Keeping Married Seniors Together
Helping Couples Transition to Assisted Living
In our Queen Anne community, this past year Shirley and Craig celebrated 51 years of marriage. They first met as neighbors in Queen Anne and life has brought them full circle. Together, they have raised two children and are grandparents to four. Despite Craig’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, they have chosen to continue to live life to the fullest and remain positive.
“This transition is going very smoothly. I think due to the fact that we remain looking at the positive and have wonderful support from family and friends. We are truly grateful that Craig is a part of the community on Galer. Having a very caring staff, lots of activities, and lovely surroundings has Craig feeling very welcomed and comfortable,” said Shirley. “And for our children and myself, we know that he is in a safe and loving environment.”
Shirley and Craig’s beautiful recreated wedding photo features Shirley in the gown from her wedding day!
Life expectancy around the world continues to increase steadily. According to the National Institute on Aging, the nation’s 90-and-older population is projected to more than quadruple over the next four decades. And the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the percentage of married seniors over the age of 60 has increased over the past several decades, while the number of widows has decreased. Therefore, more elderly couples will be living longer and may need to move into assisted living—either together or separately.
Can Couples Live Together in Assisted Living?
Typically, more single individuals live in assisted living communities than couples. But an assisted living community can be the perfect solution to make each person in the marriage happy, healthy, and safe—especially when one spouse may no longer be able to continue to care appropriately for the other. At Aegis Living, we have plenty of couples who share an apartment and can continue to live together in wedded bliss.
What If Spouses have Different Care Needs?
Caring for an elderly spouse in their senior years can be exceedingly stressful for the caregiver. They may not be up for the task, physically and mentally, to handle the care of a spouse, along with maintaining a household, shopping for groceries, cooking meals, running to doctor’s appointments, managing medications, helping dress and groom, and assisting with transferring them to a wheelchair or bathtub. The caregiver’s health will often decline due to the additional strain of managing care for a spouse. They may suffer depression, neglect issues with their health, miss their own doctor’s appointments, lose sleep, and eat less healthy. An assisted living community is the perfect situation for a married couple where the caregiver-spouse is overwhelmed.
Each resident will have their own comprehensive care plan to meet each individual’s needs. They can live in the same apartment and maintain their lives together, but each will get the assistance specifically for them. In addition, they can participate in activities together or on their own. And if one spouse is up repeatedly in the night, there are apartment options with two bedrooms and two bathrooms for those who may need more space.
Some assisted living communities have campuses to accommodate both assisted living and memory care. In the event that one spouse has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, they can live in the same community but apart to better accommodate each of them. One spouse can live in assisted living while the other resides in the memory care wing. This arrangement allows them to be with each other while still getting their specific needs met. At Aegis Living, many of our couples enjoy this arrangement because it relieves the burden of care and allows the couple more time to enjoy and relax.
Couples Benefit from Assisted Living
Couples who have been married for many years and have been through ups and downs may feel guilty when they can no longer care for an ailing or frail spouse. They may think that they have somehow failed. But the truth is that caregiving is hard. If the caregiving-spouse is elderly, this can be a real strain on them as they deal not only with the physical demands but also juggling the emotions and fears of their loved one’s health or memory decline. In addition, the spouse who needs more assistance may not have the ability to be there emotionally for a worried spouse. The cared for spouse may feel depressed or frustrated that they are not able to do more. In the end, it is a challenging situation to be in. The best solution may be an assisted living community. Each will be able to relax; get the assistance they need and thrive in a supportive setting.
Determine Which Option is Best for a Couple
It can be an arduous process to move a single loved one into assisted living but moving a couple can increase your stress and complicate your decision. Make a list of what is most critical for their health and happiness. Preparation will help you focus and narrow your choices. Get recommendations for communities from friends and family. And try to plan ahead, this is not a decision to force during a crisis or health emergency.
When touring a community for your loved ones, keep in mind their needs as a couple but also their individual physical, medical, and emotional needs. Take the time to tour a variety of communities; it’s important they are both comfortable. Is one more social than the other? Is one cognitively impaired? Is the other more active and mobile? The amenities, activities, and medical care should be considered for both. It will be a balancing act to get the appropriate care and accommodate their personalities. Compromises will be made, but both can still be incredibly happy.
How to Help Aging Couples Keep Their Relationship Strong
If variety is the spice of life, then assisted living offers lots of engaging activities, wonderful menus, caring staff, and lots of interesting neighbors to get to know. This new chapter can be seen as a new adventure together as they move into a community. And their home extends far beyond the walls of their apartment; the entire community is available for their use and enjoyment. They can hold hands at the movies, pick up a new hobby, take part in activities, walk hand-in-hand in the gardens, and dine with new friends. They will have new things to talk about. Each can also take part in things that they love separately. All of the new activities, programs, and people can expand their social circle and add to their lives.
Understanding Intimacy Policies & Aging Couple’s Needs
Intimacy can be a tricky topic when addressing assisted living for married family members. But it’s a fact of life. Sexually active older couples need to understand the policy of their assisted living community, so they are comfortable. Usually, if couples live in a private apartment, they can continue to be intimate as part of their healthy and happy relationship. But in the case that one spouse lives in assisted living and the other in memory care, necessary arrangements may need to be made. Before the couple moves into an assisted living community, this topic should be discussed—after all, this is their home. No one should feel embarrassed. This is a normal and healthy part of life.
Even in this late stage of life, older couples still love each other. Physically things may have changed, but their connection is still there. We encourage families to celebrate anniversaries and birthdays because these are milestones in their life and love story. Surprise them with a date night dinner in their apartment for two. Offer to pick up flowers or a favorite bottle of wine. Romance may change, but it doesn’t need to end.
LGBTQ+ Equality & Inclusion
According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, it is estimated that nearly three million LGBTQ+ seniors (65 years and over) live in the United States. They are part of the babyboomer generation and included in what the industry is calling the “grey tsunami.” And those statistics are predicted to double by 2030. Clearly, there is a demand for LGBTQ+ friendly senior housing options, so many are being designed and built across the country. These affinity communities will offer welcoming senior housing options and communities that are discrimination-free and supportive. Older LGBTQ+ seniors can enjoy life in a community where built-in acceptance is comforting, and they can let their guard down.
At Aegis Living, we are open and welcoming to all residents. Our staff is passionate about providing care with dignity and respect for the seniors who call our communities home. Our communities are close-knit places where seniors can live without prejudice and feel free to express themselves genuinely.
Assisted Living Costs for Couples
For any senior couple in assisted living, their care needs may be vastly different from each other. The care that they pay for is based on those individual needs. At Aegis Living, each individual will pay for the services they require or no care services if that is the case. The spouse with little or no care needs would pay for only room and board or pay for the room plus the cost of an additional person. Most assisted living communities will be able to accommodate a couple based on their mix of unique needs and apartment types.
Room Types That Aegis Living Offers Couples
Apartment options range from private studios to one- or two-bedroom units, so they can choose a housing option that best fits their needs. Some assisted living communities have campuses to accommodate both assisted living and memory care. One spouse can live in assisted living while the other lives in the memory care wing. This arrangement allows them to be with each other while still getting their specific needs met.
The thought of living apart after 50 years or more of marriage would be heartbreaking or devastating for any couple. However, if they can no longer live together on their own, an assisted living community can be an excellent fit for both. And with each other, the move into a new community can be made easier together.
Tour an Aegis Living community near you to speak with a community professional or meet one of our many happy couples.
Additional Resources: Lake Union (Seattle)
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