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When Residential Care is Needed for a Loved One

In my new book, A Toxic Brain: Revelations from a Health Journey, I share the gritty details of many challenges of Rick's caregiving. While his condition defied diagnosis for more than 3 years, many of his doctors insisted his condition was psychiatric in nature. His irrational and sometimes dangerous behavior required round-the-clock caregiving. I sought the continuing services of

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a care consultant to sort out options regarding the roller coaster ride of cognition and his changing care needs. After 3 years in search of answers regarding his dramatic change of brain function and debilitating function, he was diagnosed with suspected frontotemporal or subcortical dementia, and in the 11th year of his illness, with Lewy body dementia, with its characteristic hallucinations, "showtime" behavior" and Parkinsonian-like symptoms). More information about his case would later be revealed as described in the book, demonstrating the connection of toxicity and other root causes to his dementia.

Having experienced the realities of a loved one's safety and ensuring his needs were properly met, I welcome the wisdom Annabelle Harris shares for others facing important decisions. During the last decade, she has been offering support and resources about many senior issues through her blog, Elders.Center. It was inspired by the anticipation of her own retirement and uncertainties about becoming a senior. She researches and writes about topics of special interest to soon-to-be seniors, as well as their loved ones who seek guidance on topics critical for their wellbeing. With the need for addressing care issues associated with disability and aging, she offers this guide for transitioning loved ones into appropriate care.

When Residential Care is Needed for a Loved One

by Annabelle Harris

Making the decision for transitioning a loved one to residential care requires strategic planning. Each situation is unique. When such a move involves parents who are still living together, navigating this change is layered with additional complexities when only one parent requires care. As an adult child, you can help your parents accept this needed change and make the transition ideally with minimal stress.

If the other parent insists that they are still able to provide the needed care, this entails a review facing realities. When physical and emotional limitations place challenging and increasing demands upon caregivers, a professional residential nursing community offers needed support. This is especially critical for sustaining the health and wellbeing of caregivers.

Following a strategic plan to make such a move as smooth as possible enhances the wellbeing of loved ones, caregivers, and family members. These are some for important consideration.

1. Have an honest conversation about the need for residential care.

One of the first challenges of moving a parent into residential care is having the conversation which might be met with resistance. However, it's important that seniors understand the need for care options. Don't wait until a crisis occurs to have this tough talk. Since this can be a difficult topic, introducing the conversation at a quiet time and place enhances receptivity. Avoid scary language like "facility," opting for the word "community" instead. Social engagement and sense of belonging are vital needs for seniors which senior living residences are specially designed to offer.

In your conversations, frame the move in a positive light. Explain how it will free up their time and energy, giving them more opportunities to be surrounded in a supportive, caring environment. This should be a two-way conversation. Listen to any concerns and address them. It’s important they know that they’ve been heard and factored into a move.

2. Look for a residential community that meets their specific needs

There are many possibilities for residential care--from independent living apartments to memory care facilities as explained by the University of Rochester. Explore needed care options to provide the best fit for your loved one. For example, dementia issues may necessitate a memory care community. If someone is considered a fall risk, they may need to be placed in a nursing facility for access to lift equipment required for transferring them from bed to wheelchair.

Different communities offer varying tiers of care. This is especially important if parents have different needs for care. For example, one parent might reside in an independent living apartment, while the other requires housing in a memory care unit.

3. Research options and plan visits.

Narrow down your options by researching information online, then choose the ones that seem most suitable to visit. Ideally, arrange tours at facilities first, without your parents, to screen them before touring together. This will give you insights which will be very useful in sorting out options in anticipation of their needs.

Assemble a list of questions before the tour. During each tour[1] , ask questions not only of the admissions director, as well as the social worker, nursing staff, activities director, and others.

Review their menus and listing of activities. Sample a meal or at least see the variety of choices being offered. Do residents seem to be engaged? Are pets permitted if relevant? This isn't offered by all facilities, so would be a defining question for narrowing down your options. What’s your overall impression of each facility? Project your loved one residing in each place. Pay special attention to your intuition. Which one seems to be the best fit? After you've reviewed available options and ideally toured together, you can review the ones most aligned to their needs and preferences.

4. Decide how to pay for residential care.

Determine how payment will be made to the care community. Since this is a considerable expense, there are many ways you can fund this expense, such as from long-term care insurance, retirement savings, stock portfolios, and through Medicare programs. If the other parent will also be leaving the family home, proceeds from the sale of the property can help cover such costs.

If the family home will be sold, to ensure getting the best price, a real estate agent or listing service such as Redfin offers tips on how to boost its value and curb appeal.

5. Help your parents downsize ahead of the move.

Once decisions about placement are made, there are many more ahead required for downsizing and preparing to move. Helping your parents to get rid of items they will no longer need or have space for in their new residence may meet with resistance. This likely will involve reflecting upon many memories and emotional connections to their belongings. There’s a lifetime of memories stored in them and releasing them is not usually an easy process.

If they’re not ready to let go of something, such as a treasured heirloom that won’t fit into their new space, explore ways of how it might be shared with other family members or put it in storage. Having to let go of things representative of their lives, coupled with all the emotions of leaving their home, extracts a toll upon them as well as you with a desire for them to be comfortable in their new surroundings. Remain patient and compassionate because it may take time for them to be ready to release so many things that represent different periods and aspects of their life.

If you’ll need help in relocating belongings into new living quarters, check out local furniture moving services. Ask for their input regarding options if they’re interested in browsing the ratings and reviews. Empowering them throughout the process serves as a tool for greater receptivity.

6. Get the practical and emotional support you need throughout the process.

Moving a loved one is a time often riddled with stress and a roller coaster of emotions for the family. It’s vital to nurture yourself through this time and reach out to others for your own support.

Explore online resources such as, for tips to guide you through the process. Guilt is a common emotion, but vital to recognize that this move supports the health and wellbeing of all.

Moving at every stage in life is typically filled with challenges, charged with stress, emotions, and an unknown future. Following a plan for smooth transitions, indeed helps to guide you through the landscape of the unfamiliar to receive support loved ones require moving forward. Ground yourself in the wisdom that this move is the perfect place, at the right time to serve your loved one’s evolving needs.

Annabelle Harris is the creator of Elders.Center. Her goal is to help soon-to-be-seniors and already-seniors move gracefully into their golden years with less fear and more confidence. The site features a plethora of resources to help answer common and not-so-common questions about aging. She welcomes your questions regarding senior issues.

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