Selecting your suite in a retirement home it both emotional and practical. It can be a challenge unless something literally jumps out and grabs you. Whether it’s the view, or situation within the building or a number that reflects a good time in your past, there should be something that speaks to you.
I have walked with families through hundreds of different suites and there is always something that helps them make their final decision. One such family was looking for a suite for their Mom for her last days. The Gatineau hills were part of their fondest childhood memories and Mom’s favourite past time was to hike, ski or walk through them. Even though the suite was smaller and in a high traffic hallway, they fell in love with the suite. No matter where you sat on the room you could see the Gatineau hills. Another couple moved into a 1 bedroom suite because it actually looked over their old land. Just like they say Home is where the heart is, there is very much an emotional side of suite selection. An it is just as important as the more functional and practical aspects of suite selection.
When you walk through a space, help your loved one see their things in certain places, or how the set up will make their daily tasks much easier on them. Look out the window to see things that make them happy. That’s really what it comes down to.
There are other aspects that affect finding the right suite for your loved one.
Less is More! This means so many different things; the closer things are at my fingertips the more independent I can be. If mobility is a challenge, getting or finding something in a spacious 2-4 room suite cannot always be done on your own. You have to wait for someone to come and help. If dementia or paranoia is present remembering where you put “it” is devasting. Having control and knowledge of where things are with an ease of access can be a very subtle aspect that most people don’t recognize when looking at smaller spaces. Showcasing your favourite piece while using it in a new way, helps exemplifies less is more.
“I want to encourage Mom/Dad to be out doing things. The more room you give them the more space they have to enjoy it on their own and not venture out. The smaller the area the more apt they are to get out of the 4 walls.
Having space for their “stuff” is important to them. Their collection demonstrates how hard they worked for it and it shows their level of success. Whether it’s the outfit in our closet that we say “I will fit into it next month”! or the figurines that have been collected from around the world, or Grandma’s hope chest, there are always special pieces that tell their story and have functionality that should come for both reasons. When sorting through knock knacks and keep sales, ask “what does it mean to you and is there someone that you think would get the same pleasure out of it now?” Find multiple uses for items to create a personal and beautiful space for them. Encourage give the gift so they can appreciate the appreciation of the recipient.
How far is the suite from their daily living activities? Do they need to walk? Is it too much to hinder their engagement or help it? (It typically takes 2 weeks to be able to walk to the dining room from their suite, if mobility is a concern at the beginning)
How are their neighbours? When they open their door, can they have a good conversation with them?
What direction does it face? Is Mom/Dad a morning person or night hawk? What time does the sun come in? Is this going to make for a grumpy morning or a bounce out of bed one?
Is the view pleasing and engaging? This is a double-edged sword. Will it keep them in their suite (bad) or due to circumstance and personality give them pleasure in watching the world throughout their days? (good) (Eg. Gatineau hills)
Does Mom/Dad have high needs or wants? They wanted it yesterday or “you should have known I needed xxx!” Being close to care and staff is then important to reduce anxiety, frustration and increase happiness, which sets all parties up for success.
When you are looking around, mark a star or rank the suites for each home and 3 notes that help you remember why you liked the suite the most. Use an emoji to identify the emotion. This will help you make your final decision. Remember that functional minimizes frustration and increases independence. Emotions are what they will remember. Happiness and comfort are what we all strive for in looking for a new home.