“Circle of life” metaphors have been the basis for explaining change to aging loved ones long before Elton John belted out the signature tune from The Lion King. Yet, when it comes to an aging loved one’s transition into their new “home”, the parallels come up a bit short, don’t they? To your newborn child, home is wherever you are. A perfectly good couch can be home for your college student. With the elderly, you’re talking about convincing your parents to leave the house where they spent the majority of their lives together, where you were raised. No matter what, a sense of upheaval is more likely. So, what is the best way to effect the transition into elder care? How do you redefine home for the elderly?
Make a list. Assign tasks. Be prepared. These may sound like items on the agenda at a Boy Scout meeting rather than topics of conversation at a family get-together. Logistically speaking, this is still a move just like any other. Packing has to be done. Someone needs to coordinate with a mover, should one be needed. Did grandma have a hard time throwing things away? There probably won’t be room for all of your basketball trophies in the new place so there is the matter of storage to think about. So far, the whole affair is well within the capabilities of the family. Estate planning is another matter, all together.
When it comes to more sensitive matters, such as financial and health decisions, the family may want to appoint a representative. If that happens to be you, there are some professionals you may want to seek out. They are called care managers. The paperwork alone justifies their participation. Before you contact your attorney, you might find yourself overwhelmed by legal issues such as Powers of Attorney for Health and Finances, Living Wills, Health Care Directives, Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNR) and Do Not Intubate Orders. Some states have what is called a POLST(Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment.) Not only will a care manager help you make sense of all that, but he or she should also prove invaluable in terms of reducing any conflict or stress such matters can cause within a family.
Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
Did we leave your loved one out of the family huddle? Of course not, if anything, we are going to place him or her in the spotlight. The more you personalize the new home, the smoother the transition. It’s that simple. No one knows your loved one like you do. You can start by including them in the conversation right from the start. No one enjoys being talked about as if they’re not in the room. Since Mom or Dad will literally be in the room, they still should be as involved in the process as possible. The idea is to help them be as comfortable as possible before they even get there. Take your time explaining who will be caring for them in your absence and frequently remind them who will be visiting, when, and for how long. Make sure they know names and precisely how to reach them in your absence, but remind them often of your next visit.
Before they arrive in their new home, be sure to personalize as much as possible. We’re talking pillows, blankets, furniture and photos. Mementos of any sort should be brought along. If you ever dreamed of being an interior decorator, this is your big chance.
Take the level of detail you applied to that room and apply it to the conversation you now need to have with the staff that will be caring for your loved one. If you have to have more than one discussion with more than one shift, then so be it. As long as, overall, your loved one’s schedule and habits are known to his or her new caretakers, you have done your duty. Eating habits, in particular, will be a meeting unto itself. The facility will likely have someone in charge of dining, or a dietician. If you’re not certain of your loved one’s favorite snacks, don’t forget to ask! Your care manager will also be a great assistance with this.
Be Receptive, Be Perceptive
Your mother or father has finally moved in. Of course, this is only the beginning. Otherwise, the title of this piece would have been “The Definition of Home for the Elderly.” We used ‘Defining’ because it will be an ongoing, evolving process. Be receptive. Be perceptive. If your family member has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, their health will go through noticeable changes over an indeterminate amount of time. Though caretakers will be with them around the clock, you should still consider it your responsibility to observe those changes and report them. No matter what their condition, part of defining home for them will involve responding to their needs.
While it is difficult not to worry about your loved ones while you are away, the job of the care manager is to make the transition as smooth as possible. Your AdvancedRM care manager will do the worrying for you. Our care managers are ready and able to share their expertise and address your loved ones needs.