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Discussing Assisted Living with your Loved Ones

By Jacqueline Marcell
Reprinted with permission
Convincing elderly loved ones to move from the comfort of the home they've known for many years into an assisted living situation can be one of the toughest hurdles for families to accomplish. The best way is to start the conversation sooner rather than later, while your loved ones are still in good health. Getting them used to the idea beforehand will make it easier when the time comes.

But what if you haven't already made plans for the transition? If it is time for your loved ones to alter their living situation, here's what you can you do.

Think Safety First

Keep in mind that your loved ones' safety is the most important thing. If you know that they cannot remain in their home safely, don't let your emotions override what you know needs to be done. Don't wait for a broken hip, a car accident or a crisis call before you step in. Recognize that when you were a child, your parents would have done everything possible to keep you safe. Now, as hard as it is, you have to be the "parent," and you have to make the best decisions for their safety.

Consider a Multi-Level Facility
Be sure to consider the benefits of a multi-level facility, which allows for additional services as your loved ones' health declines. This prevents the turmoil of having to move a loved one to a new location as more services are needed. Many seniors start out with their own private apartment, then progress through assisted living and eventually to skilled nursing and dementia care, all within the same facility. They may be able to bathe and take their own medications now, but as they need help, it is a blessing to know that services are available. Many times the friends they have made progress with them, which provides the comfort of familiar faces.

Get References
The best way to check out a facility is to talk to numerous families who already have a loved one living there. Drop in on the weekend when families are visiting and ask if they are happy with the accommodations, food, service, activities, cleanliness, reliability, personnel, et cetera. If they had it to do again, would they move their loved one there? What have they learned from the experience? What do they wish they had known when they were beginning the process?

Also ask the administrators if there are any liens or lawsuits filed against the facility. If they will not give you a written statement that there are no legal problems, keep looking.

Ask About Activities
Adult children are often filled with guilt for moving their parents out of their home. That is, until they see them flourishing in a new environment and participating in activities that they haven't enjoyed for years. Speak with the activity director to make sure that there are numerous activity options. Does the facility offer field trips, games, crafts, singing, dancing, gardening, cooking, exercising, et cetera? Monitor the activities to make sure they are happening.

Create a Need
Once you have picked out the right place, ask the administrators for help in convincing your loved ones to move. The staff members are very familiar with this problem and deal with it daily. Ask a social worker to call your parents and develop a relationship over the phone. He or she may also be able to drop by while you are there to talk to your parents and invite them for a get-together. Later, take your parents out to lunch, then casually drive by the facility to say hello to that social worker who had come by to visit them. Seeing a familiar face is usually very helpful. Remember, any kind of change can be very scary for an elder. Take things slow, calm and steady, making their safety your goal.

Another idea is to have the social worker ask for your parents' help with "fixing" something. Could they, for example, go over to help out with the Bingo event or singing classes? Tell your loved ones that they are "needed" there to help entertain others. Giving them a "job" to do can ease the transition to moving there.

Reach for Support
Realize that everyone who has ever been lucky enough to have their parents reach old age has experienced the pain of watching their once-competent parents decline. We all know it is a part of life, but even with all that has been written, there are no words that can prepare us for the sorrow. Reach out for help from family and friends, and look into a support group. Don't even think you can do it alone!

Jacqueline Marcell is a former television executive who, after the experience of caring for her aging parents, became an author, publisher, radio host, national speaker and advocate for eldercare awareness and reform. She is the devoted daughter in her riveting bestseller, Elder Rage, or Take My Father ... Please! How to Survive Caring For Aging Parents (Impressive Press, 2001). Jacqueline also hosts an Internet radio program, "Coping With Caregiving," at www.wsradio.com and www.ElderRage.com. She can be reached at Jacqueline Marcell, Impressive Press, 25 Via Lucca, Suite J-333, Irvine, California, 92612-0673, Phone: 949-975-1012, Fax: 949-975-1013, Cell: 714-878-3713, jmarcell@elderrage.com.

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