Choosing Senior Housing Can Be A Family Affair

Aug 19, 2014

Roman Schraith tries to coax a smile from his granddaughter Clara as her dad looks on.
Credit Bob Bach

Some older adults make the transition to a new home relatively easily, while others lean heavily on adult children.

Mark Schraith and his baby daughter Clara are visiting “grandpa.” The four month old virtually disappears inside grandpa’s embrace as he relaxes in an easy chair in his tidy apartment.

Schraith says he and his brother sought advice about housing options for their dad when upkeep of the family home became too cumbersome. Then, after his mom died unexpectedly, his dad developed health problems.

Schraith says the family knew it was time for him to move to a retirement complex in Glendale.

“They did everything together so it was pretty tough for him," Schraith says. "He just had a really hard time just trying to figure out what to do with himself and eventually finding Laurel Oaks with all the people and activities and meals and everything, it just clicked.” 

Schraith says he’s at ease knowing his dad is well cared for. Still, there are bittersweet moments.

“We were trying to see who our daughter looks like and we were looking back at old pictures and you find pictures growing up and how you remember your dad and how this strong, happy go lucky kind of guy and then and now you see him and how hard everything is for him  and it’s tough, you know, it’s hard,” Schraith says.

Adele Hahn relaxes in her new apartment at Harwood Place.

Adele Hahn recently moved into a retirement community in Wauwatosa.

“Just to walk away was rather difficult,” Hahn says.

Hahn lost her husband a few years ago, and recently moved into Harwood Place.

“I’ve just accepted it and decided that this is much better living for me at the present time and will be for the future,” Hahn says.

The spry 86-year-old just finished hanging pictures in her bright, new 7th floor apartment. She loves it.

“I had a great view of the fireworks the other night, and the birds fly by," Hahn says.

"All of the services provided, there’s so much here and then the friends that I have here. We meet to go to various activities and go to church together and so on, so that part has been very nice,” she says.

Hahn admits selling the family home of 52 years was not easy, but she’s glad she moved into the retirement community and so are her children.

Kathy Czarnecki and other staff members field dozens of calls each month regarding housing options for older adults.
Credit Bob Bach

The response varies from person to person, according to Kathy Czarnecki.

She is a resource specialist with Interfaith Older Adult Programs. Czarnecki says information about housing choices is like gold for many callers.

“For them to get that starting point, to get a good idea, is a big load off their mind and then they can go from there. Then they feel they are knowledgeable and they know what to do next,” Czarnecki says.

She also visits homes to facilitate family discussions about housing choices for older loved ones.

Patricia Bruce says communication is key. She also works for the caregivers’ support network.

“Families that can have adult to adult conversations …transitions. When families don’t get along and there really is no good conversation, that’s often times when there is a problem,” Bruce says.

The Family Caregiver Support Network's free resource center can be reached at 414-220-8600.