Nobody wants the burden of having to make the decision whether or not to place a parent or relative in a nursing home. It is a situation filled with many emotions like guilt, regret, and possibly a sense of relief. Even though you might not even want to admit to yourself that your loved one is no longer able to care for themselves, you know that for their well-being it is a decision that must be made sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, you are not alone in this decision. In fact, there are over 1.2 million Americans living in nursing facilities today. This means that because many have had to go through the same thing you are, there are a lot of resources available to guide and support you.
If you are considering nursing home placement, then there have more than likely been signs that have caused alarm. If you are one of those fortunate enough to have a parent or relative suggest nursing home placement themselves, then being aware of signs is not a step you have to worry about. Unfortunately, that is usually not the case.
In some instances, the signs are easily recognizable. For example, if someone has suffered an unexpected injury or sudden onset of a debilitating medical illness. These situations more often than not leave them in conditions that require round-the-clock care that is impossible for most family members to do, especially if it means long-term care.
Some symptoms are not so straightforward. These symptoms could include multiple falls, declining cognitive or physical impairment, lack of ability to do daily activities, or increasing moments of confusion. Sometimes it is hard to know how severe these symptoms have become, however, the worst thing that families can do is wait too late and cause stress with immediate moves without proper preparation.
Since stress is the last thing anyone wants to add to an already tense and difficult situation, preparation is key. By following certain steps, you can ensure a more informed decision and provide that time for your loved one and family members to become more settled and feel involved in the decision. This is better for everyone’s peace of mind.
Here are some steps that will help you gather the knowledge needed to prepare yourself and your loved one for such a transition if necessary.
Step 1: Be Proactive
When it comes to putting a parent or relative in a nursing home, the decision should not feel hasty. The more research and planning you do in the beginning will make you more prepared in case something happens that forces a quick decision. Do some research first, learn about the differences in care such as assisted living versus nursing home care. You want a basic understanding of what you are talking about before you broach the subject with your parents and/or siblings. Even though it can be difficult, it is important that you enlist their care and concerns as early as possible so they can be addressed.
Step 2: Do Research
It is important to visit and evaluate several local care facilities. You will want to take in the ambiance of the place. Is it active or quieter? This is essential considering the personality of your loved one.
Use the tour of the facility to accomplish multiple goals. Observe how staff members interact with residents, how quickly they respond to situations, and the amount of attention given to those residents with special needs. No matter how many awards and testimonials the facility pushes in your face, your gut instinct is your true measure of the place. If anything seems off, dig harder into your research on the place. If there are any reported incidents or lawsuits, there will be a paper trail.
Contact an experienced law firm and see if they have had any cases filed against the home. Ask some visiting members of current residents for their opinions of the facility. Another good thing to do is make sure that you can sit down for one of the facility’s meals. This is a good way to see what choices they allow the residents to make for themselves and if they make special considerations for dietary needs. In addition, do the same thing with some of the daily activities.
Step 3: Transition Slowly
No matter how much prep work you have done, as far as researching or talking to your parent about it, nothing really prepares you for the emotions that will bombard you and your loved ones on the day of the final move. That is why it is important to start early with packing and going over the layout of the facility. Maybe even show your parent or relative the route to the nursing home between your house or other close relatives, so they have some context and don’t feel so put away and alone.
It is also important to make a plan for scheduled visits whether it is yourself or another relative so that your parent doesn’t feel forgotten about and has something to look forward to. Talk to the nursing home about a possible buddy program to help your loved one get settled in and meet other residents.
Before you leave, make sure that your parent is completely settled in and knows what to do next. Additionally, if you could get them involved in an activity to allow some distraction as you leave that would be best. Finally, make sure that you and those scheduled do not fail to visit or call as planned, especially in the beginning.
These steps are meant to help make the decision whether or not to put your parent or relative in a nursing home feel more informed. However, as mentioned before there really is no way to prepare yourself for how it will affect you in making that decision. Just remember that you are doing what you truly believe is best for your loved one and that you have exhausted every effort to choose the best place for them. Try not to be too hard on yourself for doing the right thing, and know that the initial stress is temporary.