By Pati Bedwell, Elder Care Coordinator
As the pandemic eases, some families are reconsidering whether facilities are the best places for their loved ones. Maybe your elderly relative has been asking to come home after many months without in-person contact with family members. Maybe the isolation was traumatic for everyone involved.
If you’re having second thoughts about keeping your loved one in a long-term care facility, you’re not alone. Before you commit to anything, answer these five questions.
Why make the move?
This question has a one-word answer: COVID-19. The pandemic proved without a doubt that a long-term care facility isn’t the best place to be if you want a lot of contact with your loved one.
What does your loved one need?
This is one of the most important questions to ask. How dependent is your relative? What kind of care is needed? Can they handle toileting on their own? Are they able to get up and down without assistance? Do they need help preparing meals? Make a list of all the types of assistance your loved one will need.
Where could your loved one live?
What other residential options might be feasible? Could your relative return to the family home? Could they live with members of the extended family? Might they live in a Granny Pod in your side yard? Somewhere else? Consider all the options.
How safe is the best option?
Is it possible for your loved one to live safely in the place you have in mind? One good way to answer this question is to ask a professional to complete a home safety assessment. Things that you might not think are problematic could end up creating major safety issues for your loved one. Throw rugs or cords on the floor might create trip hazards. Doorways might not be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. A traditional bathtub might be impossible to manage. A home safety assessment can reveal potential problems.
Who will meet your loved one’s needs?
This is where the rubber meets the road. Who will provide the care your loved one needs? Can you do it on your own? If not, who will help you? Will you share the load with other family members? Are there home care agencies available? Can you leave your loved one for periods of time or do they need 24/7 care? Who will cover the hours when you can’t be there? What’s the daily routine going to be? Here’s where things get real, especially if you expect to handle everything yourself. Any plan you put in place must also include time away from the caregiving situation. Even though most of us are foolish enough to think we can do it all without a break, it’s impossible for anyone to provide 24/7 care for too long without getting burned out.
Let me say this louder for those in the back: if you’re the sole caregiver who’s providing 24/7 care, you will experience burnout if you don’t get help.
It’s vital that you build time away into whatever plan you make. I honestly think that’s one of the most important things for a caregiver to know and to do. If you bring your loved one home, and you find after a week or so that you’re completely overwhelmed, then you have no way to get out, nowhere to turn, and no backups. It’s a recipe for a bad situation. You might start snapping at your loved one. Your attention isn’t as focused or as generous as it should be, especially if your loved one has dementia. You may think that you’re hiding your impatience from them, but they’ll often pick up on it and often respond in kind.
So, before making the decision to move your loved one out of a long-term care facility, take the time to consider the why, the what, the where, the how, and the who. If you’re the one who will be providing the care, how disruptive will this be to your life—and how bitter will you be as a result?
If you’re thinking of moving your loved one home and you want to sense-check your situation with people who manage these situations every day, Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law can help. Just give us a call.