function limitations BUT lack of safety awareness is something that can't be compensated for.
4. What are Grandma's options? There is a lot to consider here: finances, social support, location, personality, level of care required (determined by her physical and cognitive ability), adaptability (her ability to adapt to new environments). Each situation and person are unique but it is usually a combination of these variables that will determine the best options for her.
5. What is the timeframe? Is this care planning process occurring at a point of crisis or preventatively? Though talking about aging and a plan of care may feel about as fun as picking out your tombstone, I promise you that the sooner these changes are considered, the more control Grandma will have over her future setup and care plan. Having these conversations early on, at a point of anticipation instead of necessity, allows for clarity and the time required to make the transitions smooth, peaceful and appealing.
If you don't feel comfortable in assuming the responsibility of assessing the options and creating a realistic care plan, please reach out to your local OT Realtor. We can help. We can provide you with a full OT functional assessment for Grandma, home safety assessment, home valuation as well as recommendations for options to help ensure Grandma's safety AND quality of life so that she can continue to thrive in whatever changes that may come.
When the time comes to choose: selling vs. modifying your home, your OT Realtor is here to help you find the perfect balance of safety and quality of life for the loved ones you cherish.