Tina Butt

There will come a time in your life when you will encounter having to deal with a loved one that is in need of changing their living environment. This is a tough decision for all that are involved. This is a step toward the loss of independence.

When you were young, you lived with your parents who kept you safe, warm and fed. Then you moved out on your own. This is the time when you had to be able to use what your parents taught you to provide for yourself and your own family. You have to work, make money to feed, clothe and keep your own children and significant other safe, warm and healthy.

As you age, your children are also aging and will move on to provide for their own families.

This time will bring you joy, sadness, loneliness, happiness and many other feelings. They call this “empty nest syndrome”. At some point in your adult life, you will need to reverse the roles and provide care for your parent(s). Your parent(s) may need to have you assist them with providing a safe, warm and financially stable environment. But, how will you know when it is time to think about helping your loved one(s) transition into a more dependent role from the independent life they once led?

Below, you will see some of the most common areas that tend to decline as we age. This decline will cause a lot of fear and sadness related to a loss of independence. Your goal should be to make sure the transition as seamless as possible; provide a safe, warm and clean environment that allows your loved one(s) to thrive. The goal is SAFETY. Keeping your loved one(s) safe from falls, injury or illness to promote the highest amount of functioning as possible.

  • Do they require more medical assistance? Are you noticing multiple trips to the medical provider for illness, concerns of illness, medication review etc. Are they needing in home nursing care, therapy or sitters?
  • Are they no longer mobile? Do they need assistive devices that the home cannot accommodate? Are they high risk for falls? Do they need assistance with positioning, bed, ambulating or any type of mobility?
  • Are they unable to care for themselves? Do they require help to eat, drink, bathe, dress? Is their appearance declining? DO they have an odor? Is their living area unkempt?
  • Are they experiencing an increase in falls? Are they sustaining injuries? is their environment unsafe? Is their vision and hearing declining?
  • Are they unable to take their own medications? Does someone have to prepare their pills? Does someone have to watch them actually take/swallow their pills? Are they forgetting to take their medications? When was the last time prescriptions were refilled?
  • Are they having frequent PCP visits or ER visits? This could be related to injury, falls, confusion, or any other medical concern.
  • Are they experiencing frequent hospitalizations?
  • Are they exhibiting a change in behaviors? Do they have dementia? Have they had a stroke in the past? Do they have a history of Parkinson’s disease? These are causes of cognitive decline, agitation, confusion. The change in cognition will set them up for injury, falls, illness.

The above are possible reasons that you need to help your loved one(s) find a new living environment. These are common occurrences, yet very difficult issues to deal with. So what do you do? Where do you go? Who do get help from? Do you feel lost? Confused? Sad? Scared? All of this is so overwhelming. There are resources available.

What resources are available to help you keep your loved one(s) safe?

  1. Tour local nursing homes. Show up unannounced at odd times of the day or during meal times so you can see how the staff are functioning. Look at the residents and how they are groomed.
  2. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, visit frequently. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  3. Get referrals from friends and family members.
  4. Ask family members of residents that are in the facility you are visiting. What are their thoughts of the care, food, environment?
  5. Just because it is a new and beautiful facility does not mean it is the best option for your loved one. This is called the “chandelier effect”
  6. Call your local State Ombudsman which is an advocate for long term care residents. They can offer some guidance regarding the safety and operation of facilities in question.
  7. Ask your medical provider for referrals.
  8. Social work and Case Managers in skilled facilities and hospitals can help guide you. Ask about the facilities Star rating and yearly deficiencies. If they have several deficiencies, you may want to look for a different facility
  9. Ask your insurance company/agent for referrals
  10. Call a Healthcare Advocate. I advocate for patient safety. I will do the leg work and make the calls to the surrounding facilities, visit the facilities with you, ask the appropriate questions, guide you to help make a good decision regarding a new living environment for your loved one(s). I have worked in these facilities and know the good and bad.

This is a decision that is very hard, you will have several emotions, its tiring and stressful. But You can do this. Ask for help! Do not do this alone.

Can you share an experience you have had with finding a new living environment for your loved one? What was helpful? What did/didn’t work?

Tina Butt, Health and Wellness Coach and Healthcare Advocate