by Cindy Baier, President and CEO of Brookdale Senior Living
08 May 2018

“Yahtzee!”

I never got tired of hearing my mother triumphantly shout the word that signaled my defeat at her favorite game. I am a competitive numbers-person by nature (qualities I inherited from my mom), and last fall I lost more Yahtzee games than I care to count, but it never got old.

That’s because we were playing in my mother’s long-term care community, where my sister and I helped her move when her health started declining, and I was visiting. Instead of checking off a laundry list of caregiver tasks – did you take your medicine? check. did you eat three meals today? check. – we were spending quality time together. Living in long-term care those last months of her life was a gift. Not just for her, but for me as well.

My hope is that other adult daughters give themselves and their mothers the same gift. My experience is not unique; research shows that upwards of 75 percent of all caregivers are female and 65 percent of all care recipients are women. Caregiving for aging parents is tough, and making decisions for long-term care can be even more challenging. That’s why I am sharing my story this Mother’s Day. I am proof that senior living truly allows you to become your mother’s daughter again.

Our story starts like most of the stories we hear from adult daughters of Brookdale residents. My sister Lisa and I noticed our mother’s loss of independence and were concerned for her well-being. I visited on weekends and spoke with her several times a day, but it was apparent she needed more care and attention than my sister and I could provide from a distance. On one of my visits home to her small Illinois town, my sister and I spoke with our mom about her wishes and decided to tour senior living communities.

I wanted my mom to come live close to me in a Middle Tennessee Brookdale community, but we jointly decided that it was best to stay near my sister and her doctors. After touring several options, she settled on the same long-term care community her husband had called home until he passed in 2000. It felt like home to her – she still had relationships with the staff and she knew the layout. A sense of familiarity was comforting to her.

Moving was tough. I made sure Mom’s room was decorated with her favorite belongings, including her beloved stuffed animal – a cat. It took her about 24 hours to adjust, during which my heart was filled with a sense of guilt. Did we make the right decision? Did we move her in too early? Or too late? I completely understand the complex range of emotions our residents and families experience when choosing senior living, because I experienced them myself. It is a hard decision.

On my next visit, my mom was a different person! She introduced me to every caregiver who entered her room, chatting about their kids and weekend plans. We splurged on her favorite meal, take-out from Avantis, while binge-watching the Hallmark channel. Laughing and looking through old photos while enjoying too many sweets became the theme of our visits. What a welcome change from the typical weekends I spent going over doctor instructions, preparing meals and picking up prescriptions. I became my mother’s daughter again, and my initial sense of guilt subsided. With a weight lifted, I knew we made the right decision. Those last few months with her were some of the best we ever had.

Reflecting on our senior living journey, I realize what a mistake we made by not making a decision about senior living sooner. In life, there are certain decisions you have to make, decisions that no one wants to talk about. Unfortunately, senior living can be one of those. By not making a decision, we were making a bad decision for my mom. It frustrates me to know that she – we! – could have had a better life if we made the decision earlier.

As an industry insider, you would think that I understood this, but ultimately I had to go through the senior living journey myself to fully understand.

This is why I am a passionate advocate for the services Brookdale provides. The experience changed my entire perception of senior living and gave me a new respect for our families, residents and associates.  I am immeasurably grateful for the Brookdale associates who provide the same relief for our residents and families. It truly takes a community; everyone from the Executive Director to the receptionist has a hand in making our buildings a home.

If you are struggling with your senior living journey, or need tips on where to start, my hope is that you turn to Brookdale. Let us help you navigate this journey so you become your mother’s daughter again.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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