It’s hard for family caregivers to know when it’s the right time for assisted living.
Consider these factors for an easier transition.
The decision to move your parent or loved one into an assisted living home could be one of the hardest you’ll ever have to make. For many caregivers, it’s an impossible decision and one that doesn’t get made until you’ve found yourself in an impossible situation. The physical, emotional, and financial toll of family caregiving, however, is well known. The best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your aging loved one is to consider the possibilities – genuinely and openly – before the toll of caregiving becomes too high. This will allow you to ask the right questions, weigh the best options, and maximize your enjoyment of your loved one as they transition through the stages of elderly care.
Lucky are those families whose aging loved ones find, declare, and set away funds for their own end-of-life care. Unfortunately, those families are also few and far between. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, more than 34 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in 2014. Millions of Americans are providing informal care to their parents and other aging loved ones because they believe it’s the only loving or practical solution. A labor of love, however, is still labor.
Many family caregivers declare the intention to provide care only for as long as it makes sense.
What they don’t anticipate is just how hard it is to know when a loved one has crossed the line to needing a level of care that’s more than you or your family can provide. When it comes to aging, everything is a progression. The demands begin manageably with running errands, keeping an eye on prescriptions, and helping around the house. When big changes take place, like new medical conditions or the loss of mobility, you notice. However, the caregiver can easily become the proverbial frog in the pot of water. Without a long-term plan that relieves you of your role as primary caregiver, it can all become too much, to the detriment to both yourself and your aging loved one.
When do the risks of keeping an aging senior at home outweigh the benefits? It’s impossible to know the precise moment. By keeping your eye on a few key areas, however, you can notice the red flags indicating the heat is on and going nowhere but up. We’re going to challenge you to evaluate many of these factors — not just for your loved one, but also for yourself. If you’re sacrificing your own well-being to meet a loved one’s needs, you’re likely over-taxing the system in a way that’s not sustainable.
Cleaning – Is your loved one living in a clean and healthy environment? Have homekeeping tasks taken a backseat to caregiving tasks in your home?
Money – Are your loved one’s bills being paid? Are your own? Are you compromising your budget to provide care?
Medication – Are medications being taken as prescribed? Are you considering taking medicine to offset the impact of caregiving activities?
Food – Nutrition is essential for everyone. Are you both eating often enough and avoiding unhealthy foods? Are meals being rushed or skipped?
Personal Hygiene – In addition to cleanliness, this includes self-care. Are both of you maintaining healthy habits? Are you sleeping?
Clothing – Does your loved one look disheveled? Are they changing clothes each day and dressing appropriately?
Mobility – Is your loved one able to move about to the degree they want or need?
Accidents – Are falls or wandering becoming more common? Do you worry you’re unable to provide the supervision your loved one needs?
Hobbies & Socializing – Socialization is vital throughout the aging process. Is your loved one getting out or taking visitors? Are you keeping in touch with other important people in your life?
Here’s another one that’s not often applied to both caregiver and senior. Successful caregiving requires honesty, both with yourself and with your loved one. The first thing to be honest about is that there will likely be a point when you and your support system can no longer reliably address all the needs of your aging parent. This may be a painful reality to share, but once you’ve both accepted it, you can move on to honestly discussing other options. At that point, it’s essential to know that you’re not forced to find the best among a bunch of bad options. Your loved one deserves a wonderful place that feels like home, and you should be looking for and expecting nothing less. Once you’re on the same page about what’s possible, finding a long-term care option can become the enriching, quality-of-life-extending pursuit it’s meant to be.
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