Considering a permanent care home for a family member or loved one can be one of the most difficult decisions that a person or family will ever make. Anyone could be facing the duty of choosing the most appropriate care for not just the elderly, but someone who suffers from a variety of health conditions, including a stroke, unexpected accident, or other similar occurrences. Of special consideration are those who suffer from various types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, because their cognitive decision making abilities are affected severely and are sometimes completely absent.
When this situation occurs in any family, many times the first reaction is that the family feels that they can care for the patient. Older patients don’t want to leave the familiarity of their own surroundings. They lose confidence and become overwhelmed with the changes in their lives and, many times, the loneliness that can accompany such a change. However, twenty-four hour care for a physically or mentally ill person is not only daunting but in many cases, impossible because of the lack of expertise required. With even the best of intentions, long term care home facilities are the kindest and most responsible choice that can be made.
1. Depending on the severity of the patient’s needs, it may be possible to allow an in home medical person, such as a home health nurse, physical or occupational therapist, or other similar personnel to come daily and attend to the needs of the patient. This allows the patient to hold onto familiar surroundings, some sense of control and avoid the drastic measure of a permanent change to a long term care facility. These medical personnel can assist the patient with independence with things like toileting, showering, and ambulating throughout the home safely. Also, they may recommend or even require a life-call button be worn at all times in case the patient was to fall or become incapacitated.
2. If a patient is physically disabled, twenty-four hour care may be necessary. In a permanent care facility, nurses and doctors are on call at all times to assist with any health care needs that may arise. They are available to assist with activities of daily living such as bathing and toileting as well, which may be uncomfortable for family members.
3. Mentally ill patients who have lost contact with reality maintain safe boundaries in a permanent care home. It is not uncommon for patients who suffer from dementia and other related disorders to wander off, forget where and who they are, manufacture elaborate stories, and otherwise put themselves in danger. Caregivers who are familiar with these challenges can insure that a loved one is safe and secure and can surround them with pictures, stories that are real in a safe and calming environment.
4. When a family decides, against all advice, to take on the monumental task of caring for a loved one despite all advice, the stress and toll that this can take on a family can be overwhelming. A home and a family are systems and when one part of that system changes, all parts of the system change. Time that was spent doing family routine things becomes time spent caring for a loved one. This twenty four hour care can sometimes last for years and can indefinitely change a family, including each individual.
5. For elderly patients who simply can’t drive or care for themselves independently any more, there are many options that will insure that they stay healthy, busy and entertained each day. For some, these years are some of the most restful and enjoyable of their entire life. Meals are prepared, their rooms are cared for, laundry is taken care of, and they socialize with others of their same peer group. They don’t feel as though they are being cared for, but feel like part of a community.
The most important aspect of any decision that a family makes is that the quality of life for the person is maintained to the maximum extent possible. Do plenty of research – visit the facilities, ask as many questions as you can think of and ask to see all aspects of the facility. Allow your loved one to have a say, if he/she is able, and ask questions as well and be an active part of the process. Remember, any change is difficult and especially when a loved one is not in favor of it. But, as with all things, change is never easy for anyone and once the change is experienced and becomes routine, it can be a positive experience for everyone.
About the Author
This article comes from Phillippa representing mha.org.uk a charity providing care and support services for older people in Britain, with care homes in Stockport, Southampton, Glasgow, Leeds and many other locations.