Convincing an elderly or senior loved one to move from the comfort of a home he or she has known for many years into an assisted living situation can be one of the toughest hurdles for families to accomplish. The best way is to start the conversation sooner rather than later, while your loved one is still in good health. Getting him or her used to the idea beforehand will make it easier when the time comes.
But what if you haven’t already made plans for the transition? If it is time for your loved one to alter his or her living situation, here are some ideas for what you can you do.
1. Think Safety First—keep in mind that your loved one’s safety is the most important thing. If you know that he or she cannot remain at home safely, don’t let your emotions override what you know needs to be done. Don’t wait for a broken hip, a car accident or a crisis call before you step in. Recognize that when you were a child, your parents would have done everything possible to keep you safe. Now, as hard as it is, you have to be the “parent,” and you have to make the best decisions for your senior loved one’s safety.
2. Consider a Multi-Level Facility—be sure to consider the benefits of a multi-level facility, which allows for additional services as your loved one’s health declines. This prevents the turmoil of having to move a loved one to a new location as more services are needed. Many seniors start out with their own private apartment, then progress through assisted living and eventually to skilled nursing and dementia care, all within the same facility. They may be able to bathe and take their own medications now, but as they need help, it is a blessing to know that additional services are available. Many times the friends they have made progress with them, which provides the comfort of familiar faces.
3. Get References—the best way to check out a facility is to talk to numerous families who already have a senior loved one living there. Drop in on the weekend when families are visiting and ask if they are happy with the accommodations, food, service, activities, cleanliness, reliability, personnel, etc. If they had it to do again, would they move their loved one there? What have they learned from the experience? What do they wish they had known when they were beginning the elderly care process?
Also ask the administrator if there are any liens or lawsuits filed against the facility. If they will not give you a written statement that there are no legal problems, keep looking.
4. Ask about Activities—adult children are often filled with guilt for moving their parents out of their home. That is, until they see them flourishing in a new environment and participating in activities that they haven’t enjoyed for years. Speak with the activity director to make sure that there are numerous activity options. Does the facility offer field trips, games, crafts, singing, dancing, gardening, cooking, exercising, etc.? Monitor the activities to make sure they are happening.
5. Create a Need—once you have picked out the right place, ask the administrator for help in convincing your loved ones to move. Staff members of Assisted Living Facilities are very familiar with this problem and deal with it daily. Ask a social worker to call your parent and develop a relationship over the phone. He or she may also be able to drop by while you are there to talk to your parent and invite him or her for a get-together. Later, take your parent out to lunch, then casually drive by the facility to say hello to that social worker who had come by to visit. Seeing a familiar face is usually very helpful. Remember, any kind of change can be very scary for anyone, especially a senior. Take things slow, calm and steady, making your loved one’s safety your goal.
Another idea is to have the social worker ask for your parent’s help with “fixing” something. Could they, for example, go over to help out with the Bingo event or singing classes? Tell your senior loved one that they are “needed” there to help entertain others. Giving them a “job” to do can ease the transition of moving there.
6. Reach for Support—realize that everyone who has ever been lucky enough to have a parent reach his or her senior years has experienced the pain of watching their once-competent parent decline. We all know it is a part of life, but even with all that has been written, there are no words that can prepare us for the sorrow. Reach out for help from family and friends, and look into a support group. Don’t even think you can do it alone!
Jacqueline Marcell is a former television executive who after the experience of caring for her elderly parents became an author, publisher, radio host, national speaker and advocate for eldercare awareness and reform. She is the devoted daughter in her riveting bestseller Elder Rage, or Take My Father . . . Please! How to Survive Caring For Aging Parents http://www.elderrage.com/.
Jacqueline also hosts Coping With Caregiving, an Internet radio program heard worldwide at http://www.wsradio.com/CopingwithCaregiving