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La Grande Observer Daily Paper 07/28/14

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Home arrow COMMUNITY arrow Health & Fitness arrow Transitioning


Knowing when it is time to transition from home to a residential care facility requires an honest assessment of one’s circumstances and careful planning.

The term “residential care facility” is an umbrella description for several kinds of senior living arrangements, including retirement housing, assisted living, nursing homes (also called skilled nursing facility, long-term care facility or custodial care), Alzheimer’s special care units (memory loss units), and continuing care retirement communities.

Retirement housing is often open to individuals 55 and older, who are still able to care for themselves independently. Some choose to transition to this long-term living arrangement while they still have the ability to liquidate their former properties and possessions on their own before a health crisis occurs. 

 Just as with prepaid funeral arrangements, many people have wisely taken a proactive approach to planning their transition to retirement housing or assisted living facilities to lessen the burden upon their families and to ensure their wishes are met. 

Assisted living is a residential choice that bridges the gap between living independently and living in a nursing home. It offers a number of supportive services that are paid for by the resident, including meals and housekeeping. 

When transitions are made in response to a sudden health crisis, family members may be met with resistance by their aged loved one. Sometimes a person may feel anger or resentment over their change of circumstances and vent on their family members. In turn, the family may feel guilty, but Kaylena Townsend, expressions coordinator at Wildflower Lodge, an assisted living and memory care facility in La Grande, said that any anger shown by the senior is a momentary response. 

“We see a different side of the person than the family members do,” said Townsend. “They may show frustration and anger toward the family, but we see their relief. They no longer have to cook for themselves or mow their lawn. Everything is taken care of here for them. They may even gain some needed weight because they are now eating healthier than they did at home, and they become more content.”

One in every three seniors who die each year has Alzheimer’s or some other dementia, and the total estimated costs of caring for them rang up at $203 billion in 2013. 

If your loved one is still in the home and exhibiting a need for assistance to perform daily living activities such as brushing teeth, bathing, toileting, eating, dressing and personal hygiene, then it may be time to transition to an assisted living facility, memory care unit or a nursing home.

Townsend recommended asking the following assessment questions to determine if a transition out of the home is necessary. 

Is the person with dementia becoming unsafe in their home? Are they at risk for falls? Is their bathroom and bedroom upstairs, and they have to walk upstairs? Are they at risk of falling down the stairs? When they go outside, are there a lot of uneven surfaces where they might fall down? Is the health of the person with dementia or the health as a care giver at risk? Are we both able to maintain our optimum health with the present arrangement we have going on now? Are the person’s care needs beyond my physical abilities? Can I lift my loved one all throughout the day without putting myself at risk?

“We have to answer these questions honestly, and they will be hard questions to answer,” said Townsend. “But the answers will help you to determine the probable success of a senior living alone, with a family member or in a long-term care facility.”

One common barrier to choosing a long-term care facility is the care giving spouse’s own emotions. Guilt is a huge issue because mates have vowed to marry “for better or for worse” and now they have a situation that is getting worse. Recalling one’s promises “to be there forever” may plague a spouse’s conscience. However, asking for assistance to care for one’s mate isn’t abandonment, but it’s helping your loved one as their health is declining. Having a plan A and a plan B is responsible and loving care giving.

When a person is moved into assisted care, where their activities of daily living are performed by caring staff employees, then family members can focus on nurturing their relationship with their resident senior rather than performing the necessary duties of daily living. This allows spouses and family members to bond their relationships with the resident senior in a better way at this precious time in their lives.

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