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How senior living communities nurture stronger marriages

There is a common misconception that senior living communities are where senior adults move when they have no one left and no other options, but that is far from the truth. In fact, senior living communities are ideal for married couples, who now have more time to focus on their relationship and enjoy their time together, especially when a loved one requires additional care.

All around Buckner Retirement Services’ communities, you’ll find married couples dining together, participating in community sponsored clubs and events, or going for a walk and holding hands. About one-third of the residents at most of the communities are married, though the number is much higher at the newest community, Ventana by Buckner in Dallas where 86% of the members are married.

Moving into a senior living community helps free a couple from the weight of household obligations, allowing them to focus on their relationship and reconnecting. But for couples where one person is experiencing serious health issues, the convenience of a senior living community offers so much more.

Jerry Jefferson is 87. She lives at Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo with her husband, Ross, 88. The couple moved to BRC in 2013, and up until recently, they lived together in an independent living home.

Ross was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago. Jerry was able to manage caring for him at first, but as the conditioned progressed, it became more difficult.

"One of the first things he said was, 'Why can't I remember anything anymore?'" remembered Jerry. "Then he said, 'well, I guess when you get old, you just quit remembering.' He never really said it by name."

Jerry’s daughters became worried, as they didn’t want the burden of caregiving to fall entirely on their mother. In August 2019, they convinced Jerry to move Ross into SageCrest Alzheimer’s Care Center at BRC.

“It’s just a short walk for me to visit Ross almost every day. I like to go after lunch and stay with him until around 4 p.m., which is when sundown syndrome hits and he has a harder time remembering things,” Jerry said.

Jerry said the staff caring for Ross is like family to them, and that knowledge eases so much of the stress and worry stemming from his condition.

According to a Caring.com survey, 80% of respondents admit that caregiving puts a strain on relationships with 25% saying it led to divorce. What once was an equal romantic partnership can turn into a nurse-patient dynamic.

In a report from the Mayo Clinic, the impact of caregiving on a marriage can include a financial burden, reduced time together as a couple, frustration, fatigue, resentment and more.

The continuing care capabilities of Buckner Retirement Services’ Life Plan communities are one of the top reasons residents choose Buckner.

“We picked Calder Woods because of the continuous care option,” said Nancy Bond, 88, who moved to Buckner Calder Woods six years ago with her husband, Jim, 88. “We hoped we would never need the specialized care, but we wanted to be safe.”

A Life Plan Community, also known as a Continuing Care Retirement Community, is a senior living community offering different levels of living and care on site. These care options — independent living, assisted living, memory care, long-term and skilled nursing — help meet residents’ changing needs in a comfortable environment they already know with people they already trust.

Two years ago, Jim Bond’s dementia and diabetes progressed, and Nancy had to make the decision to move her husband into a private suite within a skilled nursing cottage, while she remained in one of the Beaumont community’s independent living homes.

“I wasn’t capable of caring for him 24 hours a day,” Nancy said, “But he’s where he needs to be, and I can be by his side in minutes.”

There are many couples in similar situations who benefit greatly from continuing care. Skilled nurses and staff relieve the caregiver burden, so the couples can spend hours together each day talking, playing games and working on puzzles, or dining together.

Bob Myers, 88, says his love for his wife is stronger than ever before since moving his wife, Joyce, 89, into memory care at Buckner Parkway Place in Houston.

“I thought we had the rest of our lives planned out, but God and Alzheimer’s had a different plan,” Bob said. “I thought I could take care of her on my own, but it was more difficult than I anticipated. I knew I needed help.

“I visit her every day and still feel our love. When I see her, we still say I love you, and when we walk around we hold hands. It’s so important for people to realize what they have and not take things for granted, because one day your loved one may not remember the same precious memories you do. I wish I knew more before, but the help she is receiving now is top notch, and I know we will get through this together.”

Buckner Westminster Place resident Barbara Barkley, 87, agrees with that sentiment. Her husband, Bill, 91, has Parkinson’s and resides in a skilled nursing apartment. “I tell Bill that when I get up for the day, my purpose is to come and see him – and I do.”

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