No senior ever wants to feel like they’re being “put away,” as the old euphemism put it. Nor does anyone want to feel the guilt of doing so. However, there may come a time when our regular weekend visit to Grandma’s or even live-in care staff cannot give your elderly parent what they need, making the transition to a live-in assisted facility might be the best idea. While this might be a wise option, how do you know it’s the right time, and how do you decide which provider is right for you?
When has a senior passed the threshold of independent—or even semi-independent—living? There is no magic formula to assess one’s ability to optimally function in the world at large, but taken together, these factors will be a solid index for deciding whether or not a care facility is the way to go:
Be honest about your support ability. We all want to provide our parents with an infallible safety net, but many of us delude ourselves when, in fact, we are overextending ourselves. If you let guilt be your motivator, you may find yourself suppressing resentment for having a second full-time job on top of the one you already have, therefore, self-deception and rationalizing won’t do you oryour loved one any favors.With candor, assess how much time and resources you can reasonably allocate to care giving. Or, perhaps you’re nearing the age when you might need your own set of helping hands. If giving your relative the best possible security is not within your means, it’s not a matter of shame to admit it.
● Medical considerations. Should your relative develop a chronically frail constitution or any one of the many degenerative diseases, getting some kind of external lifeline is a must. If your loved one may at any time be visited by seizures, heart palpitations or any other looming threat, not arranging for immediate, around-the-clock treatment is negligent. Indeed, if there are any potential safety issues that may arise that you or a live in staff cannot shoulder, the time has come. If he or she is in the foothills of a mentally debilitating disease,like Alzheimer’s, start the process early so decisions can be made together.
● Assess your parent’s social needs. Loneliness and depression don’t just hang heavy on your heart,they can also chip away at our longevity. With this in mind, make sure your parent has plenty of social connections. If your parent lives in an apartment or a lively neighborhood, this may not be an issue, but if he or she lives alone—especially if that solitude entails the death of a spouse—the community of a home may be a lifesaver.
If and when you and your parents decide that moving into a care facility is the best possible avenue, the next step is finding the perfect fit. Don’t assume that price necessarily equals quality– make sure to thoroughly evaluate every last detail of each contender. No one should ever make a hasty decision that may change the course of another’s quality of life. Some suggestions for your search:
● Know what you’re looking for. Instead of adopting an “I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it ”policy of browsing, arm yourself with a thorough set of bullet-pointed must-haves. Cost, proximity to you, size and certification of staff, nutritional policies, visiting hours and activities should all be on the list, just to begin.
● Go on at least one fact-finding mission. You and your parents should spend enough time at your top contenders to get a sense of the rhythm and quality of life your loved one can expect. Instead of a canned open tour, make arrangements to be given a leisurely, personalized perspective. If possible, find out if your parent can sit in on an on-site activity to get a feel for the happiness level of the clients. Make sure to sample a meal as well. If the sales representative seems impatient with your meticulousness, beware.
● Get outside opinions. A good idea for any landmark life decision, other people’s observations and specialized knowledge can’t hurt. In fact, if your relative has specific baseline medical needs, not having a physician make an assessment of the facility may. Make sure your whole family makes the rounds, or even a friend or two.
At every stage of decision making, a guiding principle should be to make sure your parent or other aging relative feels that they are part of the process. Making your loved one feel as though they’ve lost a sense of agency is likely to compound any frustrations and fears they already face at this crossroads. Not only will their participation be empowering, it will assuage any possible underlying resentment and make your relationship sound until the end.
Tara Heath is a journalist who lives in Southern California and spends time writing for health and wellness sites She understands the difficulty of making decisions for the loved ones in your life, and researches her options carefully.