The decision to help a senior to move out of their home can be a difficult one to make. Although in-home care options offer seniors the security and familiarity of receiving assistance while staying in their own spaces, in some cases, the best option is to move them into a care facility. There are many varieties to choose from, and it’s important to understand your options when making such an important decision. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering care facilities, as well as strategies for easing the transition.
Why Should You Consider a Care Facility?
Accidents in the home or in traffic can be some of the most obvious signs that a senior should consider living in a care facility or require a higher degree of in-home care. Subtler signs include weight loss or gain and any significant changes in appearance or personal hygiene which could be caused by a number of underlying conditions.
Chronic conditions like dementia and congestive heart failure can also signal that it is time to look into care facilities as seniors will likely require more regular medical attention as the conditions progress. Even the speed of recovery from lesser illnesses like colds may be an indicator as these could develop into more serious conditions where constant care is necessary.
If a senior does not have active relationships with friends, neighbors, or other groups outside of their home, they may be more susceptible to depression and heart problems. Finding a sense of community within a care facility could provide opportunities for companionship and prevent the ill effects of loneliness. Behavioral issues such as increased aggression and wandering may also prevent seniors from living a fulfilling life outside of a care facility.
Difficulty with Daily Tasks
Care facilities may be a viable option when daily activities become difficult. This includes things like dressing, doing laundry, shopping, cooking, taking medications, and using the bathroom. Again, these aren’t always be easy to detect.
The presence of expired foods or an excess of the same item might suggest that a senior is not shopping often enough or can no longer keep track of what they are buying. This may lead to food poisoning, food deprivation, or at the very least, an unhealthy diet. Stacks of unopened mail might point to an inability to manage correspondence, which may mean a senior is having a difficult time keeping track of their bills and other finances. If in-home care is not an option and a care facility is needed, there are ways to help make the transition from the home to a care facility easier for your loved one.
Addressing Common Fears
- A loss of independence is one of the top fears seniors have about life in a care facility. However, there are many options for seniors who want the community or assistive benefits of a care facility but also want to maintain their independence. Care facilities are designed to care for seniors in all stages of life with widely varying needs. This includes housing options that are unsupervised and separate from shared spaces. Able seniors could continue to do things like shop and cook for themselves, maintaining full control of their daily lives outside of the moments they need assistance.
- Boredom is another common reservation about senior care facilities. In fact, many senior living centers offer a variety of activities designed to stimulate and entertain seniors. This could include games, dancing, karaoke, social hours, field trips, fitness groups, cooking classes, and animal therapy sessions. In some cases, seniors will have more opportunities to have fun within a care facility than they would outside.
- Affordability can place additional stress on seniors making this decision. While it’s true that senior care can be expensive, there are a number of options that can help seniors pay for care facilities. These include Social Security and VA benefits as well as long-term care insurance and life insurance policy conversions that can cover immediate and long-term medical costs. Choosing the right level of care and assistance can help you to avoid paying for unnecessary services, and doing research early on will also ensure that you find the right place first and don’t waste time, money, and effort moving around to find the ideal community.
Choosing the Right Facility
There is a wide range of care facilities available, each featuring different living spaces and services. To begin narrowing your search, here are a few of the major types of care facilities.
- Independent living communities offer seniors the chance to live independently in an apartment, townhouse, or mobile home and provide no assistance in their daily lives. These offer police and fire protection, and some also offer recreational activities and opportunities to socialize.
- Assisted living facilities provide a similar level of independence and provide little or no assistance, depending on the senior’s capabilities. Seniors share spaces like living rooms, dining rooms, and laundry rooms.
- Residential care facilities cater to seniors who need assistance related to specific medical conditions yet still want to maintain some level of independence. Usually seniors are provided with private one-bedroom apartments that do not include kitchens. These facilities often feature state licensed staff members who are available 24 hours a day.
- Nursing homes provide care for seniors who are seriously ill and need specialized health care on a regular basis. These offer 24-hour supervision, medical care, rehabilitation programs, and social activities. Some of these may require a doctor’s recommendation and are staffed by registered nurses.
When researching and exploring care facilities, it’s important to ask the right questions. How far away is the facility from other family members, and what are the visiting hours? How much does the facility cost? What services do they provide? What qualifications do staff members have, and do they seem kind and attentive? Does the facility have a history of violations? Is the food any good? Are there opportunities for recreational and social activities?
These are some of the most obvious questions to ask. However, you’ll likely have more specific requirements that need to be addressed. It can be helpful as you research and visit facilities to prepare a list of questions and specific criteria a facility must satisfy. This will help ensure you find a facility that will meet all of your needs and make for a safe and happy home environment.
Making the Move
Most care facility living spaces won’t provide enough room for the amount of things a senior has accumulated in their home. Seniors will need to decide what is most important to keep nearby, what can be moved to a storage unit, and what can be given away. It is important to let seniors make their own decisions about what to keep. This might take some time, but it will ensure they choose familiar surroundings that bring them joy in their new home.
The best way family members can assist in this part of the process is to take over the physical tasks involved in packing, storing, and donating items. Whether you hire a moving company or recruit family members to help, it is important to keep basic moving safety in mind in order to protect yourself and the senior’s belongings.
After downsizing and making the move, a senior’s remaining keepsakes will take on an even greater importance. Keeping valuable items secure in a care facility is not always easy. This is especially true for seniors who experience some degree of dementia as they might misplace, discard, or even give away their valuables without realizing it. Though senior care facilities aim to hire trustworthy employees, there is also the possibility that a staff member could take something that belongs to a senior in their care. The best strategy for avoiding either of these scenarios is to keep particularly valuable items in a locked safe in the senior’s room or a safety deposit box outside of the facility.
Decorating the new space with furniture, lamps, photos, and books from a senior’s home can create a familiar atmosphere in a care facility. This is a great start, though one of the biggest steps for seniors is to find ways to engage with their new community. There are likely a variety of activities offered, and it’s a good idea to keep a schedule nearby and circle activities that seem particularly interesting. Attending any of these will offer seniors the chance to make new friends and will encourage them not to spend all their time alone in their room.
Taking part in any family-inclusive events will also be helpful in making this transition feel natural and enjoyable. However, you don’t have to rely on the care facility to create opportunities for fun. Starting a project like putting together a puzzle or reading a book with a senior can give them a solid start in adjusting to their new environment.
Calling and visiting regularly will assure seniors that they won’t be separated from their families by living in a care facility. Regular communication can also help family members to get to know staff as well as monitor how the senior is progressing in their new home. Though calls and visits are comforting, it is also essential for seniors to have some time apart from family during the transition so they can find a sense of independence and make friends within the community.
The process for transitioning into life in a care facility can be daunting, but families, caretakers, and seniors can ease difficulties related to the move by considering these approaches. Above all, it’s important to communicate with a senior throughout the transition so they can express any concerns as they arise. Though this new context can seem limiting to seniors at first, if they keep an open mind, they can be happy, healthy, and fulfilled by life in a care facility.
Have you had to move a parent or loved one into a care facility? Were they willing to go? How did you help them feel at ease and understand this was a helpful decision for them? What do you continually do to make sure they’re thriving in their new environment? Any tips you can share with us, we would love to hear them in the comments below.
Author Bio: Brooke Faulkner is a writer and senior care advocate in Portland, Oregon. When not writing, she can usually be found trying to tire out her grandmother’s dog in the local dog park. Follow her on Twitter @faulknercreek