Making the Transition to a Long-Term Care Facility as Smooth as Possible
One question that we often get from our clients is how to know when it’s time to place a parent into an assisted living facility or nursing home. Below are some of the most important steps that you can take to ensure that you know when to help your parent make the permanent move to an assisted living facility or nursing home – and what to do once the decision has been made.
1. Initiate the discussion before a move becomes necessary.
Moving to a nursing facility is hardly a pleasant thought, but for many seniors it will become a reality. Talk to your parents about what type of facility they expect to move into, what aspects of long-term care are most important to them, and even which specific facilities are the most attractive to them. Initiating the conversation before a crisis occurs will help you (and your parent) to be capable of making the correct decisions when the time comes.
2. Be on the lookout for changes in physical capabilities.
People who move to long-term care facilities often do so because they are physically unable to care for themselves. While some people need extensive care, those who move to assisted living facilities may only need help with one or two activities of daily living. Assisted living and nursing facilities have round-the-clock staff on hand to monitor residents. Physical signs that it may be time to consider speaking with your parent about moving outside of the home include frequent falls, evidence that your parent is no longer able to keep the house clean, difficulty dressing or bathing, and difficulty preparing meals.
3. Be on the lookout for changes in mental capabilities.
Symptoms such as forgetting to take medication, difficulty operating electronics like the telephone or the stove, sudden changes in personality, and difficulty making decisions can be signs that your parent has dementia. Because diseases causing dementia are usually progressive, their condition usually will not improve and it is important that your parent consider moving into an assisted living facility before the dementia worsens and creates a dangerous situation.
4. Schedule a family meeting.
Once you’ve determined that your parent’s physical and mental symptoms show a need to move out of the home, it’s important that you schedule a family meeting to make decisions about how to proceed with the move. Remember to include your parent’s caregivers in the family meeting – their input can be important in determining what your parent’s needs are. At the meeting, it is important to have an agenda to help everyone focus on what decisions need to be made. If you feel that there may be disagreements between family members, you may want to hold the meeting in a neutral place and have a disinterested third party mediate the meeting.
5. Research long-term care facilities in the area.
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to research different options for long-term care in the area where your parent will be living. One option is to go to www.snapforseniors.com to research different facilities in your area. Once you find a facility you’re interested in, you can call the facility to take a tour, check references from families of former or current residents, and weigh your financial options. You should also consult with your local elder law attorney to determine whether your parent is eligible for Medicaid or Veteran’s Benefits, such as the Aid and Attendance pension, to help pay for the costs of long term care.
6. Continue to keep family involved.
Moving to a long-term care facility is a large transition for everyone, not just your parent. It is important that you keep your family informed about what decisions have been made, even if they are not directly involved in the decision making process. If some family members are contributing more time or money to the transition process than others, it is important to acknowledge this effort and attempt to achieve balance within the family if possible.
7. Most importantly, continue to keep your parent involved.
Of course, the person for whom the transition will be the most difficult is your parent. It is important that you allow your parent to express her feelings about her new home and that you listen to her concerns. One way to ease her mind could be to ask her how she feels about the new location at a time when she is calm and there are few distractions. Depending on the situation, it may be helpful to visit the facility with your parent shortly before the move so that she can learn more about it and start to become comfortable there.