Moving to Assisted Living

by Cheryl Rogers

The best time to make the change is before it’s desperately neededSeniors_retirement_home

Many of us don’t have a warm, fuzzy response when we hear about assisted living and what used to be called “nursing homes.” Rank odors, incapacitated seniors in wheelchairs, and perhaps a few horror stories of neglect may come to mind.

So it is with mixed emotions that you come to this junction of the road with a parent or loved one. Should you or should you not put him or her in a nursing home? Is it time, or is it too soon? Is it really necessary? These are all valid questions you will have to answer with your loved one.

Your loved one may be happier and better cared for at home, in one of their children’s homes, or in an assisted-living facility. These are all viable options for those who are mobile and capable of dressing, showering, using the toilet and feeding themselves. But should your loved one start to have difficulty getting around, the demands are increased. Sheer lack of physical strength may necessitate full-time care, either in someone’s home or a senior community.

Some people are physically capable of giving the level of care required for patients in the home, while others are not. Some cannot deal well with the stress that’s entailed in a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week watch. To undertake such a watch without a sound backup team is risky for the health of both caregiver and patient. It’s crucial to have backup care enabling the caregiver to safely leave the home for short breaks, to buy groceries, go to church, and… stay sane. Without it, a senior community may be the only safe option for patients no longer mobile.

Should your loved one lack mental clarity, suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or be prone to wander the neighborhood when left unattended, full-time care also may be needed to ensure safety.

When making such an important decision, your loved one’s opinion does need to count. But don’t hesitate to overrule it if safety is a concern.

If you are considering making such a change, shop for convenient and clean facilities that will provide competent care for your loved one’s health and social needs. Be sure to consider not only price, but also comfortable and inviting surroundings, social activities, food quality, and helpfulness.

Don’t feel you are neglecting your loved one because she or he will be living in a senior community. Just visit them there! That way you can keep an eye on things and be sure your loved one is given proper care. If possible, stay and share a meal, take them for frequent outings, and bring other relatives and friends to visit. Keep your loved one as active as he or she can be, and don’t assume because that because health is deteriorating or there is forgetfulness that your loved one’s mind is going.

No one wants to need full-time care, but one way to smooth a transition is to look for a situation before there is a dire need. Even those who are resistant to group living often find they are happier and more independent when there is plenty of support and companionship, no household responsibility, and hot meals are served three times daily.

You can help your loved one make the most of the senior years by thinking positive and encouraging beneficial changes before anyone starts to feel desperate or everyone’s nerves are frayed. Assuring the safety and care your loved one needs is first priority, and with that worry gone, it’s easier to restore a healthy, loving relationship balance.