As our parents age, we all want to help them live a fulfilling and independent life in their own homes for as long as is feasible and safe. However, the reality is that eventually most of us will need to make the tough decision to move our mom or dad into an assisted living facility for senior citizens. It might sound upsetting and perhaps even make you feel a little guilty, but it’s important to recognize that it’s often the best choice for everyone involved. That’s because a care home can provide all the medical assistance your loved one requires, in a secure environment with other people their age.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a nonprofit advocacy and service organization that focuses on joining the efforts of government, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to improve the lives of our older adults. Learn about NCOA from this website ncoa.org.
Of course, it’s not always easy for people to make the transition from living at home to becoming a resident of a care facility. If you’re in a similar situation, this article will give you some advice on how to help your parent adjust, in order to make the process as smooth as possible for you both.
How do I know if it’s time to move my parent into assisted living?
The first question to consider is whether it’s the right time to move your mom or dad into a care home. You don’t want to push them into making the change too early or when they’re not ready for it, but equally you don’t want to leave it too late and risk them being in a risky living situation at home.
As a general guide, here are four signs to watch out for, that might indicate it’s time to move your parent into assisted living:
- They are unable to carry out daily activities, such as cleaning, cooking, bathing and dressing. Bear in mind that your mom or dad might be embarrassed and try to hide this from you, so keep an eye out for any signs that they’re struggling. This could include weight loss, mess around the house, neglected pets, wearing dirty clothes, or becoming defensive when the subject is raised.
- You have concerns about their safety. This could be anything from worrying that they will suffer a trip or fall at home to fearing they will become the target of scammers. Some concerns can be addressed by making adjustments to their home, such as installing hand rails in the bathroom or giving them an emergency button to wear. However, more serious issues – such as wandering off alone or leaving appliances on and creating a fire risk – suggest they can no longer live independently.
- They need specialist medical care. If your mom or dad suffers from a serious medical condition that requires a lot of treatment or close attention, an assisted living facility is the best place for them to receive this. Trained staff will be on hand all day and night to ensure that they are well looked after.
- Your mom or dad is lonely. Social isolation is a major health concern for senior citizens, leading to an increased risk of depression, stroke, anxiety, and many other medical conditions. You can try to encourage your parent to join a local community group or hobby club, but an assisted living facility also offers great opportunities to meet people and make friends.
Making it easier for your parent to transition into assisted living
There are many tactics you can try, and steps you can take, to help make the move into a care home as smooth as possible for your loved one. This begins early on, by ensuring that every discussion you have about the topic is open and honest. You want to give your relative plenty of time to get used to the idea of moving into assisted living so that no one feels as though the decision has been rushed or forced upon them. Having said that, be aware that there may be times when deteriorating health or an emergency situation means you have to act quickly.
One useful strategy is to visit a number of different residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE) with your mom or dad. You can take tours, explore the establishments, and see firsthand what living there is truly like. This should help to banish any negative stereotypes, plus alleviate any concerns that you or your loved one have. It’s also a great chance to talk to the people who run the facility. You can find out all about the programs and services they offer, as well as what made them want to become an RCFE administrator, to begin with. This can be extremely helpful in reassuring you that you’re choosing the right place. Some centers will even let your parent stay for a whole day or take part in some activities, to get a more realistic picture of what daily life is like there.
Whatever you do, make sure that you ask for your parent’s input every step of the way. This will help everyone to feel happy that the decision is the right one, and has been made together. Some topics to talk about include:
- Whether they would feel more comfortable in a large, modern facility, or a smaller, cozy one
- If they already have friends living in care homes, and whether they would like to be in the same one as them
- How much support do they feel they need
- Whether they want to cook for themselves or have all their household tasks taken care of for them
- What sort of services are most important to them
After the move
Once you’ve chosen a location and your parent has made the move into assisted living, the first few days and weeks are key for ensuring that they settle in happily. Bear in mind that some people take longer to adjust than others, so patience is also important. Listen to any concerns that your parent raises, and do your best to address them sensitively and sincerely. You can always ask the facility’s staff for advice, too.
In terms of visiting, you want to strike a balance between seeing your mom or dad often enough that they don’t feel abandoned, but not so frequently that they become reliant on your presence. If you live far away and can’t go in person, regular phone and video chats are a great alternative. It’s also a good idea to encourage your parent to take part in the social programs and other activities on offer. This can be a fantastic way for them to meet other residents, as well as get used to life in the facility. Plus, of course, it will be fun!
One tactic that can be very helpful is to surround your loved one with familiar belongings from home. This could include treasured family photos, meaningful keepsakes, their favorite books and music, and even their own coffee cup. Check with the staff what’s allowed, and try to create a comforting environment in their new room. In line with this, getting your parent to stick to their usual routine can also be a good way to help them settle in. See if they can still receive the daily paper to do the crossword with a cup of tea in the morning, or watch their favorite TV show in the afternoon. Change is often a challenge, especially a big one like this, however, little familiarities can go a long way towards making the transition easier.
It’s also important to be aware of how the change might affect you. In the days after your parent moves in, you might find yourself worrying about them or feeling guilty. Perhaps you’ll even question whether you made the right decision. Be kind to yourself too, and remember that you’ve made the best choice for everyone concerned.