Making the transition to senior housing a successful and thoughtful journey
Changing one’s living situation later in life is a big decision. It can be an informed and thoughtful decision by considering some key questions along the way.
How do you know when you or an aging loved one is failing? What signs should you look for and how do you assess the situation? Where do you begin to help a loved one make these challenging decisions? What is the progression of care? Does your loved one require specialized care? How will your loved one’s wishes be supported and implemented?
A. Identify a Need for Care
- Recognize the signs and symptoms that you or your loved one is declining in their independent setting.
- Consider the safety of your loved one in their home.
- Start investigating the variety of options offered, i.e., home care, assisted living, nursing home care, to determine the best option.
- Research and knowledge will help prepare you and your loved one for the upcoming changes. Research online, visit facilities, talk to experts or hire a professional to walk you through this process.
B. Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Watch for signs and symptoms to make an early diagnosis and plan of treatment.
- Review the Alzheimer’s Association checklist of common symptoms.
- Make a list of questions for your doctor.
- Determine what stage your loved one is at in their decline to help guide you in the best decision for providing appropriate care levels.
Formulating a plan is the key to being organized and being prepared. What financial options are available? How do you research and evaluate care options? Who’s on the supporting team (one or many)? Do they understand and have the knowledge to assist with meeting your loved one’s wishes? What do you say to your loved ones? What are they trying to tell you?
A. Develop a Plan – It’s Never Too Early
- Get your support team together….family, friends, doctor….to help you determine the best direction to take.
- Gather personal and medical information.
- Have a place to keep notes and records.
B. Speak to Your Loved One
- Talk about legal and financial issues.
- Understand their spiritual and religious values.
- Talk about care needs and options.
- Be a good listener.
C. Organize Finances, Legal Documents, and Advance Directives
- Determine the cost of care.
- Research your resources to pay for care: family, personal, insurance, reverse mortgage, Veterans Benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, PACE, etc
- Make sure that advance directives are in place. Helpful forms are available online or in office supply stores.
- Designate a Financial and Medical Power of Attorney.
- Talk to your doctors and faith leader about end-of-life wishes.
D. Determine Appropriate Care
- Understand the changes that will be necessary to provide the care that your loved one needs.
- If home care services are the best option for now, research and interview available services and agencies until you find one that meets your needs and that you feel comfortable with.
- If there is a need to move to independent senior living, assisted living or long-term care, make appointments to tour facilities in the area. Even if you may not be considering an immediate move, place your loved one’s name on several waiting lists.
Choosing a Facility
Senior care facilities differ greatly. Some are stand-alone. Others provide a continuing care campus, offering a wide variety of amenities and levels of service. Do you understand the different types of facilities, their eligibility requirements, and services?
A. Medical Support
- Assess the facility before you make a decision.
- Schedule a tour. Look at all aspects of the building and the staff as you walk the facility and the grounds. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.
- Consider the physician and nursing services and if they meet your standards. Review the rules, policies, and Resident’s Bill of Rights.
B. Physical and Social Health Support
- Confirm that the facility provides recreational and spiritual programs and activities.
- Learn about the facility’s alternative therapies such as music, animal, art, physical, occupational and speech.
- Ask about the facility’s prevention services.
C. Mental Health Awareness
- Be aware of signs of depression.
- Research mental health treatment options.
- Look into what spiritual and pastoral care is available.
- Make sure that the facility understands and respects your loved one’s cultural traditions.
Moving can be traumatic for everyone, especially for a senior. The better prepared everyone is, the less stressful the move will be. Equally important is what happens after the move. Your loved one’s mental and physical well-being is paramount during the transition. How can you make the transition as easy and comfortable as possible?
A. Before the Move
- Involve the entire support team in making this a positive experience.
- Have the loved one visit the new location prior to the move.
- Familiarize the loved one with the benefits of the new surroundings and community.
B. Moving Day
- Prior to moving day, familiarize yourself with specific moving logistics.
- If possible, include your loved one in moving day decisions.
- Make sure that your loved one understands the routine of their new home.
C. After the Move
- Confirm that your loved one knows who their new caregiver or housing manager is.
- Create a relationship between you and the new caregivers or manager.
- Be sure to take care of yourself and those involved during the transition.
- Visit often. When you visit, listen carefully to your loved one’s comments about his or her adjustment to the big move.
- Remember, the caregivers or manager want the best for your loved one, as do you.
- Be patient. It takes time to adjust to new surroundings and relationships.
- When visiting, make a personal connection with the caregivers.