Most of what I remember about my grandfather are his days living with Alzheimer’s. As a physical training instructor in the military during WWII and instrumental in developing training materials during the war at Fort Riley, he would often display his callisthenic programs in front of others, long after his time of service. Besides these memorable moments at family outings, I also remember him disappearing during the day, ironically often being found at Dairy Queen or strolling the side walk between the DQ and his home with an ice-cream cone in one hand and not a care in the world in the other. I’ll always wonder if this was just his guise, because the ice-cream “issues” come to find out are genetic.
As time went on, even with all hands-on-deck, including my mother, two aunts and uncle, eventually they had to make a difficult decision, a decision many of us already have had or will face. Fortunately, for my family, there was only one option for nursing home care at the time in their small town in western Kansas. This saved them from a lot of emotional decision making and tough discussions.
But, while this made the decision of where easier, it didn’t make the transition any less challenging for our family. As an elder law and estate planning firm, our team spends a lot of time discussing the transition process with clients. We discuss the best options for where and how to make this transition. Throughout these discussions, it is easier to unpack the process if where to transition to and how to make the transition are split into two different conversations. Much of the time, I’ve noticed families spend adequate time on discussing the where, while being surprised in the moment how much time (and emotion) it takes to handle the how.
Many steps can assist in successfully accomplishing these processes and here we will discuss 6-steps to help transition a loved one into a nursing home. Carolyn Rosenblatt, of AgingParents.com has also created a list that was published in Forbes magazine and this is also a valuable guide in helping with the transitioning process.
The first step in the transition process is to have a meeting or care conference, as it is often coined by care communities. Many are not aware of this, but almost all nursing home communities include this as part of their standard intake process. Not being aware of this step, many families unwittingly include it later in the process than they should, but conducting one from the start is the best option. Care communities are very knowledgeable about the transitioning process and will assist in many ways you may not be aware of that can alleviate much of the burden. Make sure you don’t miss out on all the contacts and resources others have to offer.
During your care conference, deciding the type or “types” of care is the primary goal. Knowing this will assist in deciding a move-in date, because availability and care will have to be scheduled for your chosen community, and levels of care. Having a move-in date is the final part of the first step, because this isn’t just a date; it is your deadline for all the planning that will go into making the transition. This is your marker for crossing over the line from your loved one living at home and moving him or her into a nursing home. This establishes a clear timeline for accomplishing the many tasks that will have to get done to make the transition complete.
Some of these decisions include: How do we move our loved one? What do we do with years of collected and often precious belongings? Do we sell the house? These decisions and accomplishing them takes time and are all things an elder law or nursing home are experienced with and more than willing to help with.
It is also important to include in these discussions your family doctor, the transitioning staff, and RN on staff at the nursing home. They will be able to establish a summary of what is recommended to further care for your loved one in a nursing home and develop a care plan with a list of all their required medications that need to be taken from day one.
After this, don’t forget to follow-up with all involved, including the front desk, care takers at the community and possibly your current one at home. Talk with the nurse on staff and double-check your medication and care list for overlooked or additional items that may have been forgotten. Add as much detail as possible to your care list and make sure to communicate your loved one’s preferences. Anything you can communicate is helpful, so the community will know your loved one more before moving in the better.
To condense this discussion, I will go on to list a summary of the 6-steps to help transition a loved one to a nursing home, but I will make an extra mention of step-3, which has been a revelation to me over time, and that is to make sure to stay with your loved one on moving day and overnight if all involved think best.
1. Set up a meeting and get recommendations from your community of choice for the best care options. Meet them in person with all loved ones. They are experts in this field and can often and are very willing to help with more than you may know. Listen to their and your elder law attorney’s recommendations and allow others to assist you in making the best decisions possible for your loved one. Having help with these decisions will allow you to choose the best date to move.
2. Make a list of recommendations and medications. This list will allow community health care and housing staff to know your loved one before moving in. Medication is often not overlooked, but also, I have found is not emphasized enough. Double, even triple check that the community has the appropriate medications and that your loved one is getting them according to their medication schedule day one.
3. Be with your loved one on moving day. Transitioning is stressful and confusing for anyone at any age or stage of life, and if someone close to your loved one is there throughout the process it will make the transition easier. Even consider staying there overnight if thought best.
4. Follow up with the community. You are your loved ones biggest and most important advocate, and any community knows this. Rely on the community to take care of your concerns. They are not only there for their residents, but they are there for their residents loved one’s. Take advantage of this and their unbound knowledge and willingness to help.
5. Provide the community with a list of your loved one’s preferences, needs and desires. No-one knows your loved one better than you. Help the community know them as well. They will love having this (or these) conversations. It’s their passion. It’s their profession.
6. Recognize that nursing homes may be the safest environment for your loved one, but nothing is full proof. Make sure to monitor your loved one’s care, mental and physical health on a regular basis. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you and the community are all partnering to take care of your loved one, not only will the transition be a success, but their new home will be as well.
Berger Estate & Elder Law P.A. has been finding solutions throughout Kansas City for over 30 years providing Trusted Counsel with Proactive Solutions for many. We’ve been helping individuals plan, navigate and conquer the challenges of caretaking and life’s transitions for over 30 years. Give us a call today at (913) 491-6332, visit our website berger-lawfirm.com or stop by our conveniently located offices at 11233 Nall, Suite 140 Leawood, KS 66211 for more information.