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Surviving in the Sandwich Generation

by Jennifer L. Nelson

With the resources available in South Jersey, caring for your children and your aging loved ones at the same time doesn’t have to feel like a game of tug-of-war.

Most parents know how it feels to be stretched too thin between the pressures of work and family. On top of office deadlines and raising young children, many are finding themselves stretched even further with the responsibilities of caring for an aging parent.

But that’s where the state’s senior living facilities come in. South Jersey is home to a host of senior communities that combine the plush, luxurious amenities of a five-star hotel with the care and experience of compassionate medical professionals.

Still, no matter how many impressive amenities they may have, making the decision to seek a senior living community for an elderly loved one’s long-term or short-term care is no easy task for the parents in the middle, often referred to as the “Sandwich Generation.”

“It’s a challenge to balance life on a regular basis. Toss in needing to care for children and your adult parent or loved one, and that’s when the process of figuring out what’s best for them becomes overwhelming,” says Christina O’Leary, director of branding and project management at Spring Hills Senior Communities, with a location in Cherry Hill. Their assisted living community strives to offer residents an individualized and holistic approach to care and services as part of its Signature Touch programs, and also provides home care services. In addition to expansive medical services and programs, the community features amenities like its own town center, complete with a movie theater, ice cream parlor, fitness center, Internet café and full-service salons.

It’s evident that senior care facilities have come a long way from the nursing home-like atmosphere.

Making difficult decisions easier
According to Reneè Pruzansky, chief operating officer at AristaCare Health Services, with a location in Cherry Hill, when families are finding themselves having to assist their loved one in daily tasks like getting dressed, feeding themselves, taking medication, or using the bathroom, it may be time to consider a long-term care facility.

“The tug of war between meeting your children’s needs and the needs of aging parents can create a lot of stress … and recognizing when your parents need more help than you can give is an important step in the process,” Pruzansky says.

AristaCare at Cherry Hill meets the needs of its residents with specialized programs like cardiac and Alzheimer’s programs as well as its orthopedic rehab program. A regional provider of sub-acute, post-acute and long-term care services, AristaCare strives to transform the traditional nursing home into a state-of-the-art inpatient facility that provides the most advanced medical and rehabilitative technology. At Cherry Hill, a dedicated director of quality experience serves as each patient’s personal concierge and advocate throughout their stay, while the therapeutic recreation department develops a customized program of activities by considering a resident’s hobbies, favorite pastimes, and activity level. “Keeping everyone busy and socially active is an important goal … it proves to help with a patient’s progress significantly,” she says.

Things to consider
Other factors to consider when making the decision to seek help from a senior living community can include memory issues that may interfere with the safety of a parent or those around them, or if a brief post-hospital stay may be beneficial after surgery or an event like a cardiac episode or stroke. Cherry Hill resident Irene Afek helped her father enroll at AristaCare after he was hospitalized and required rehabilitation. “It’s a warm, loving environment, and they helped us every step of the way, from the crisis mode of the hospital all the way to helping my dad return home with the skills he needed to care for himself,” she says.

Robert Moore, resident sales manager at Post House in Glassboro, notes that other red flags include diminished driving abilities, loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, personality changes, or signs of depression. “It’s better to be proactive rather than reactive,” he says. “Unfortunately, a lot of families don’t act when they see issues with their loved ones … they only react after there has been a medical emergency.”

The motto at Post House is “Life Just Got Easier,” and the facility strives to live up to its motto through its personalized services for residents. The small senior living community accommodates seniors with a range of needs, from those who are looking for an increased level of socialization to those who require assistance with daily living. Along with an array of social activities, the facility offers its own internal home health care agency. Members of a Resident Ambassador Program serve as “buddies” for new residents to help them assimilate into the community.

“We try to explain to families that making the decision to get help is not only a smart thing to do for their parents, but also for themselves,” Moore says. Like many senior living facilities, a trained, compassionate staff is on hand at Post House to assist residents with their daily needs, while the facility still remains home-like and inviting with apartments that feature all of the necessary amenities for independent living.

“A lot of parents deal with guilt,” agrees Tiffany McGovern, sales counselor at Voorhees Senior Living. “But when a new resident moves into our community, they gain back their independence. They’re making new friends, going on trips, and participating in activities, and all while being well cared for … it can really improve their quality of life.”

According to McGovern, Voorhees Senior Living is the only facility in the area that offers 24-hour nursing, while residents are treated to a full calendar of activities and meals prepared by a trained chef. The community is part of Five Star Senior Living, a national health care and senior living provider that works to go beyond government requirements and traditional ideas about retirement living. “We believe the best thing you can do is help your loved one find a community at a time when they’re still able to take advantage of the lifestyle we have to offer,” McGovern adds. “Best of all, when we step in to alleviate the burden of having to serve as caretaker for an aging parent, the relationships between all members of the family improve dramatically.”

Above all, families can rest assured that even if their aging loved one requires a heightened level of assistance with their day-to-day lives, the region’s senior living facilities pride themselves on maintaining communication with family members at all times. Whether it’s asking residents and their families for suggestions, holding frequent family meetings, or administrators and staff sharing their cell phone numbers to answer questions or address concerns at any time, the goal is to create a smooth transition for everyone involved, including the new resident and their loved ones.

Glassboro resident Terry Ratzell and her family made the decision to take advantage of Post House’s offerings for her father, who is grappling with Parkinson’s disease and the effects of a stroke. “We’re all going to deal with aging parents at some point, and staying up with them all night and then going to work the next morning is physically impossible,” she says. “Sometimes seniors can get lost in the crowd, but there are incredible facilities out there that really care about your family … you should never rule out the option of reaching out for help.”

Moms in the Middle

With the help if these trusted resources, you can make some of the most important decisions regarding your parents’ Golden Years, ensuring they maintain independence and star a new, and healthy, chapter in their life.

AristaCare at Cherry Hill
1399 Chapel Ave.
Cherry Hill
(856) 663-9009
AristaCare.com

Brendenwood/Brookdale Senior Living
1 Brendenwood Drive
Voorhees
(856) 424-7773
BrookdaleLiving.com

Collingswood Manor
460 Haddon Ave.
Collingswood
(856) 854-4331
UMH-NJ.org/cm

Five Star Senior Living
501 Laurel Oak Road
Voorhees
(856) 566-2340
VoorheesSeniorLiving.com

490 Cooper Landing Road
Cherry Hill
(856) 482 9300
CherryHillSeniorLiving.com

600 Medical Care Center
Sewell
(856) 582-8700
WashingtonTownshipSeniorLiving.com

Juniper Village
1640 S. Black Horse Pike
Williamstown
(856) 740-4444
JuniperCommunities.com

Olde Soles Cobbler Shop and Diabetic Foot Care
295 Route 70 W.
Cherry Hill
(856) 216-8003

Post House
540 Mullica Hill Road
Glassboro
(856) 307-0617
ALCCO.com

Spring Hills Cherry Hill
1450 Marlton Pike E.
Cherry Hill
(800) 618-9973
Spring-Hills.com

TLC HomeCare
310 Commerce Drive
Moorestown
(856) 234-8700
TLCHomeCareServices.com

Yardley Commons
209 Laurel Road
Voorhees
(856) 772-1313
HolidayTouch.com

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 8 (October, 2012).
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