There comes a time when you can no longer stay at home. What to do when you can no longer live independently, but you cannot or do not want to go to an Ehpad? What are the other offers in France? After the retirement home scandal, many French people worried about their aging parents, or who were already in this type of structure. There are alternatives to Ehpads, but they are not numerous and they often remain unknown. They depend above all on the level of dependence of the person: does he need a medical presence 24 hours a day? Does she just need to live with other people to get better?
Roselyne [the first name has been changed, Editor’s note] has found the solution: shared housing between seniors. This 72-year-old woman has been living for six months in a large house in Vendeuvre (Calvados), which she shares with two other elderly people, thanks to the association This Family. The latter offers homes for the elderly with support: the seniors live there among themselves, with the presence of life assistants day and night. If each roommate is autonomous, they can also be helped by a professional as soon as they need it. Today, the association has around ten houses already open and around twenty are planned for the end of 2022 or during 2023.
In Normandy, Roselyne could no longer live alone after having had several strokes. “I found myself with a total loss of autonomy,” she tells Planet, explaining that she could therefore no longer return home after her last hospitalization. “My daughters live far away and, at first, they had no choice and they found me a place in an Ehpad”, she adds. In this structure, the retiree does not feel at all in her place: “I was surrounded by people who were losing their minds, but my problem is physical, it is not intellectual”. The septuagenarian does not find her place within the establishment and knows that she needs another solution.
It was then that her daughter heard about roommates for seniors in the media. After a first visit to the premises, Roselyne was seduced by the project and knew that she would feel good there, which is indeed the case today: “It’s a small structure, the setting is very nice, I I have the impression of being in my place, which was not at all the case at the nursing home”. How does this hosting work? Between autonomy and community life, how is Roselyne’s daily life organised?
Within her roommate, Roselyne feels like a decision maker. She explains to Planet that the roommates “participate in the menu, decide together what they want to do, the activities that are offered to them”. Above all, her rhythm is respected since she wakes up at the time she wants, the treatments being adapted to her schedules. During the day, she spends time with her roommates, but also remains alone at times, if and when she wants to: “We do what we want, either we read each in our corner, or we play games. together. We watch television, we listen to music or we play card games, Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit”. In addition to these moments of conviviality, the roommates can participate in the maintenance of the vegetable garden, installed expressly at their height. In the evening, if they feel like it, they participate in the preparation of dinner, with the carers present.
In addition to these moments between them, the roommates can receive their family when they wish. “I can accommodate my children who live far away because there is a whole space reserved for families with a kitchen and rooms available. They can therefore stay several days near me, without having to pay for a hotel room”, we explains Roselyn. If she has all the necessary comfort, with a 20m² bedroom and a private bathroom, the septuagenarian especially appreciates the feeling of security she feels by being in this shared apartment.
Within her roommate, Roselyne feels alive: “We remain an actor in our lives, we participate and, more than that, we are encouraged to participate. This was not the case at all at the Ehpad, where I I had the impression of being totally assisted, which absolutely did not suit me. Here we keep our dignity and that is essential”.
Above all, at 72 and after her health problems, she feels safe. The six carers take turns day and night to assist the three roommates already present, the house being able to accommodate up to 8 people. “To help me with my toilet, to prepare the meal… They are always there to watch over the grain and it’s very reassuring”, confides Roselyne. Today, she would not see herself anywhere else than in a shared apartment for seniors and advises people with loss of autonomy, as well as their loved ones, to find out about this alternative.