The decision to move a loved one into a long-term care facility comes in a twisted series of fate. Perhaps, a slip of the mind or a slip on the ice. It begins with a series of mishaps and becomes a story of transition. A story of change. One that affects the entire family. A story of obstacles, emotion, devotion and confusion.
This is how the choice to move to long-term care usually unfolds. It just happens. For this reason, family decisions tend to be based on reaction, rather than action. And because we are all so different, as sons, as daughters, as extended family, it can be an emotional, chaotic and explosive time. Because some can contribute more than others due to work, family obligation or just plain human nature, it can be a sensitive time.
We think differently about stuff. Literally. Some of us think we should pitch everything. Some of us cherish every worldly possession. Most of us overlook the wishes of the loved one. In the confusion, we overlook their fears, their vulnerabilities and their right to have a voice.
Many may handle the situation very differently, so it is important to communicate with your loved one beforehand. Below are a few tips from our personal experience that have eased the transition working with individuals transitioning into facilities such as skilled nursing and assisted living:
Ask questions like: What do you want from home? How do you want your place to look? Do you want visitors, when? Do you like the activities or would you rather relax? Is there anything new you would like to learn (paint, play an instrument, computers, knit, etc.)?
When packing, ask which items they feel strongly about. Whether it is a family heirloom or favorite piece of furniture, set it aside to find a place for it in their new home. The space will be limited, so if possible, offer to keep items that won’t fit. It may make it easier for them to leave it behind.
When decorating their home, remember to treat it as such. Family photos and memorabilia will surround them with familiar faces. Setting up a television or radio will allow them to watch their favorite shows or listen to music when it gets quiet.
One of the hardest parts during the transition is being away from family, feeling out of the loop, and sometimes feeling forgotten. Remind family of your loved one’s birthday or favorite holidays, and have them send cards and well wishes. The outpouring of love and support will show them they are surrounded by people who care about them and care for them.
Each family member plays a different role in the transition. Some are the great caregivers and some are great company. When it’s company, your loved one may want them to feel at home too. Have a small refrigerator tucked away so they can offer you food or drink. Have a couch or other furniture ready for visitors. Your loved one may feel good to know that everyone is comfortable, especially if there is a jar of candy on the nightstand.
If your family is faced with transitioning your own loved one into a long-term facility, involve them in the planning, don't take away their voice, listen and always remember that everyone adjusts differently.
*All facilities have different requirements for bringing in personal belongings from an individuals home so make sure to check with the staff at the facility prior to bringing larger items.