How to Navigate Assisted Living Decisions with Your Senior Loved One
By guest writer Lydia Chan
Caring for a senior loved one can be tough. Changes in health or behavior can occur unexpectedly, and caregivers may begin to feel overwhelmed or unable to provide the level of care needed. At some point, many family caregivers consider moving their senior loved one into an assisted living community. Since this isn’t an easy decision, here are some tips to help you make the best choice for your family.
Recognize Signs That It’s Time for Assisted Living
Sudden emergency situations, like a severe illness or hospitalization, make it clear that it’s time to start talking about assisted care. Some signs, however, can be harder to spot. Healthy Women describes some of the key indicators that your loved one may benefit from assisted living. Watch your loved one closely for sudden weight loss and a lack of personal hygiene. These signs suggest that someone is facing memory problems or a loss of motor skills. Difficulty communicating, uncharacteristic behavior, or exhibiting paranoia and frequent anger may be signs of dementia. You should also keep an eye out for signs of isolation that may be putting your loved one at risk of accelerated mental or physical decline.
It’s also important to pay attention to your own behavior. Signs that you may be experiencing caregiver burnout include declining personal health, dropping other responsibilities, and trouble controlling your emotions. Caregiver burnout can indicate that assisted living would be beneficial for everyone in your family.
Choose a Facility Together
When you and your loved one decide that assisted living may be a good option, start looking at facilities together. It’s crucial to include them in this major decision. You may not be aware of the features that your senior loved one would value in their new living situation. For example, there may be a certain facility that allows pets or offers private apartments.
You can look for nearby options online, using search tools to filter your results by important factors like amenities and budget. Once you’ve selected a few places that fit your loved one’s needs and desires, visit them in person together. Be sure to ask lots of questions about the staff, living spaces, food, care, and recreational activities. Be sure to consider location as well, especially if you have any known medical issues. For example, if you’re living in Houston, you may want to be located near top hospitals like Houston Methodist Hospital.
Keep an Open Discussion
All future plans for your senior loved one should remain an ongoing, open discussion. Since these conversations can be difficult, Care.com recommends starting early. Bring up the long-term care topic before a crisis occurs so you can keep these discussions calm and productive. Be sensitive and respectful during your conversations, and avoid rushing your loved one to make a decision right away.
If your loved one is in denial about their care needs, you may need to do a little homework before opening up the discussion on assisted living. Talk to their doctor, research different care options, and ask for input from supportive family members. As you make your case to your loved one, you can use stories about a neighbor or relative who is going through something similar. Keep it positive by acknowledging your loved one’s strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses.
Remember, this can be a trying time for you. Caring for and helping your loved one transition into an assisted living facility shouldn’t come at the expense of your own wellbeing. Tend to your mental and physical health by setting aside some time for self-care. Therapy can be helpful if you’re struggling under stress or having a hard time coming to terms with the changing health of your senior loved one. You may also want to connect with a family caregiver support group. Other caregivers in the group can give you advice and guidance if you’re struggling under difficult decisions or facing burnout.
No one is ready to watch their senior loved one move into assisted living. While it’s often challenging to accept big changes like these, the transition can be beneficial to everyone. You will finally be able to relax a little knowing that your loved one is getting the care they need.