Recognizing the need for change
Shortly after her father passed away, Linda Mogensen recognized a significant change in her mother.
“There was nothing physically wrong with her, but she was dying,” Linda said. “She was going down so badly. All she would do is get up and look out the windows. She wanted to die.”
As difficult as it was for Linda to witness, this is a situation many families of an isolated senior have encountered.
Linda eventually moved in with her mother, Betty Mogensen, to be her primary caregiver. But three years passed and her mother’s demeanor did not improve.
By living with her mother, it was easy for Linda to identify Betty’s issues. But for families unable to interact daily with a loved one, some of the warning signs include a poor diet, isolation, feelings of loneliness, and lack of proper hygiene.
Linda said her mother lacked adequate social interaction living in the house. She also “lived on ice cream for three years and had to be reminded to change her clothes.” It became apparent the family needed a change and Linda began exploring different retirement homes in the area. “It was either that or watch her die,” Linda said.
Linda found Oakwood Hills, an independent retirement living community that provides residents with private suites, three meals per day served in a social setting, housekeeping and transportation.
From pleasant housekeepers, to attentive servers at mealtime, and helpful maintenance technicians who are there when you need them, Linda found this community to be the new extension of her family.
Oakwood Hills appeared to be an ideal fit, so Linda took Betty to the community every day for a week to help her get acclimated before fully moving in. “You could tell she was scared to death,” Linda said.
The decision was also difficult for Linda.
“I went home and cried,” she said. “I thought she might die in a week. I thought she might not get up to go eat or she might never change her clothes. I lived with her for three years. It was really hard because she was like my child.”
But after just a short time, Linda witnessed a miraculous turnaround in her mother. Betty now refers to Oakwood Hills as her home, has made many close friends, and is enjoying nutritious meals daily. She won’t touch ice cream anymore, Linda said.
“She loves the place,” Linda said. “I’ve never seen the woman flourish so much. Now it’s hard to get her away from there, and she told me I don’t have to come see her so much. This is the woman who was like my child for three years. I can’t believe what the place did for her. I love it for her.”
Linda also regained her life back as well. The stress began to build for her as she managed two restaurants and bars while juggling her role as caregiver for her mother. “I have a life now,” said Linda, who vacationed in Hawaii a few months after the move. “I would never be able to do that (go to Hawaii) before. I thought I might live with her for the rest of her life. But something needed to change.”
While change can be unsettling for seniors, it can also be necessary when healthy habits decline. If seeking a retirement community, Linda suggests allowing your loved one to gradually adjust to the idea and to the community. After moving in, give your loved one, and yourself, ample time to adapt as both of you could feel strong emotions initially.
“I thought I made the wrong decision at first and she did not want to be there,” Linda said. “I just told her to try it for a month, and if she didn’t like it, she could move back. She was crossing the days off her calendar, but after a few weeks, she didn’t want to leave.”
Most importantly, Linda said, is to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes.
“When you are checking out different places, ask yourself, ‘Would I live there?’” Linda said. “Put yourself in their place. I could live at Oakwood Hills right now. So I felt good about moving her there.”