TAMPA - "She's my baby. She'll always be my baby," said Roberta Harvey. Bert, as she likes to be called, still loves to cuddle with her daughter, Kim Brannan.
The mother and daughter have always been close, but recently, after the death of Bert's husband, the two had an uncomfortable conversation about moving into an assisted living facility. "It was like three days after he passed away. I quickly became aware of how dependent she'd been on my dad. My brothers and I started to get nervous about mother living alone. And then it just became very apparent to us, for a lot of health issues related to her memory. But I have a career. I work full time. I couldn't, on a daily basis, provide the care she needed, so a lot of the factors worked together that the time was right."
But how do you bring up such a sensitive subject? Kim says, "The conversation was hard, because change is hard, and she had already endured the biggest change of her life, which was losing her mate, her husband of 63 years."
Jacquee LaFrance, who is a manager at the West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging, says it's important to begin the conversation by keeping your parent in the loop and part of the decision-making process. "Involving them, asking them the questions, how do you feel about living home by yourself? Giving them the opportunity to find out for themselves and realize they may need the extra help. They may need more care than the caregiver can provide."
Kim says she also, "Talked with her physician and tried to get his recommendations as well. That the medical and health care issues would be covered in the manner that I could feel confident."
Jacquee says you can tell your loved one about all the opportunities for socializing - that moving means they won't be so isolated anymore.
But what do you do if your parents resist your efforts? "If you do run into that resistance, if there is no cognitive impairments and they have their full mental capacity, the decision is ultimately theirs, if they do want to move into a facility or not."
In Bert's case, she already had friends living in the Horizon Bay Memory Care by the Bay Assisted Living Facility. Bert says, "I thought if I've got to live in a place, that's where I want to be. So it worked out good, cause something became available that I wanted cause the rooms are different sizes, you know. But the one-bedroom suits me fine."
For help on having this conversation with a loved one you can call the statewide number for the Agency on Aging at 1-800-963-5337.