Long-Term Care Can Provide Help for Seniors and Respite for Caregivers

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You’ve certainly heard the phrase, “Many hands make light work”. Nothing could be truer for caregivers. Involving others – either by their own choice or through delegation – is one of the best choices a caregiver can make. It can also be one of the best ways to get caregiver respite.

When it comes to available hands, there are many available to help through a senior’s long-term care centre (including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, etc.). Moving a senior into such a facility isn’t always easy, however, doing so can prove to be a tricky subject and can ultimately help you with your own respite. Knowing that others are monitoring your parent and managing his/her needs can be very calming to caregivers. When it comes to helping a parent transition, there are many effective ways to do so … here are just a few ideas:

Begin Talking Early: Conversations focusing on declining health and moving into long-term care are best to begin sooner – rather than later. Don’t wait until the last minute. Expect the senior to stubbornly dig in his/her heels, but patience and persistence can pay off. With time, seniors can better adapt and adjust to the idea.

Choose wisely: There are many long-term / continuing care homes located across the country. Your choice may seem overwhelming. Consider location (can family members easily visit? Are amenities nearby?), location within the location (does the room offer a view of a parking lot or the morning sunrise?), level of upkeep (is the property well-maintained? Is the grass routinely cut or the snow shovelled?), the ratio of staff to residents (this number may drop overnight), cost (can you and/or your family afford to pay the care costs?), cleanliness (are there any foul smells when you when you arrive?), setting (is this a “home”?), meal preparation and service (can any dietary or food likes or dislikes be addressed?), and feedback (what are other resident’s caregivers saying about the property?). Tour properties of interest by all means and ask plenty of pointed questions.

Downsize: Rooms in long-term care homes are, typically, quite small (and may even be shared with another resident) and there simply won’t be enough square footage to house all of Mom and/or Dad’s belongings. As with your conversations about moving, start sorting through stuff as early as possible. Donate, delegate, and discard.

Plan the senior’s space wisely: “Cluttered” surroundings can appear to be confusing to seniors (who may have dementia) and unsafe (seniors may easily trip over unneeded furniture). Choose your items wisely … what is required and what is not? Can you add storage space (my family requested that the maintenance man at Dad’s long-term care home install a couple of shelves on the wall above his bed).

Schedule a Move: For all parties involved, it will be best to bring your parent in during a quiet time … other residents may be disturbed or upset at the sight and/or sound of you carrying in moving boxes. Ask care centre staff for their recommendations when would be the best time. Will you need to rent a truck (mid-month is often quieter than month-end for truck rental companies)? Is there an elevator at the senior’s home? If so, you may have to wait to use it as it will be there for the priority of residents.

Evaluate Emergency Evacuation: In the case of an emergency, how are residents removed from the premises? I was assured that my father (and other residents) could be safely taken down the back steps and outside the building, if required. However, with these seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and many being confined to wheelchairs, I now wonder how this might have been possible.

While moving my father into a secured Alzheimer’s facility proved to be one of the hardest decision I ever had to make (as I realized he was not going to get any better …), I realized that providing that the facility staff were far better able to provide care for Dad than I ever could – which in turn meant that I could take better care of myself.

Please watch for my further discussion and tips on caregiver self-care in the months ahead on The Caregiver Network.

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About the Author

Rick Lauber , Author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians

Rick Lauber is the author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver's Guide (both books are published by Self-Counsel Press) - valuable and practical resources for family members, friends, spouses, and/or partners providing care to seniors. Lauber, a former co-caregiver for both his own aging parents, has written extensively about caregiving and senior’s issues for print and on-line markets, has guested on radio talk shows and television news programs, and serves, on a volunteer basis, on the Board of Directors for Caregivers Alberta.

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