Assisted living. It is not always an easy thing to admit that our loved ones need more help than we can give them. Many times it is simply not feasible to take them into our own homes as much as we would like to. I have seen family members succeed at keeping loved ones in home and also in allowing them to reside in assisted living facilities.
It is never an easy thing to leave our loved ones in the hands of other people but sometimes it just has to be done. In that case, as we have found with my own mother, it is essential to be as pro-active in the transition as possible and if there is one thing I have learned through all of our “adventures” it is that being present is THE most important thing.
While I can not be there to visit every single week due to the distance I can be present and make my concerns and desires known both when I visit in person and through communications when I am not there. It makes a huge difference to the staff to have family members who are invested and involved in the care of their loved one.
So what are some simple things to help with the transition? I have compiled a short list that is definitely not complete but a start if this is something that you are coming to terms with.
- Keep things familiar. When possible it is a great idea to keep things as familiar as possible. When we moved my mom from independent living to assisted living we set up her new apartment as close as we could to her previous place. We arranged for painting and wallpapering which was identical and arranged her furniture in a similar fashion. We hung her pictures and put out her knick knacks so she could have some familiarity and feel at home immediately.
- Plan an outing. Going out for a meal, shopping or even just a walk outside when visiting brings a huge change of pace for anyone who is living in an assisted living environment. I always make sure I tell the staff when I am taking my mom out so they don’t worry if she is not in her apartment.
- Make phone calls and visits at varying times. I try to call and visit at different times. This way I can see how my mom is doing at different times of the day and week and also with a visit I am able to see different staff members. I truly believe that it is important for staff to see family members and see that they are part of the resident’s life. Making connections allows me to build relationships so that when I do call with a question I can actually know who I am talking to.
- Bring something along to do or look at. Residents get bored even though there are usually a lot of activities to take advantage of. My sister had all of my dad’s slides converted to digital images so this past visit she shared a bunch of pictures on her iPad. Even though my mom did not recall every single event or picture it was clear that she enjoyed seeing them. I usually try to take pictures and try to send her an actual piece of mail weekly so that she has something to look forward to.
- Limit distractions. Television is often a constant companion in assisted living places and it is distracting at times so I usually try to turn it off when we are visiting. Additional noise and distractions are often commonplace in care facilities but I find that if we can limit what we can control it makes for a nicer visit.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for a Care Meeting to discuss your loved one with the staff. The staff does not know your loved one like you do. On our recent visit my sister and I met with the Care Team so that we could discuss medications, diet, activities and life in general. We came away feeling so much better and knowing that our mom is truly being cared for and looked after. Sometimes a phone call with the resident does not give an accurate picture and the staff was more than willing to meet with us when we could both be there. We felt both reassured and convinced that this was the right placement for our mom.
- Above all assure your loved one of your love for them. You can never say “I love you” too much or too often. While we always shared our love for one another it seems like it is even more important to say those words now. I have increased my phone calls and visits and I know my mom appreciates it. Moving into an assisted living place means loss of independence and that is difficult for most independent folks to handle. We constantly reassure our mom that she can do whatever she wants to do as long as she is safe. That seems to help her feel like she still has some control.
I know there are a lot of other things that can be offered up as tips so feel free to share in the comments section what you have found to be helpful. We are all in this together so all advice is welcome. Of course it also will count towards our Comments for a Cause – UMCOR Hurricane Irma Relief.