Leaving the house in which they’ve built their lives, raised their family, and made a home for half a century, is emotionally difficult for an elderly couple.
In many ways it’s just as painful for their adult children, who in addition to the sorrow of dealing with parents’ declining physical and mental abilities, are also losing pieces of their own childhoods.
But trying to keep aging parents at home for too long brings its own trials, and can even begin to erode the relationships it’s aiming to maintain. That’s why, for Linda Bonczar, finding Scott-Farrar at Peterborough , an assisted-living retirement community, was a godsend.
Linda and her siblings were raised in Jaffrey Center by Eva and George Dishong. In 2017, more than 50 years after they’d first moved to the house, Eva and George were still living there, but the upkeep, Eva’s frail physical condition and George’s worsening dementia, made keeping them there difficult.
Linda, like many adult daughters, took on a primary role in caring and planning for her parents. So in addition to nurturing her own household and children, she made sure her parents had what they needed, ferried them to appointments, helped make sure they were eating properly, and started researching places where they could comfortably enjoy the next part of their lives.
It was during this research that she discovered Scott-Farrar.
“I always liked the feel of that one the best,” she recalls. “It was comfortable, homey, less institutional. It felt different than all the rest to me.”
By summer of 2017 it was becoming ever more clear Eva and George couldn’t stay at the house in Jaffrey Center. Linda pressed for them to move into Scott-Farrar. They were reluctant to give up their independence. “Instead they bought a condo a mile away from us,” Linda says. “That worked for about nine months.”
During those nine months their health continued to decline--and the strain on Linda grew. Eva had fallen several times, once blackening her eye in the process. George had lost his license. The sense they were “losing everything” was pervasive.
“By August, I was really going out of my mind,” Linda says. “I was overwhelmed. I was anxiety ridden. I couldn’t even talk about it without crying.” Her own health began to decline.
“I felt like I just did it in the nick of time. And I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”
This situation isn’t uncommon, according to Lara Shea, Executive Director at Scott-Farrar at Peterborough. Often adult children try their best to keep mom and dad at home - until it becomes a point of stress. But the decision to move parents to assisted living, as hard as it is, is sometimes the best possible move. “This is a very sad time in a family’s life, but they can come out of it on the other end in a better place,” Lara says.
For Linda, this certainly proved to be the case. She moved Eva and George into Scott-Farrar’s memory care unit, a small, quiet neighborhood where George could have the attention his dementia required, and Eva could have the physical care she needed, while still accessing the larger Scott-Farrar community. The staff bring the couple to happy hour in the café each Friday, or BINGO in the Activities room each Tuesday night. Every Sunday the staff bring them to Divine Mercy Church. They socialize, Linda says, and feel normal. And their spiritual, emotional and practical needs are being met.
“She hasn’t been dehydrated. No pneumonia,” Linda says. “Where at the condo we couldn’t regulate everything she ate and drank, here they can keep track of it.”
Not only are the practical nutritional needs being met, Linda enthuses, but it’s done so in high style.
“The food is fabulous. We’ll go up there for dinner and she’ll say tonight we’re having scallops, or stuffed sole.”
Now that Linda doesn’t have to worry about all the physical aspects of caring for her parents, her bond with them feels renewed.
“It was getting so I felt like I didn’t have a good relationship with them. You realize you’re losing your child-parent relationship. Every time I’d go there it was to put out some fires, not play a game or talk,” she recalls. “I don’t feel like I ever played a game with her down at the condo. Now there’s more time to visit and spend quality time.”
With that additional time comes peace of mind. “I say goodbye, I kiss them goodbye, and I leave there knowing they are in good hands,” Linda says. “It’s a big relief.”