There is no doubt that the most difficult decision a family caregiver has to make is when to move their loved one to assisted living or a long-term skilled nursing care facility. Making the decision is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, especially if your loved one is not in favor of such a move. However, moving to long-term care is often the best way of keeping your loved one safe and properly cared for. In fact, many times they are happier as they have chances for group recreational activities and more socialization. The decision must also be made on the mental and physical condition of your loved one. If he/she is suffering from a physical or mental disease that has progressed to a state where they can no longer care for themselves and/or where the caregiver can no longer cope, then the time has come. An example would be an elderly caregiver caring for her aged spouse whose health has declined to the point where he needs someone physically strong enough to lift him and she is not physically capable of doing this. Here are some of the other signs that the time has come:
Signs that it is Time for Assisted Living or Long-Term Care
A real red light is whether or not your loved one is taking their medicines on time or taking them at all or taking the proper doses. This can be life threatening, especially if your loved one is a diabetic or suffers from other chronic illnesses. Other signs are:
- Your loved one can no longer safely drive a car.
- Your loved one has advancing dementia and sometimes wanders off and gets lost.
- Your loved one is no longer capable of paying bills or managing financially.
- Your loved one can no longer manage shopping, cooking or tidying up.
- Your loved one does not appear to be eating balanced meals.
- There is old food in the refrigerator and foods on the shelves past the expiration date.
- Your loved one has had several falls and you fear for their safety.
- Piles of dirty washing and dishes show your loved one cannot manage to do these chores any more.
- Your loved one appears disheveled and is wearing dirty clothes. If he is a man he may no longer be able to shave alone.
- Sheets have not been changed on the bed and towels are not clean and sometimes have a smell of mildew.
- Your loved one has body odor and may be having trouble bathing or has lost interest in grooming due to dementia or depression.
- You are becoming more and more concerned about whether your loved one will remember foods cooking on the gas and will turn off the gas and whether they can still safely operate household appliances.
Signs for Caregivers
- If you are a caregiver for a family member, but cannot cope with your loved one’s deteriorating mental or physical state it is time to begin searching for a long-term solution.
- You are in need of respite yourself. You might try putting your loved one in respite care at a skilled facility if you feel you only need a temporary break. If it works out you can arrange for them to stay on at the facility.
- Your own health is being affected. For example, your loved one has Alzheimer’s and stays awake all night and keeps you from sleeping.
- Your loved one tries to wanders off, or has gone for a walk and had trouble returning home and you are terrified for his/her safety.
- You are not taking good enough care of yourself because you are so overburdened and you may be over eating or not eating enough food.
Choosing the Right Facility
You have to decide if your loved one is a suitable candidate for assisted living or is deteriorating from a chronic physical or neurodegenerative disease and you think he/she will soon be at a point where they need more skilled nursing care.
You will want a facility that is close to where you live, as you will want to be able to easily visit your loved one.
Visit the facility and check it out and ask to see the kitchen and dining area and ask to see a menu to see what kinds of foods are served and if they meet your loved one’s dietary and religious needs. If your loved one suffers from dementia, check to see if there is a special memory care unit rather than being mixed up in the general resident population. Memory care units are a safer option. especially when it comes to wandering. Trust your gut feelings about whether or not this is the right place for your loved one. Meet the recreational director and see what activities are being offered. Make sure there are therapists who are skilled in your loved one’s health needs.
The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, NY
Making the decision to send your loved one to long-term care is never easing, but it is often necessary to keep your loved one safe and properly cared for. Most seniors adjust to their new settings and actually enjoy the chance for more socialization and making new friends.