Long Term Care, Transitioning Your Loved One
Making the decision for long term care for your loved one can be a very difficult one. Especially, if they have always been very independent at home and able to care for themselves. When a loved one is struggling to care for themselves and is in need of 24 hour care, long term care is an option. The transition to long term care at a skilled nursing home can be overwhelming for families and their loved ones. Change can be difficult regardless of age, however the older we become, change can seem even more daunting.
Deciding if your loved one does need long term care should start with their primary care physician. This topic can be very sensitive and may cause tension and upset feelings within a family. Your loved one may even feel betrayed, angry or hurt when the decision has been agreed upon to move into a facility. For family members, feeling guilty could also be associated with this decision. Scheduling tours at long term facilities and meeting with admission personal is a good first step in this process.
Having the discussion about finances is also very important. For many families discussing and learning about Medicaid may come up during this time. Many facilities can assist with Medicaid applications and can explain Medicaid qualifications.
Before deciding on a facility, families and their loved one should have an understanding of their finances, insurance and other benefits that they may have, or be eligible for and what is affordable for them.
Once the decision has been made for long term care, the transition is usually easier to manage when families know what to expect and how to help a loved one feel at home in their new environment. Preparing for this move can be physically taxing and take an emotional toll on everyone. The first week in a long term care facility may be a little confusing for both families and their loved one. Trying to get used to a new routine and schedule can seem overwhelming. A loved one may even make negative comments or become very emotional about the idea of living in a “nursing home.”
During this transition, having regular conversations, reassuring and validating a loved one’s feelings will be important during this time. They may express desires to “go home.” Acknowledge their feelings and listen to their concerns, just listening can be a powerful solution. For families, hearing your loved one’s feelings and comments may be difficult and tug at your heartstrings and may even have family members second guessing their decisions. Families will need to have reassurance and validation about their decisions as well. Friends, other family members and even staff at the long term care facility can be a great sounding board and of support during this difficult time.
Also, during the first week or so, the facility may schedule a care conference or care planning meetings with staff for families and their loved one. During these meetings, families and their loved one, can address any concerns or questions about medications, rehab therapy or dietary preferences. It is an excellent opportunity to interact with facility staff who are directly involved in your loved one’s everyday care. It is important for families to get to know these care providers. The more families become familiar with care providers and their loved one’s routines, the more families will be comfortable with their decision with long term care.
It is important for families to remember, that they are their loved one’s biggest advocates and when they have questions or concerns to discuss, with the appropriate staff, it should be right away. Do not let concerns continue without being addressed. It is easier to address the concerns when they first occur instead of letting them fester. Families, should feel comfortable with visiting and calling the facility to check on their loved ones. Families are welcome to visit as often as they can and bring in personal belongings in order to make their loved one feel at home.
The first couple of weeks of long term care may be a roller coaster of emotions. Some days may be tougher than others but it is important to remember it will get easier. With time, loved ones and families will have a better understanding of the routines of their environment and staff, and become content with the decisions they made and the care being given. Keeping a positive outlook on your loved one’s new home will help them feel more comfortable as well. It is difficult to make changes, but the love and support of family and friends can help make the transition to long term care a little easier.
by Melodie Phillips, LSW, Director of Social Services
Melodie Phillips, LSW is currently the Director of Social Services for Life Care Centers of America in Sandpoint. Melodie is a licensed Social Worker in the state of Idaho. She has worked with families for the past 24 years, starting as a basketball coach while studying for her degree. Melodie has experience working with families in a wide range of different aspects in their lives. She enjoys assisting and advocating for families during their times of need.