Anna noticed that her Dad was losing weight. It had been three months since her mother passed away. Although she stopped by to visit him at least four times a week and made him food that she put in his refrigerator, he didn’t seem to be eating it. His clothes were disheveled and she noticed he wasn’t bathing regularly or taking his medication. Dad was depressed and that was normal she thought, wasn’t it? Dad clearly needed people to be with now that her Mom was gone. Anna didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t keep up this schedule with her full-time job and the kids. Was her Dad ready for assisted living care?
Finding the Assisted Living Services Needed
What Anna was recognizing were clear signs that her father required daily care for basic living needs, medication supervision and socialization. Both home care and senior living communities provide these services. Some have independent living apartments and assisted living suites, where assistance ranges from a daily contact with your loved one, dining and housekeeping services to assistance with daily living activities and support with taking medication as prescribed.
Assisted living residences may also be a part of a comprehensive continuum of care community where, when needed, a resident may move from a basic level of care to skilled nursing care without leaving the campus. Nursing care includes a wider range of medical assistance – bathing, dressing and feeding support. A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) may also have rehabilitation and memory care services available to residents who require them.
The Need for Assisted Living Services in the US
46 million Americans are 65 and older and most will require some assistance with daily tasks and healthcare as they age. The need for elder care is growing exponentially as the rate of American seniors is expected to double in the next forty years.
Making the Decision for Assisted Living Care
It is important for the decision to place a loved one in an assisted living environment to be made with input from family members, the caregiver, the elder and their doctor. It’s not uncommon for the loved one to be reluctant to move from their home, and family members may not agree on what solution is best. Ultimately, the decision lies in evaluating the current and future needs of the elder and the primary caregiver’s ability to provide the support needed to keep the loved one healthy, safe and content.
Recognizing the Signs Assisted Living Care is Needed
Sometimes there is one definitive moment when it is clear that assisted living care is needed for a loved one. For example, if they are hospitalized or have a medical issue and require placement in rehabilitative care, an assisted living or nursing care environment. Often the clues are more subjective, or a combination of factors considered in relation to the caregiver’s ability to provide the appropriate level of care at home.
Common signs assisted living care can help a loved one thrive:
- Changes in personality – general or sundowning symptoms, late day forgetfulness or aggression (a sign of dementia)
- Inability to keep up with the household tasks – cleaning, paying bills, or provide proper pet care, if a pet is in the home
- Weight loss – a result of forgetting to eat, shop or cook for themselves
- Mobility issues – an inability to navigate stairs, hallways, the bathroom tub or shower, steps or walkways
- Safety issues – leaving the stove on, doors open, financial vulnerability
- Personal hygiene issues, bathroom habits
- Failure to take medication or to correctly medicate
- Cognitive decline – forgetfulness, wandering, other signs of dementia
- Social isolation
Avoiding Denial, Guilt and FindingSupport in the Decision Making Process
It is natural for the caregiver to experience denial and guilt about not being able to care for their loved one. Often the senior is resistant to change and doesn’t want to move from the home where they are surrounded by their memories. It is important to choose the best options for both the senior and the caregiver.
To help the family make the right decision, with and for your loved one, you may consider consulting with a geriatric case manager, counselor, or senior living advisor.
“A professional geriatric care manager has been educated in various fields of human services — social work, psychology, nursing, gerontology — and trained to assess, plan, coordinate, monitor and provide services for the elderly and their families. Advocacy for older adults is a primary function of the care manager.” The New Old Age, Caring and Coping, Why Hire a Geriatric Care Manager, NYTimes Oct 6, 2008.
Seniors Often Prefer Life in Senior Living Communities
Family members can assuage their guilty feelings about placing their loved one in an assisted living residence by understanding that many seniors prefer to live in a community of their peers. Senior living communities provide socialization through activities and engagement. The need for home maintenance, housework and yard work are eliminated. Healthy, delicious and regular meals and snacks are available each day without the need for grocery shopping or cooking. Reducing one’s reliance on family members for daily care has also shown to improve familial relationships. Living in an independent or assisted living community increases the feeling of safety for seniors and their families.
Choosing an Assisted Living Residence
It is important to focus on the evolving care needs of your loved one when choosing a senior care community. Look for a residence with a continuum of care including assisted living, skilled nursing care, and memory care that can all be found on the same campus. As your loved ones needs change, there will be no need to displace them from the environment and relationships they have become comfortable with. One should also consider the quality of the care providers and look for high staff to resident ratio. Look for a community where your loved one can create their own space with personal items, make friends, feel secure and enjoy activities. It is important to their overall health and wellbeing.
Visit the community with and without an appointment to view it at its best as well as during its everyday functions. Speak with residents about the community when you visit. Talk with friends and family, as well as get referrals. Do your research; choose a community that fits your loved one’s personality, not your own.
Click here to compare assisted living and nursing homes in your area.
Compassionate Assisted Living Services at Green Hill
Green Hill in West Orange New Jersey is an intimate, Five-Star rated senior living community that focuses on a person-directed, continuum of care. That means that the senior is the center of his or her emotional, physical and healthcare and choices. Green Hill offers independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and memory care in the Legacy building or in one of our four Green House Homes. Green Hill provides a nursing staff ratio far above the New Jersey and national averages and boasts one of the highest level of team member longevity in the industry. Green Hill is family centered with a wide range of events and activities for residents, their friends and families.
Green Hill @ Home provides stop gap home care for elders that are not quite ready to move to a senior residence. If you are thinking about a senior living residence or home care in the NYC metropolitan region, contact the team at Green Hill for an appointment to discuss your needs. Contact us today or call 973-731-2300 x381.