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My Turn

October 19, 2009

My Turn: Exactly what is assisted living?

This week's "My turn" column is by Pat Breuer, executive director of Hampshire House.

An increasing number of families these days are forced to grapple with the problem of the appropriate place for older relatives to live.

Usually these older relatives are the parents, very often just the mother, and usually the family member that does the grappling is one of the daughters. Whatever one may think of the fairness or not of this, these are the facts.

Demographics and statistics dictate that wives will outlive their husbands, and practical realities of life have shown that it is the daughter of the surviving spouse upon whose shoulders it falls to take care of that surviving spouse.

And so we see women, usually in their mid- or late 50s, all over the country, combing the Internet; walking their fingers through the Yellow Pages and asking their friends and relatives "What services are available?"

The older relatives in need of this kind of help usually don't acknowledge it or want to leave their homes. They have often been in that home for many, many years, have a number of friends and neighbors around them (although a decreasing number as time goes on) and are familiar with the neighborhood and house, with all its pleasures and problems.

It's only when their children, friends or other relatives see problems develop and foresee more-serious problems in the future, that the need to search for an alternative living situation becomes urgent.

These problems can include such things as leaving the stove on all day with food on it that starts to burn and sets off the fire alarm or draws the fire department; wandering outside inappropriately dressed and at inappropriate times; losing or misplacing items such as hearing aids, dentures, money, keys, etc., any of which makes it hard or impossible to go on with the ordinary routine of daily living.

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