Whether a recent accident has caused you to fast track putting your loved one in a nursing home, or this is a journey you’ve been on for several years, the process is a trying one full of many emotional ups and downs. Below, we’ve provided an overview of what that process can be like.
The process starts with the decision to place your loved one in a nursing home for long term care. This can be a difficult decision to make, but there are several factors that may be helpful to consider.
The Well-Being of Your Loved One
The older our loved ones get, the more vigilant we become. As family members age, checking up on them and providing aid become bigger and bigger parts of life. Whether it’s nightly phone calls to make sure they’re safe and sound, regular trips on weeknights or weekends to provide transportation to doctor’s appointments and help around the house, or bringing a loved one into your home to live, the goal is safety, security, and happiness.
Yet despite these efforts, accidents and unsafe situations still occur; a loved one falls asleep with the stove on, or slips going up the stairs. If you find that these accidents are becoming more frequent, it may be an indication that your loved one requires the more specialized care provided by a nursing home.
Your Own Well-Being
When you’re caught up caring for a loved one, it can be easy to lose sight of your own health and well-being. We’ve seen caregivers sustain injuries that have required them to seek their own care for a time, thereby increasing stress as they try to maintain the care of their loved one. Caregivers may also suffer professional setbacks as they put careers on hold. This can in turn affect financial stability. Too often, caregivers wait until their situation has gotten beyond the breaking point to begin the search for long term care.
Once you’ve made the decision to seek out a nursing home for your loved one, it’s time to begin your research. During this process, there are several factors that are important to take into consideration.
Scheduling a nursing home tour is a critical step to take. The facility itself is a strong indication of the kind of care your loved one can expect. What condition is it in? What is the environment like? You’re not just looking for a place that’s clean, you’re looking for somewhere that feels like home. After all, for your loved one, it will be. Is the atmosphere welcoming? Do the patients have personal items adorning the doors to their rooms?
This leads us to another aspect of the facility: navigation. Can you find your way around? Personal decorations on room doorways can serve as visual markers and help patients get around. Remember, if you’re getting turned around in circles, how easy do you think it will be for your loved one to navigate the facility?
Caregivers and Types of Care
We encourage you to ask how long staff members have worked at the nursing home. A team that’s been around for awhile offers veteran experience that will be put to work caring for your loved one. Additionally, that kind of commitment on the part of employees speaks to the atmosphere and operation of the nursing home. A high turnover rate can be a quick tipoff that the atmosphere is not what you’re looking for.
It’s also important to know what type of training staff members have received and what services they provide. There is no one size fits all nursing home, and you want to make sure that your loved one will receive the care they need. It can also be helpful to ask how often caregivers are trained; regular training helps caregivers stay up to date with the latest care strategies.
The hardest part of the process can often be breaking the news to your loved one. Emotions that you’ve been dealing with—be they anger, guilt, sadness, concern, frustration—tend to bubble up to the surface when you sit down with your loved one to explain that it’s time for them to make the move to a nursing home. And those same emotions may come out on their part.
If possible, it’s helpful to have this conversation when a loved one is still well. Looking down the road a bit can provide time for your loved one to come to terms with the need to move into a nursing home. It also brings them into the decision-making process, so that hopefully when the time does come to make the move, they won’t feel blind-sided.
If your loved one does express frustration, there are numerous benefits you can highlight about living in a nursing home. Patients tend to see a return to better health, and a more active social life than they’ve had in years. Without a home to take care of and with someone to manage their medications, a great deal of stress is gone. But before you get to those benefits, it’s helpful to simply listen. Let your loved one express their frustrations and fears, and try to make them feel heard. This, too, can help them feel a sense of agency in their life and their long term care.
The process of placing your loved one in a nursing home doesn’t end once they’re all moved in. There’s a new normal to adjust to, for them and for you. Often times, instead of relief, folks find themselves wrestling with a sense of guilt. Others wind up in the grips of a profound grief. Many experience both emotions. Care and concern for a loved one can push out other thoughts; once your loved one is settled, the release valve opens and the stress of years floods out.
Support groups provide a tremendous outlet for these emotions. Other members of the group can help to validate emotions you feel you’re not supposed to have. They can offer valuable insight on how to cope with these emotions, or just lend a supportive ear.
Patience is key to this adjustment period as well. Not just the patience to work through your own issues, but the patience that comes from developing a new routine with your loved one. Figuring out times to call, traffic-free times to come visit—these things take time and plenty of trial and error.
Here at The Woodleigh, we know how taxing the process of placing a loved one in a nursing home can be. But at the end of the journey, we feel confident that you and your loved one can find the peace of mind and sense of well-being you’re searching for.