Families often have a difficult time navigating through the delicate process of helping an elderly loved one transition to senior care. It is hard to know exactly when a senior needs help, but it is usually when activities of daily living become too difficult or dangerous for them do alone. This is one of the main signs that a senior has reached the transition point. Some seniors are resistant to the idea of needing help, and many will not admit that they need it. Transitioning can be an emotional process, with seniors often feeling afraid, vulnerable and even angry that they cannot go it alone anymore, and the family members feeling stressed and guilty that they cannot be of more help to their loved one.
The first step is to determine what kind of help is needed for the senior. If a senior needs minimal care, like assistance with activities of daily living, then a caregiver in the home for a few hours a day might be a good fit. If a senior needs more personal care, moving to an assisted-living facility may be the best option. The family member should choose a good time to ask the senior his or her preference when it comes to care options. If a senior is resistant to having a conversation about the care needed, loved ones can enlist the help of other family members and friends.
Family members should always make sure to describe the senior’s care options in a positive way, such as seeing an in-home caregiver as another friend. It may also help to explain that these care options can help the family members and their needs as well. The process will be easier if family members avoid fighting about minor issues and try to understand the senior’s point of view. Many seniors see these care options as a loss of independence, when in reality, they can actually prolong independence. Sometimes a trial run of a certain type of care can help a senior see the benefits.
Adjusting to an In-Home Caregiver
If a senior prefers to age in place, an in-home caregiver is a great option. Even if staying in familiar surroundings, the adjustment to a new caregiver can be difficult and can take some time. Because the caregiver will be assisting with some very personal activities – bathing, dressing, and toileting – it’s important that the senior feels extremely comfortable with the caregiver that is chosen. Also, because the caregiver is coming into the senior’s home and personal space, the relationship must be built on trust.
To help a senior adjust to having an in-home caregiver, it’s crucial to choose a good caregiver that will establish a relationship quickly with the senior and make them feel comfortable. Good caregivers are understanding of the adjustment period that most seniors experience during this process. One key factor to the transition is consistency. Once a good caregiver is found, most seniors will want to see only that caregiver. The home-care agency should work with the family to not only find the right caregiver, but to ensure that this caregiver will almost always be available for the senior. To avoid a situation where the senior is not familiar with the caregiver, any backup caregiver should be introduced to the senior ahead of time in case the regular caregiver can’t make it.
Transitioning to an Assisted-Living Facility
Some people view moving into an assisted-living facility as the ultimate loss of independence, but it can actually be a very positive experience for seniors. It provides them with opportunities to remain self-sufficient without having to worry about house maintenance, transportation, and socialization. That said, family members should remember that the senior is leaving a home that he or she may have lived in for decades. It’s important to acknowledge the sense of loss the senior may have and to help them cope with the grief.
As previously mentioned, it’s crucial to find the right community for the senior – one where the other residents and staff step up to make them feel welcome. Family members should find out all the information on the move-in process and what to expect. Adding decorations, hanging photos, and playing music can make the room feel more like home. Seniors should be encouraged to make friends and start participating in activities offered by the community.
It may take months for the senior to fully transition and accept the assisted-living facility as home. In this process, the senior might make comments like “I want to go home,” or be generally angry about the situation. When this happens, it’s important that the family members not dismiss these comments, no matter how petty they seem. In most cases, seniors may just want someone to listen to them and offer support. Family members should discuss with the senior the circumstances that led to the placement and reassure that it is the right decision. One way to help a senior get into a routine is to come up with a visiting schedule for family members. Even phone calls can be scheduled. It’s crucial to keep up communication so that the senior feels connected to loved ones.
The key to helping seniors transition to care is finding the highest quality care available. Amada Senior Care provides quality in-home caregivers, as well as placement advisory services for assisted-living communities. Whatever the situation, Amada professionals find the best option for seniors and their families to make the transition to care an easier and more pleasant experience.
Written by Taylor French, Amada contributor.