Cindy Pearson and Eilidh Pederson: Making a successful transition from home to residential living

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The decision to move into a residential care setting from home can be both a difficult and emotional one. For many older adults, the first and best option for living out their golden years is to age in place at home for as long as possible. While this sounds like a good plan, waiting longer may not always be the best option. Moving is always stressful and it can be made especially more so by all the emotions, challenges and coordination it presents. Some strategies to aid in the transition to a residential living facility include planning early, finding the right place and being involved in the move.

Ideally, planning and considering what options are available should be done months, even years, before the move is needed. Planning allows a greater opportunity for ownership of the process. Although it is generally believed that staying in one's home setting as long as possible is the best decision, this may not always be the case. Many seniors feel that by moving too soon they will lose an important part of themselves. Waiting too long, such as when physical or cognitive states have declined, may result in the window of opportunity closing and the choice to move into a residential living facility may no longer be an option.

One of the key components to making a smooth transition is to start searching for the right place as early as possible. The choice of living alone may no longer be present if challenges with daily living, an accident or even just a close call occur. If an emergent situation prompts the move this can deprive one of the opportunity to compare different locations. Planning ahead can make the process easier on the whole family. If residential care seems like a possibility for the future, visiting different locations and doing comparisons can be beneficial. An option many residential facilities offer is a respite program. A short-term stay with all the access to the amenities allows residents the opportunity to do more than just tour the facility.

Another benefit of planning to transition to an assisted living facility is that the senior can play an active role in the move. Change can be challenging. Decisions like what to do with the house and its contents are emotional ones and not being included in the process can be very alienating. The greater the ownership, the more likely the transition will be a positive one.

The goal of residential living is to allow seniors to continue to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. Residential living offers private rooms with bathrooms, meals, snacks, and social activities. Seniors can enjoy the benefits of moving to a place where the convenience of daily chores are eased and activities and social opportunities are readily available. In these types of settings seniors may actually find more independence than they would living in their home or with a relative.

Everyone copes differently with change based on his or her own personality, life experiences, and circumstances. Patience, support, and understanding are key themes that residents say helped them, their families, and friends with transitioning into assisted living.

Garden Path Elder Living, which consists of Holton Home and Bradley House, are two residential facilities in Brattleboro. One of the many benefits of living at one of the Garden Path Elder Living facilities is the collaboration with the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital's Post-Acute Care (PA-C) team. The services of the Post-Acute Care team are offered to residents upon admission. The PA-C team is made up of three Physicians, Dr. Jennifer Sheehan, Dr. Kari Dickey and Dr. George Idelkope. This team provides on-site primary care, 24/7 call and brings their services right to the residents of Holton Home and Bradley House. This means residents don't have to travel to see their doctors and don't have to wait for the next appointment. The PA-C team also provides phone call coverage for evening and weekend medical questions. Garden Path nurses collaborate with the PA-C physicians to ensure the best care and to assist with communication.

If you or a loved one are interested in seeking residential services and would like a tour of Bradley House or Holton Home call 802-254-4155, if you would like more information on the services of Post-Acute Care, please call 802-257-8847 and request the primary care physician services of the PA-C team.

Cindy Pearson is executive director of Garden Path Elder Living. Eilidh Pederson is vice president of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

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