At some point in time, most adult children will participate in a difficult conversation that sounds something like this, “What are we going to do about mom?” This can be a major upheaval in the lives of most families. A whole litany of questions bubble to the surface, “Could she live with me? Would I have to quit my job? Could I be a capable caregiver? Do I have the patience for this? What about my spouse, are they ok with her moving in? Could this impact my marriage negatively? What about a nursing home? What would people think of me if I put mom in a home? What can we afford? Would mom ever forgive me?”
The long-standing stigma of “Nursing Homes” seems to color decision making and cause well-meaning folks to misjudge what could be the healthiest way forward for everyone involved. Not so sure? Well, here are three reasons why you may want to recolor your view of today’s Nursing Home and release the guilt associated with placing a love one there.
1. Socialization is vital and boredom is detrimental.
Choosing to have a loved one live with you is a heroic choice but first you must ensure you can provide an environment that allows them to thrive, not just survive. First, we must understand two major themes in the wellness of an older adult, they must be free of loneliness and boredom. The effects of loneliness are compared to smoking or alcoholism and can increase one’s risk of dementia by 40%. Studies have linked prolonged loneliness to depression with a prevalence in older adults due to shrinking friendship networks and a higher likelihood of coping with perpetual loss. Meanwhile, boredom seems to be a gateway to depression and poor health as well.
Think about it, what would a typical day look like in your home? Would mom spend much of her day watching television or napping while you bustle around doing chores? Ever wonder why a doctor’s appointment is such a huge deal? Well, it’s because it’s the only thing she has to look forward to all month! Contrast that to the life of a resident living in a care community, or “Nursing Home.” Each day brings a variety of interesting things to do and look forward to, from Hymn Sings in the Chapel, to a vigorous game of dominos after lunch, the day is filled with planned as well as spontaneous opportunities to interact with others. Don’t underestimate the power of hanging out with peers either, there is something special about friendships from the same generation.
2. Self-care is family-care.
Caring for your loved one’s health is certainly noble. However, is it worth the cost of your own well-being or your family’s well-being? Before you take on the care of your parent, please make sure you have carefully considered all angles of such a decision. For example, Family Caregiver Alliance reports that caregivers supporting someone with dementia spend an average of nine hours per day providing direct care which is the equivalent to a full-time job. If you are also attempting to manage a career or have other responsibilities, you’ll certainly want to understand the time investment that may be required. Additionally, the average caregiver role lasts approximately four years. Think long and hard if you are able to fulfill this commitment for that duration of time.
Caregiving is widely known as a stressful role to play in any capacity but especially in a full-time, long term capacity. Consider that 40%-70%of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with one quarter to half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression. Many caregivers also report decline in their physical well-being. The bottom line is this, the personal toll is significant and is often under estimated during the decision making process. It is important to note that when you are not personally healthy and whole, it begins to take a toll on your family, your marriage and can even strain the relationship with your loved one. Conversely, when you are happy and whole, your entire family is better positioned to thrive, especially your loved one.
3. It takes a village.
Only 7.3% of caregivers have been trained to provide the medical and/or nursing tasks associated with caring for an older adult. Meanwhile, a Skilled Nursing or “Nursing Home” will offer a team of highly trained, licensed professionals including, an Administrator, Social Worker, Registered Nurses(RN), Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN), Certified Nurse Aides (CAN) and Certified Medication Aides (CMA), each following the orders of a caring and qualified physician. Additionally, there are Life Enrichment team members who provide a variety of daily opportunities to engage as well as a Dietician to oversee a well-balanced diet. There is also physical, speech and occupational therapists on the team to support balance, endurance, strengthening or just boost confidence and independence with daily tasks. Let’s not forget a team of housekeepers and maintenance technicians to keep everything tidy and top-notch. Finally, the community may offer a Chaplain to minister to the spiritual well-being of your loved one. Typically, Chaplains are a “bonus” team member that you find at faith-based, non-profit communities.
Whew! No wonder the job of a caregiver is so overwhelming, it truly takes a village to meet the needs of another person in body, mind and spirit. The expertise offered at the community is never intended to replace the family, but it does allow the team to carry to the burden of care so that your family can focus on the joy of the relationship alone.
There is no doubt, this is a major milestone moment and you don’t want to look back with regret. Therefore, doing proper research is paramount. Start with Medicare.gov to understand how each care community in your area rates with quality measures like staffing, health inspections and resident care. Five stars is the best and one star is far below standard. This website will also give you statistics on the vaccination rate of residents and staff as well.
Obviously, not just any “Nursing Home” will do when it comes to your loved one. You want the absolute best! Look for long-tenured employees and satisfied families. Look for happy, well-groomed residents. Look for a sense of urgency to follow up with you after your initial inquiry as an indicator of how they may communicate when your loved one is in their care. Consider the cleanliness or the community, their for-profit or not-for-profit status, the quality of their activity calendar and their infection control protocol as well as its effectiveness throughout the pandemic.
If you have more questions about choosing the right care community for your loved one, reach out to the experts at The Crossings, a Five-Star Community in League City, for assistance (281)724-2347.