It’s normal as a caregiver to struggle with the prospect of whether it’s time to move a loved one into a nursing home. While facilities can provide a wealth of benefits for a senior who is unable to live independently, here are five basic needs to consider when thinking about the move to a nursing home. If you can help your loved one meet these needs at home, you’ll also be helping them maintain their independence and avoid long-term placement as long as possible.
In order to successfully stay at home, an aging loved one needs to be able to bathe and dress independently, or with assistance from a family member or home health agency. If a home health program is in place, seniors may get a visit or two each week to assist with bathing, but they may need some extra help on other days of the week.
If your loved one can’t cook independently, someone will have to assist with meal preparation. Services like Meals on Wheels help but won’t cover three meals a day. There are many frozen meal options, or some caregivers might prepare multiple meal servings in advance for their loved ones to reheat as needed. Consider having multiple family members make homemade meals for the freezer — that beats frozen meals from the grocery store any day.
Transportation to appointments and for errands can get complicated if Mom or Dad no longer drives, especially since these trips often require assistance during working hours. If no one is able to drive your loved one to an appointment, consider a taxi service or see if your area has public transportation that provides special assistance to seniors and those with mobility impairments.
All these small tasks can add up to be a heavy burden for one person to carry. Can multiple family members pitch in and create a schedule to share the responsibility? Then no individual family member is overburdened, and it’s a great way for everyone to get to spend some time with their loved one.
Something as simple as getting in and out of the bathtub may become a safety risk if your senior has weakness or balance difficulties. Consider the addition of safety bars in the bathroom or a shower bench. Also remove trip hazards in the home, such as cords or throw rugs in pathways that could cause a fall. If your loved one lives independently or spends time alone while you’re at work, a medical alert system is also a good idea in case a fall or injury occurs.
For a senior to continue living at home, it’s critical to implement a system to manage medications and ensure they are taken correctly. The use of a pill box with different days of the week and times helps set up medications. You can refill the case each week, or if home health services are involved, a nurse may help set up the pill box every week. There are even special medication dispensers that are programmed to only release pills when they are due for those who may be a bit forgetful.
Sometimes seniors manage fine without any assistance, but often just a little extra help makes all the difference between staying in their house and moving to a nursing home. By ensuring these five basic needs are covered, you can help your senior parents maintain their independence as long as possible.