Supporting a parent as well as balancing the demands of family life can be challenging. But having someone there to share the load with you can make the all difference. Here’s a daughter’s tale of how she supported her mother in a move to an apartment designed to preserve her independence and help her meet the challenges of ageing.
My mother lived over 50 miles away in a big four-bedroom house and the thought of her going up and down the stairs was a concern – it freaked me out to be honest !
She is proud, extremely independent and doesn’t like causing a fuss like many of her generation. If she had a fall, I could see her thinking “I don’t want to bother people on the red button, I’ll just crawl to the phone and ring one of my children”. The trouble is we all live in London.
We wanted her nearer…
...in a place where people were around her a bit more. We also wanted her to spend more time doing the things that she really likes doing, like pottering in the greenhouse, writing letters, reading books – she’s also a practising musician and all this was getting pushed to one side. Her quality of life really wasn’t that great and it could have been a lot better.
Initially we thought about buying somewhere because that’s what she has always done – owned her own home – so we started looking at properties for sale. However, when I trawled Rightmove, I suddenly became aware that the resale value of some of these flats was about half of the initial purchase price.
A friend of mine, a lawyer, said if we could rent, it would offer a more flexible solution – ideal for later life. This made perfect sense. So, I started searching for a private rental opportunity but like gold-dust there were few to be found.
...going to Sidcup, I passed the Birchgrove building and the branding caught my eye. I got home, Googled it and found they offered a rental model. This was exactly what we’d been looking for, so we arranged a visit with Mum. What really stood out, having visited so many ‘to buy’ places, was not one of them came close to offering ‘everything’ you could get at Birchgrove.
Another important thing, very personal to Mum, is her grand piano. None of the flats we looked at were spacious enough for it. I was half-joking when we mentioned this at Birchgrove but the next minute, they came back and said they’d space for her grand piano in the communal area in the restaurant! I felt mum go ‘aahh’. It’s such an important part of her life as it belonged to her mother; it doesn’t sound a lot, but to her and us, it meant so much.
Bichgrove ticked all our boxes.
We had been looking for a place that ticked all our boxes for some time. And, that visit to Queensgate Apartments, its rental model, the incredible team, the positive Birchgrove attitude and ability to solve problems (which I really like) meant…
I turned to Mum and said...“come on, let’s just do it” and she said “yes”.
I like the thinking that has gone into this place; it’s designed first and foremost as a community of people not a collection of buildings. Birchgrove has been really good and involved us in the whole process and that’s made a huge difference to Mum, because she knows the people now. Knowing she’s surrounded by a great team, able to support her and make life both easier and more enjoyable, gives me peace of mind. Lifting the weight of care and support from the shoulders of all.
A sense of relief…
There are no words to describe the overwhelming sense of relief of someone else lifting part of my responsibility and looking out for Mum. She was on her own, had a lovely neighbour, but you can’t put on neighbours. If Mum’s phone was off the hook I’d be thinking - is she out, is she sleeping, is she okay? All these worries niggling at the back of my mind constantly. Now, I’m comfortable sharing any concern with one of the team, knowing they respect both her independence and my need for reassurance.
It’s a win-win.
Being able to develop new friendships and be part of something bigger has given Mum a whole new lease of life. That opportunity to chat to others, share ideas, contribute to the events programme and join in the social trips out is also great. There’s been stuff about loneliness in the news and I can see how people can so easily get isolated – basically they’re so busy trying to cope with everyday life they don’t get time to live.
Why should life have to stop – just because she’s getting on a bit?
One final observation I’d like to share – although Mum is still independent and doesn’t need 24-hour care, knowing people are around to lend a hand when she needs it, makes a world of difference. Her ‘good days’ (always when she spent time with somebody) are now many.
Not being alone has made a massive difference to her quality of life and living in an apartment future-proofed to anticipate her changing needs means she can confidently enjoy that independence for many years to come.