One of the hardest decisions we will ever make is deciding if, and when, moving to a senior community (assisted living or nursing home) is necessary. This is especially true when we are making this decision for our parents or loved ones. Not so long ago, the term ‘nursing home’ was synonymous with ‘old folks’ home’. It triggered fears of abuse, neglect, smelly corridors, lose of dignity and institutionalized warehousing of the elderly. Thankfully, those times are long gone!
Today’s senior communities are often resort-like in their amenities including 5-star restaurants rivaling those found in a Club Med. Many communities today cater to residents who are completely independent, those who need mild assistance as well as those who require full nursing support. State of the art facilities provide rehabilitation, wellness programs and activities to suite every situation. While choosing between the various communities can be a process, the tougher question is always whether it is time to move mom and dad out of their home and into a senior living facility.
With the many ‘aging at home’ assistance programs available (think Meals on Wheels and Visiting Angels), we are often able to keep our loved ones at home for a longer time. However, a frail elderly person who is at risk of falling, or has already broken a hip, or who wanders off because of progressive dementia jeopardizing their safety and well-being it’s time to make the hard decision.
Ideally you will want to have this discussion with our loved ones long before the time is needed. Ask them what their wishes are, what would they consider as the trigger for moving them to a senior community, how and when do they want you to step in to assist with the logistics.
Then speak with their physician about the level of care they need. Do they just need a little help with their activities of daily living or help organizing their medication? Are they at risk of pressure sores and infections that require around the clock nursing care? A frank discussion with the doctor can help answer some of these questions.
Visit some of the local facilities to better understand what is available, what the advantages (and disadvantages) of each community are and decide which would be the best fit for your loved one. Some communities have a large ‘buy in’ fee for move in, other charge a ‘by the month’ fee. Some have all-inclusive type services, others are more al a carte. Get references, talk to current residents and their family members. Check medicare.gov for the latest surveys and state audits on the facility. In other words, do your research.
The safety and well-being of your loved one is the top priority to any decision being made. Though deciding to place mom or dad in an ALF is difficult, knowing that they are safe and cared for helps ease the transition for you and for them.