By Marie-Claude Giguere
Helping Seniors, $19.95, 75 pages
When author Marie-Claude Giguére’s 78 year old dad had a traumatic medical crisis, everything culminated in a decision to move her mom and dad out of the place they called home for over 40 years. Their residential transition may have been the very event that hastened the publication of Giguére’s new book Stay or Move?: How to Talk to a Senior About Their Changing Needs and Retirement Residences. Making the decision to “stay or move” can be quite a lengthy and often frustrating process for elderly family members. But Giguére designed this step-by-step guide to help alleviate that frustration.
She begins her book by encouraging a consensus of opinion when it comes to relocating. Giguére recognizes that the needs of the elderly often change and evolve, a fact that is often overlooked. Then Giguére asks readers to question whether staying is an option. She uses examples to illustrate cases points out how adults can experience a revolving door of acquaintances as they age which can leads to isolation and loneliness.
In the next part of her book, Giguére considers the idea of moving seniors to new residences. The “decoding hours of care” section can be confusing but that is only because terminology and potential services and care packages are discussed as you would encounter them in Canada as compared to America. For example, “fully autonomous” is similar to independent living and “semi autonomous” is similar to assisted living. Remember prices in this book are quoted in Canadian dollars.
Next, consider having a family discussion. Giguére suggests thinking about which family members will be involved, whether a professional mediator will be there and how to have “the talk.” She reminds readers that 1) the focus should always be on the “safety and well-being” of the aging family member and 2) it is normal for older individuals to feel a range of emotions as they begin a new chapter in their lives. Giguére says stubbornness is the most consistent emotion that has confounded families. She suggests family members use empathy and take a walk in the other person’s shoes. Baby steps, baby steps and more baby steps can be the best way. Patience doesn’t hurt either.
Finally, when it comes time for “the talk,” having adequate knowledge of the health, finances, support network and state of the current living situation can help families begin to discuss options with their elders. Again, empathy, patience and active listening are key elements. Giguére explores multigenerational households and lists pros and cons. She reminds readers not to forget “warm up” time as this makes “the talk” less of a “personal attack.” Giguére cautions not to continue the conversation if the info “isn’t getting through.” If “tempers flare” is it best to “bring it up at another time.” Do not overwhelm yourself or your elderly family member. Remember Rome was not built in one day. Keep in mind, as with everything else in life, there will never be a perfect place.
Giguére is knowledgeable, having familiarized herself with over 300 “private retirement residences” in her metro area of Montreal, Canada. She is quick to point out that finding the right fit is vastly important. After all, it would be harsh to think of having to relinquish a beloved pet when some residences have a strict no-pet policy in place.
While this may mirror a “common sense” guide to industry professionals, look beyond the cover. It offers so much more. Giguére’s topics are timely and questions relevant when applied to this major transition that, sooner or later, everyone must face. It is commendable that the author never overlooks an individual’s own uniqueness (there are no cookie cutter solutions) and the all important insight of following one’s own intuition or “gut feeling” about certain circumstances. For even professionals are not always right. For “your loved one has lived their entire life identifying with certain groups socially, culturally, and financially” and it should certainly not be forgotten when considering the housing options available to your family.