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.

One such serious sign that it may be time to consider a nursing home is if your loved one experiences increasing lapses in memory or confusion when it comes to medications. Elderly people often rely on several medications for their very survival. Forgetting to take a daily pill or confusing two pills becomes increasingly common as the time for a nursing home approaches. The ramifications of such a lapse could be injury or even death, and so it is one of the most important signs to look for.

Another time for serious consideration of a nursing home might be after a precipitous decline in the physical well-being of your loved one. After a medical procedure or other medical crisis that has weakened the elderly person, it might not be practical for him or her to continue to go about daily business. The medical condition may need frequent monitoring, and with a decline in mental aptitude, this may prove to be impossible. Without effective monitoring, death or further decline is a risk. In such cases, a nursing home or convalescent care center may be needed.

Understandably, many caregivers want to care for their loved one at home for as long as possible. But, what does “for as long as possible” really mean?

In the end, the simplest way to phrase the question is this: “Will my loved one lead a more meaningful life in a nursing home?” This may mean many different things to different people, but it all comes down to whether life will simply be better with the daily assistance and community provided by a nursing home or care facility.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

Disclaimer: The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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