When it’s time to choose a nursing home for a parent

GLENN ELLIS | 2/6/2017, 5:36 a.m.
No one looks forward to moving into a nursing home or putting a loved one there.
A worker comes Sallie Scotts' hair in preparation for a night out Elizabeth Ellis

Strategies for Well-Being

No one looks forward to moving into a nursing home or putting a loved one there. But what to do when Dad is losing an alarming amount of weight because he lives alone and doesn’t eat well; or when Mom’s deepening depression and forgetfulness make her neglectful of vital medications? A nursing home may truly be the best option.

Of course, some seniors might be able to do some, but not all, tasks independently. If that is the case, then a home health care worker, employed to help with certain tasks, is a much more affordable option. However, if someone is having trouble with a majority, or all, of these tasks, then moving to a nursing home is often considered the safest choice if no one else can provide 24/7 care.

The decision to move an aging loved one into a nursing home may be one of the most difficult you will ever make. In fact, it is common for adult children to promise themselves they will never subject a parent to “that kind of place.” They may be sincere, but that kind of promise is based on unpredictable circumstances. Life, especially with the elderly, is fluid and changing. Promises that include the word “never” or “always” are unrealistic. Not one of us knows what the future will bring

Caregiver burnout is one of the main reasons a family eventually places an elderly loved one in a 24-hour-aday nursing facility. While the average caregiver provides care for 18 hours per week, 1 in 5 provides “constant care,” or at least 40 hours per week caring for an elderly loved one.

When it is time for your aging loved one to move into a nursing home, there are some things you can do to make the transition easier. For example, have your elder take her most cherished possessions with her. [Be careful of theft.] This will help her remain connected with her past. If she is associated with a church, ask the pastor or a close friend to greet her at the nursing home when she arrives. Once she is settled in, encourage your elder to get involved in the various activities planned at the facility. A well-run facility will have a variety of activities to meet the many needs of the elderly. Perhaps you can attend with her at the beginning. Let her know how important it is for her to remain active and alert if she is to live out her life with dignity and vigor.

The decision to place your loved one in a nursing home might be one of the most difficult you ever make, but with open communication and understanding, you can be sure that the decision is based on what’s best for everyone involved. The first step in the process is the simple question “Is my loved one ready for a nursing home?” If this question has come up, then the time for the transition is probably closer than you think.

There are many warning signs that might lead you to begin to consider a nursing home. Some may be subtle and harmless, but others can be major and might cause great harm if not addressed. It is important to differentiate between the two and to be honest with yourself and your loved one about the potential for harm if her or she is left to continue self-care without the professional assistance afforded in a nursing home or assisted living community.