By Tracy Wright
As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, the United States will see an unprecedented number of older Americans who will require long-term care needs. Many children and loved ones of the aging family members wish for an independent, healthy and stress-free life for their parents, but at some point or another, a level of care will be needed.
While it can be difficult to decide when is the right time to begin exploring assisted living care for parents, there are signs that caregivers can look for to recognize when it is the right time for assisted living, according to but those signs may appear in different ways.
“Some evidence that may suggest it’s a right time to consider assisted living would be signs that the house or apartment is not being kept up, bills are not being paid on time, or suggestions that an older person is not bathing regularly as well as physical limitations,” said Stephen Golant, a gerontologist with the University of Florida and author of the book “Aging in the Right Place.”
Once these types of signs begin to present themselves, there are other factors that children or family members need to consider such as the type of care available for their aging family members. Depending on the health challenges presented — whether physical, cognitive or both — adult children may find themselves at a loss. Factors such as the desire for independence for parents, how much family caregiving is available, and how much private care the older person and/or family can afford also play a role.
Parents may choose to move family members into their homes, but the stress of caregiving and the abilities of family members to provide care may be limited. According to A Place for Mom, a senior care referral service, caregivers often find themselves unable to bear the burden of providing home health care without suffering from illness and stress themselves.
“Caregiver stress is very real and can have a negative effect on people’s lives,” said Tamiria Jones, director of resident care at Harbor Chase Assisted Living Facility, a national organization with a location in Gainesville. “I often equate the restlessness associated with caregiving for an elderly parent or loved one to the exhaustion a mother may experience when her child is an infant. Lack of sleep, stress and imbalance of life’s obligations can have a detrimental effect on caregivers.” But before determining that home care by family members is not an option and assisted living is the better route, there are some aspects of assisted living to consider.
Consumer Reports recommends considering four key things when choosing an assisted living facility: the kind of help your loved one needs, quality of care, all forms of costs and expenses, and discharge terms for residents. “I definitely recommend that family members get to know the assisted living community before making a selection. Cleanliness and the look of a place are important, but so is the community that surrounds it, the activities, level of care and resources available,” said Audrey Williams, director of sales at Harbor Chase.
Before selecting an assisted living development, try to schedule a few visits and interact with the current residents to see what they think about living there. “Most certainly, try to find ‘word of mouth’ endorsements of the place for assurances that the quality of care, accommodations, and food is adequate,” Golant said.
Beyond selecting the perfect location for an elderly family member, both quality of life for both the elderly family member and their loved ones need to be considered. “Consider the quality of life for your family member. They may be physically or cognitively impaired, but they probably still have a need for socialization with their peers,” Jones said. “Similarly think about your level of involvement and how this type of care can take so much off your shoulders. Many times, the first thing caregivers say to me is ‘Tamiria I slept through the night for the first time in three years!’ It’s okay to admit you cannot handle it all.”
Choosing to make the move to assisted living for an elderly family member can be difficult, and at times daunting, but remember to take your time and explore all of your options to find the perfect fit. Once you find this fit, your elderly loved one and yourself will find that you are both much more cared for and at peace.