In Part One of this two-part series, 88-year old Mom is less than enthusiastic about the new living situation in which she finds herself. Although she was not physically or medically capable of doing the legwork required to find an assisted living situation to meet her needs, she feels left out because all control was taken away from her by her family. (This scenario assumes a cognitively healthy family member, fully capable of making determinations that are important to her.)
Going forward, and for those of you who might yet face this family dilemma, let’s propose a few actions that might have helped Mom to be more accepting. That said, I still remain supportive of the family’s decisions because in most cases, they come from a pure heart of wanting to do what is in the best interests of their loved one.
- Discuss options with Mom: an assisted living community (ALC) with perhaps numerous floors and many residents or a maximum of five other residents in an adult family home (AFH). If Mom likes a more intimate environment, you might push an AFH that guarantees far few residents but most likely a smaller living space, e.g. a private bedroom in a home with shared bathroom and common spaces such as living room, dining room, and such. An ALC may offer larger private spaces and a broader choice of activities so if Mom is quite the socialite, that option may be best suited for her.
- Once Mom’s preferred type of living situation is determined, the family can call around to discern availability of said space and if time permits, the family can tour locations, take photos (common spaces, available apartments, dining room) meet with staff to learn about their programs and learn of the particulars needed to become a resident.
- Meet with Mom to discuss all you’ve found, including basic prices, provide a photo review, and glean which of the locations she might be most interested in. Caveat: Basic prices will not be the final monthly financial outlay. Once a medical assessment is conducted to discern current and potential future needs, the true price will be arrived at.
- When Mom voices her preference for location, if at all feasible set up a phone call with the administrator of said location so that Mom can have a one-on-one phone meeting. (Or a conference call with no more than one family member participating.) Then, reminding Mom that time is of the essence, let her tell the administrator that she would like to make her new home at that location. This benefits everyone: Mom feels in control because she is, and if things go sour after moving in, she will have been the one to decide the location, not you. You’ll thank me for taking that extra step should that happen.
- Once you’ve found the place for Mom, sit down with her to discover which pieces of furniture and which items of clothing she wants waiting for her at her new place. This is a laborious task, to be sure, but it is well worth the effort to avoid disagreements once Mom gets settled…I know there’s no guarantee Mom won’t change her mind once she moves in, but asking her preference before the move will put you in good graces with her and you’ll feel glad you allowed her the control that she fears is slipping away…which it most certainly is.
These few suggestions aren’t the be all and end all of a successful transition into long-term care, but when time permits, you’ll be glad you followed a path that might make Mom’s future – and therefore, your future – a more peaceful one. I will admit that taking the necessary steps outlined above in such an abbreviated period of time is hellish on those involved because let’s face it, you have a life too, right? But short-term inconvenience and stress serve everyone concerned: Mom’s move into long-term care is a more pleasant one for her and your relationship with Mom will be on more stable ground going forward.
One final word: try to imagine being in your Mom’s place – you very well may be some day. How would you like your transition into long-term care to play out? If you’re like me, you’ll want to retain as much control as you can while you’re still able. Is that too much to ask for your future?
My novel, Requiem for the status quo, addresses the situation outlined in this two-part series, as well as the following:
- Family dynamics during stressful times
- Solo vs team caregiving
- What Alzheimer’s and other dementia look like from the perspective of the person diagnosed with the disease
- Treating family members with the respect they deserve while fighting a terminal illness
- End of life decisions being put in place prior to a person’s cognitive level being compromised
- and much, much, more