Nursing Home Placement: How Do You Know?
It’s the question most family caregivers will ask at some point: Do I just need a break? Or, is it time for a permanent change (placement in assisted living or nursing home). Before making a decision regarding permanent change, explore all your options:
1. Are you using all sources of help that are available, within the family and within the community? To be sure, call your local Area Agency on Aging, local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, United Way, Easter Seals, your house of worship. If others offer to help, but you tend to refuse because you worry about burdening them, accept the help. The nursing home decision is best made when all other options have been exhausted.
2. Is your care recipient still safe at home? Are you safe at home with your care recipient? Can you manage difficult behaviors? Can difficult behaviors be managed at home? (For ideas on products that can help with Alzheimer’s patients at home, visit www.alzstore.com.)
3. Take a break; admit your care recipient for a short-term stay in a local assisted living or nursing home (check with your local Area Agency on Aging about possible programs that will help pay for the respite stay). During your break, give yourself at few days to do nothing. Then, give yourself a few days to reflect on the current caregiving situation. What’s working? What isn’t? What can you change? What can’t you change? What’s the healthiest next step for you and your care recipient?
4. Are you toast? Are you done? Meaning, have you exhausted your ability to provide care at home? Everyone has a limit; it’s most important to acknowledge and respect your limit. Red flags that you’ve reached your limit include:
a. You cry, when you start the day, throughout the day, at bedtime. You seem to cry non-stop.
b. You yell, when you start the day, throughout the day, at bedtime. You seem to yell non-stop.
c. You can’t get out of bed.
5. If you’ve reached your limit, it’s okay. Ask for help in finding another housing option. But, if you’ve reached your limit and you ignore those red flags, that’s not okay.
6. Your care recipient’s health is suffering because:
a. The health care needs are too great to be met at home;
b. Your personality clashes make providing care an impossible task;
c. You hate providing hands-on care and do it only when absolutely necessary, which isn’t often enough.
d. The disease process makes it impossible for one person to provide care; a staff of professionals is needed.
The nursing home decision is tough—no doubt about it. But, often times, the decision is best for the family: The care recipient receives the care that’s needed and you, as the family caregiver, have an opportunity to enjoy a relationship outside the caregiving role. As your time together winds down, for instance, you can visit your father as his adult child, not just as his caregiver. And, making the most of that time together is a wonderful way to end your care recipient’s days.