Today, more than ever, parents are living longer lives. However, with this extended lifespan comes many challenges for the children who find themselves needing to care for them. The older generation-and their responsibilities-are becoming increasingly harder to manage by the new generation.
As people age, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to live alone. The need for assistance can range from someone to help prepare food and medications daily, to someone who can provide care more often than once a day. Fortunately some families are able to have aging parents move in with them, or otherwise live close enough to the aging parent(s) to take care of them. However this is not something everyone can do due to financial constraints on the family, geographic distance between elderly parent(s) and adult children living together long-distance, etc.
Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) are residential settings that provide supportive care with an increased level of services. This increased level of care allows seniors to live with more independence than in most nursing homes, but still receive help when needed. This type of housing is becoming an increasingly popular option because it offers seniors the opportunity to maintain some level of independence while still offering them around-the-clock care should they need it.
Many people prefer this type of setting for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia who may become confused or wander off if left unsupervised. There are numerous senior living options available that enable residents to enjoy various social opportunities as well as give them peace of mind knowing that there is always someone around should they require assistance.
If you are considering moving a parent into an RCFE, it’s important to have a productive conversation that will help ensure that all parties are as comfortable as possible about this major life transition.
Start The Conversation
It can be difficult for adult children to have a conversation with aging parents about moving into an assisted living community, but it is one of the most important steps in ensuring they are properly cared for.
The first step when considering this move is to have an open and honest discussion with the aging parent about various options available to them when it comes to senior care. This should not be considered as a ‘sign of weakness’ by either party, but rather a logical conversation about something that needs to happen once medical conditions or physical limitations start interfering with daily life activities. Discussing all available options will help establish what would work best for both parties involved before making any commitments.
It’s okay if your elderly parent declines at first, they may feel more comfortable with this decision later on after some time has passed. However, don’t let this become a point of contention and end up causing tension. The best way to approach this conversation is to let your elderly relative know that you want, and are willing, to listen without judgment or bias.
Discuss The Benefits
When speaking with elderly parents about the possibility of moving into an RCFE, it is important to discuss potential benefits that are directly relevant to their lives. For example, you can talk to them about how assisted living communities offer the chance to meet many great people and develop new friendships. Discuss how RCFEs can also provide great meals to help them remain healthy and well fed.
In addition, when you’re talking with your elderly parents about the possibility of assisted living, consider discussing ways they might interact in a way that’s different from when they were younger. It may be beneficial for seniors in assisted living facilities to have more chances to socialize if their friends have passed away or moved out of state, so it’s important to bring up the importance of RCFEs in this regard. It may also be best to let your parents know that they will most likely have more free time for hobbies, since easing into retirement can be a slow process.
It’s important for loved ones to understand that moving into an RCFE is not the beginning of the end for their parents’ lives, but rather it can represent a chance at another stage in life filled with excitement and opportunities. Encourage your parents to think about ways in which they might make friends, join groups, or even try new activities if they were moving into assisted living. Ultimately, when discussing the possibility of moving into an assisted living community with your elderly loved ones, it’s important to lead with the positives and encourage them to find a way to be happy about their decision.
Finding The Right Location
As an adult child of aging parents, finding the right Residential Care Facility for your loved ones can be both time consuming and difficult. However, it is important that you find the right RCFE not only for your parents’ needs, but also for their safety and happiness.
When searching for a new RCFE for your elderly loved ones, make sure to look at what area it is located in. Is the climate nice year round? Will they be able to receive all of their necessary medical treatments nearby? Are there plenty of resources nearby (shopping centers, libraries etc.) that they will be able to enjoy? Is the RCFE located in a community that has other residents around their age to befriend?
It is also important to make sure that the RCFE your parents are considering offers top quality amenities. These amenities might include delicious meals, housekeeping services among many others. It is also imperative you choose an RCFE with compassionate care staff and attentive administrators. Make sure the staff understands what your parents’ needs are and help them take steps towards meeting those needs. Choosing an RCFE with loving staff members who provide fun activities for your loved ones is extremely beneficial as well.
If there are friends or family residing at one of the potential facilities, it’s definitely worth checking out if this could be a good fit for your parents. Ask questions and get a feel for how they like it and what could be expected.
Make The Move As Easy As Possible
Once you’ve selected a facility, they will do everything possible to make the transition as smooth as possible. However, there are things that family members can do beforehand and during in order to help make this easier on both themselves and their loved ones.
Be sure to get all needed supplies before the big day. This includes linens like sheets or mattress covers, blankets, bathroom items like towels and soap, kitchen utensils like pots and pans if cooking is allowed, clothes… even something as simple as getting cleaning supplies so that the resident doesn’t have any chores during their first week.
The facility may provide transportation to the resident, but many families choose to bring their loved ones themselves. If you do decide to drive them yourself, keep in mind that they need to be accommodated as well. This means a wheelchair accessible vehicle or a large enough trunk for a walker or other equipment. Be sure that you have planned how your loved one will get from the vehicle into the building. While some facilities have wheelchair ramps and automatic doors, others might not – meaning that loved ones need to be carried up several steps by family members or staff members.
Another important thing is communication with the facility beforehand so you know what supplies your loved one needs to bring with them. If they require any special diet due to health conditions this should be communicated as early as possible, and they might want to bring their own utensils if special diets require it.
The most important thing you can do for the move is allow the RCFE staff handle it without stressing out your loved one. Be sure that you’ve prepared them ahead of time about what will be happening on moving day, and avoid calling attention to their new home in a negative way – e.g., by saying ‘we’re going to your new home now.’ You might even consider playing some of their favorite music or showing them photos of the facility beforehand so that they’ll already be familiar with the space when they first see it.
You should also communicate closely with the facility staff so that they know what needs your loved one has. If they require help with bathing, or have dietary restrictions, or need medication at certain times of day, this should all be communicated so that the RCFE staff will know how to best support them.
Once you arrive at the facility it is important to give your loved one plenty of time to settle in on their own terms before expecting them to acclimate quickly. Don’t be surprised if there is some sadness and grieving during the transition period; like any change it can take some time before they feel settled in.
Visitation Is Vital
If you’re the adult child of an elderly parent it’s important for you to visit them regularly at the RCFE where they live so that you can assess their quality of life and take note of any changes you notice over time. Visiting your parents frequently will help give you all peace of mind and help reduce stress levels. But more importantly, it will help you be aware of any potential changes in your parent’s health and well-being that could reduce their quality of life or put them in danger.
Visiting regularly gives you an opportunity to assess the care they receive so that if there are any issues, you can bring them up with management and staff and hopefully resolve them quickly. It’s also important to check if your parent has been given the right medication, is clean and well-groomed, eats their meals regularly, and gets out of bed on their own each day.
It’s important that you prioritize visiting them as much as possible so that you don’t miss any major milestones in their lives. Unfortunately, many elderly adults feel lonely and isolated when they see no familiar faces for weeks or months at a time. This can lead to them becoming depressed and withdrawing from the world around them.
You may not be able to tell if your parents are depressed or lonely when you visit because they simply may not say anything about it. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to rely on other clues such as how lively and cheerful they seem when you’re with them and whether or not their usual hobbies and interests still bring them joy. Visiting frequently will also give you a chance to see what kinds of activities your parents enjoy doing at the facility and if there’s any way for you to make these types of things happen back home (i.e., hold a family game night).
If your elderly parent was previously very independent and active, but seems to be sleeping and eating less and becoming more and more withdrawn over time, it could be a sign that their health is deteriorating. Visiting frequently will give you an opportunity to monitor this closely so that if there’s any change in their mental or physical state that may signal a serious problem, treatment can begin as soon as possible.
Regular visitation also lets them know that they’re still important to you and that their needs matter even if they can’t provide care for themselves any longer.