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Make caring for a parent less challenging

Sequoia Living | Stories from Residents. Woman kissing older woman on cheek.

Recently we interviewed residents at Sequoia Living to find out their experience when it came to planning their moves to senior living. This is part one in a three-part series that appeared in the SF Business Times in October 2022. We talked with a mother-daughter duo to find out more.

Like many mothers and professionals in the “Sandwich Generation,” Katherine Gilpin, the only daughter and geographically closest adult child, oversaw her mother’s relocation to a senior living community in the Bay Area from Texas.

Though the process was briefly considered nearly a decade ago during a visit to California, Brenda Gilpin, 79, did not feel ready to move into a retirement community. However, Brenda’s increasing feelings of isolation during the pandemic accelerated her move from Texas to California.

After working in Miami, Florida, for 38 years as an art teacher, Brenda retired in Texas. Her firsthand experience in being a working professional and helping as a secondary caregiver to an aging parent was something she did not want to repeat with her own children.

In the 1990s, after her mother suffered recurrent heart attacks, Brenda made 17 trips from Miami to Texas in one single year. She recalls the added stress and the toll it took on her young family. Though her sister was the primary caregiver and geographically closer to their mother, the vivid memories of the stress, time and effort it takes to care for an aging parent, still linger. This personal experience motivated her to have these important conversations with her adult children, “I remembered what had happened with my mother and I wanted to be proactive while I still could,” she said.

Brenda wanted to reduce the burden for her children as she gets older and her health changes. “It will be easier for them. Whatever I can do to make life easier for my children, that has always been the case,” she said.

Brenda’s proactiveness in leading the relocation efforts and moving into a community is a priceless gift to give her daughter Katherine. Like the millions of working professional mothers impacted by the pandemic in 2020 and beyond, the added stress and worry about her aging mother living alone in Texas was not ideal, especially while raising two teen boys. Navigating the transition, long-term care and sibling dynamics on opposite coasts, Katherine always kept her mother’s wishes at the forefront.

Helping a parent can cause tension, confusion and resentment. Oftentimes, siblings do not see eye-to-eye when planning for long-term care. And, what if mom or dad does not want to move to a senior living community? Change can be challenging, especially as we age.

Here are a few tips to get the conversation started:

  • Identify the things that are making life at home less than ideal.
  • Have open and honest conversations about future needs and health changes.
  • Share the benefits of community living.

Sequoia Living offers vibrant social communities, independence, peace of mind and an array of activities to help your parents grow stronger, wiser and lead a more joyful life while continuing to enjoy life as they choose to do so. Fortunately, Brenda’s motivation to move the process forward made the process less daunting.

Keeping the focus clearly on what was best for Brenda, in terms of health, safety and well-being, was of the utmost importance to Katherine. On Thanksgiving 2021, Brenda became a resident of a Sequoia Living Life Plan Community, also known as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). For many retirees and their families, a Life Plan Community provides peace of mind knowing that all levels of care including independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing are available on one campus, when needed.

Brenda loves the community and the nearby art galleries, performing arts centers, festivals and other cultural attractions. Most importantly, she is able to continue doing the things she enjoys and is currently working on several large figures that will be auctioned off at the community’s fall gala.

Knowing that her mother is living less than 10 minutes away and her future care needs would be taken care of brought Katherine a sense of peace and gratitude. She remembers a piece of advice from a friend who went through a similar experience: “It is a gift. She is giving you a gift. You get to see her and enjoy the time with her removed of burden and stress.”

The journey to transition a parent to a senior living community may cause strain on the family. Communicating with family and planning ahead is essential. You will get through it. To explore your options and see if a Sequoia Living community is a good fit, see all our Life Plan Communities here. You are invited to visit one of our four Bay Area senior living communities to learn more.