Home Care vs Assisted Living-Part I

assisted living

One Size Does NOT Fit All

One of my least favorite “things” to shop for is a bathing suit – along with bras and jeans. I mean you’re basically in your birthday suit in front of a full-length mirror – which isn’t pretty on a good day – wriggling into colored super spandex. Yuck!

But I had the same thought when I was canvassing assisted living options for my mother with dementia. In fact, running to the mall for anything on my yucky list seemed delightful compared with the daunting task I was undertaking during those weeks.

I’ve walked the very real, very overwhelming, very uncertain two-pronged task of:

  1. Accepting that an assisted living placement was best for my mother and then
  2. Selecting one.

In the next two articles, I offer up significant points to consider in part based on my experiences, some learned the hard way.

Part I

When to Consider an Assisted Living Facility & What to Look for in Selecting One

When to Consider an Assisted Living Facility Especially for Someone with Dementia

Caring for anyone with significant medical issues can be challenging. But frequently older individuals have other compounding conditions such as diminished vision, balance or compromising dementia. Impaired memory and judgment problems require a unique skill set for the caregiver.
The toll that long term care can take is extraordinary in all spheres: financial, physical, emotional, logistical and more. Some families can coordinate the complexities of caring for their parent at home. But eventually changes in circumstances may dictate considering an alternative placement.

To Move or Not To Move

No matter what issues befall your loved one, as you waffle back and forth about continuing care at home or an assisted living placement, it all comes down to one single factor:
SAFETY! Yours and Theirs

Certain safety issues are obvious (the proverbial no-brainer) such as if your loved one continues to drive when they clearly shouldn’t. Or is at risk for letting strangers inside their home. Or wanders outside and can’t get remember how to get back.

Also hazardous is leaving the stove on, forgetting to take medications or being vulnerable to unscrupulous financial scams. As missteps and poor judgment flirt with genuine safety issues, increased supervision is necessary.

The Upside and Pitfalls of Options

What to do next may seem murky and overwhelming, but essentially there are three options:

1.  Arrange for twenty-four hour, in-their-home care either through family, friends, paid caregivers or a combination of all three.
Upside: The obvious advantage is your parent remains at home.
Pitfalls: Scheduling caregivers whether paid or not; if twenty-four hour care is necessary, then someone must be there and alert every hour of every day! Reorganization of the home environment to prevent elopement (aka wandering), falls, bath/shower safety, etc.

2.  Move your loved one in with you or the home of another family member, but additional, possibly even twenty-four hour care, will still be needed.
Upside: Family contact with the loved one.
Pitfalls: As above: Scheduling caregivers and re-organization of home environment. Additionally, readying another’s house may mean converting the dining room into a first floor bedroom or displacing other family members. Plus moving your parent.

If neither of the above is feasible – the balancing act of in-home care can be daunting – then the only remaining option is relocation into an assisted living center or similar. If you can’t logistically be a part of your parent’s time-consuming care and insure their safety, a facility that does is probably the best option.

Relinquishing the care of your parent to someone else, or several ‘someones’ as in the case of an assisted living placement, is not without pause. There is likely an exhaustive list of reasons, factors and roadblocks that have brought you to this point. But the reality is you’ve gotten to the brink of a disaster waiting to happen because continued in-home placement just isn’t working.

Before you regret not having acted sooner, move your parent. The next article will help in the process of selecting the right placement for your parent.

Ha! I did everything right and it still got screwed up! But despite the incredible drama that befell my mother, I really did do “everything right”; it wasn’t my negligence that nearly killed her.

Next: What to Look for in Selecting An Assisted Living Facility.

Hint: The elegant lobby is for your benefit. It’s what lies beneath that’s really important.


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About Elaine C.Pereira

Elaine retired in June 2010 as a school Occupational Therapist where she worked with special needs children. She lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband, Joe. Between them, they have five children — Joe has three sons and Elaine has twin daughters-and soon-to-be five grandchildren. Elaine has a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Wayne State University. Elaine is the author of I Will Never Forget and she was inspired to tell her mother’s incredible story in part to help other caregivers coping with memory loss issues in their loved ones. I Will Never Forget

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