The baby boomer generation (born between the years of 1946 and 1964) has caused a considerable rise in 55+ and assisted living residences to accommodate the elderly moving out of their primary homes.

But how about the baby boomers who don’t want to leave their primary homes but are quickly needing more and more assistance? The person who has thrived in the family home, but is starting to forget things? The person who finds the stairs challenging or not able to reach those hard-to-get places to dust and clean? The person who no longer has the grip strength to open up a jar of pickles, grab a handrail quickly or unbutton a fastener to remove a piece of clothing.

Do the family members simply tell this person “It’s part of getting old, mom. You just need to accept it”?

How do you teach an elderly person, who has possibly never attended any therapy how to approach fear and anxiety, and handle this type of news?

Generation X (1965 to 1980) would be much more comfortable to attend therapy. Not only is therapy more normalized for this generation, it also quickly jumped on the world wide web when it became available, providing infinite resources to managing stress, fear, or any other emotional turmoil they might be experiencing.

Therefore, not only are we telling the baby boomers who desperately want to remain home “You must adapt”, or “This is normal” but they also do not have the emotional bandwidth to even pick up the signal of how to deal with what they consider terrifying.

The Top 5 Stressors in Life.

According to John Hopkins University, the top 5 stressors in life are the death of a loved one, divorce, moving, major illness or injury, and job loss. So, if I think of my 84-year-old mother in her current reality, she has experienced or is experiencing 4 out of the 5 listed stressors.

She lost her spouse and two of her children, she recently broke her hip after losing her balance in her home (she stepped on a stool to water a plant) and is technically ‘losing her job’ as a cook, cleaner, and caretaker. My mom has been a stay-at-home mom since she gave birth to the first of her 9 children when she was 18. How can we as children tell her this is normal and it will be okay? Who are we to tell her this?

I can only imagine how fearful I would be if I were told my job or identity was about to end, I needed to move out of the home I built with my husband, and I needed to heal a bone that robbed me of my one way of coping with anxiety – which is my ability to move.

Before the fall, my mom walked every single day (it was something she looked forward to daily, even in -25C weather), she prepared food for my nearby brothers who still worked the family farm, cleaned the house, gardened, and canned vegetables.

How do loved ones help the elderly leave their primary home?

I am not hopeful that phrases like “Mom you will meet a lot of new friends” or “Mom, the rooms are quite nice” will make her eyes sparkle again.

As a therapist and a daughter, the best thing my family can do at this point is to listen to her. And when the conversation becomes one of pessimism (which is common) we continue to listen, and we become even more empathetic. We encourage her to do more of the alternate pastimes that brought her joy. We take her for a drive for a change of scenery and shift her focus. We ask her what she needs from us right now. We remind her that we love her and are here for her. We remind her of the resiliency and respect we have for her because of how she moved through so many other challenges endured in life. We provide different alternatives to her. We tell her of how others have managed to move through challenging times. We remind her of prayer and what this has done for her in the past. And finally, we gently turn her focus over to all the beauty that the world has still to offer her.