Do Older Adults in Facilities need more Support?
Earlier this week I read a very saddening article by the NY Times “Senior Living Community Resident Likely Dead for 2 Days“. While this, fortunately, isn’t the norm, it did get me thinking about the importance of INSPECT what you EXPECT when caring for others.
I’ve talked a lot about caring for my mom who was very medically complex. But when my dad was no longer able to remain independent at home, we were faced with a very different decision of what to do next. He was not ill, but also was not safe at home and was suffering from dementia. My dad was an incredibly intelligent man but was no longer able to do the things he once enjoyed.
My brothers and I found a memory care facility that seemed like a good fit. The facility checked all the boxes to ensure health and safety for my dad. If you’re looking into facilities, I highly recommend doing your research and looking at their health and safety codes. Like any care option, you are dealing with employees who are tasked with providing daily care for your family member. But for most facilities, this does not mean a one to one experience. So understandably, folks were not available 24 hours a day.
Because of my dad’s needs, we hired a private caregiver who had been working with my dad before he moved to the memory care facility. The caregiver checked in on him daily and built a rapport with the staff, so we knew what was going on each day. This was necessary because the facility did not care for things you would assume it would. For example, the staff told us that dad would not shower and they were not equipped to spend the time it would take to get him in the shower! What the heck, this is memory care. A resistance to showering is not uncommon, yet it would not have been accomplished had we not hired the private caregiver. This is not to say all facilities are like this, but it’s important to be aware you may need to do more advocating even if your older adult is in a facility.
In my dad’s case, he was unwilling to allow my brother to help him with showering. Finding someone who can pop in and get eyes on what is happening is so important. Building a support system is so important, and especially if you don’t live near your parents or can’t make it in as often as you’d like. Don’t worry that a family member is not there every day. In the case of my dad, it was actually easier to hire someone for certain tasks such as bathing, than trying to force him to let my brother take care of it.
Many people assume facilities come with XYZ then come to find out the reality of it. Facilities are not cheap, so hiring an additional private caregiver may not be an option for you! But that doesn’t mean you can’t get help and a couple other sets of eyes on the situation.
If everything feels overwhelming, try making a calendar for the month. Seeing a visual representation of support can help both your parent and you feel more at ease. Write out the tasks your loved one would need to be done that the facility does not provide, then try and come up with people who could help out with these tasks. If you’re unsure of where to start looking for extra supports start by checking with your local volunteer organizations. There are also ombudsman who are tasked to review care. If you have someone living alone in the community, Meals on Wheels is a great option not only for meals but for the companionship. With my dad we had them visiting for about a year and a half. While it’s not part of their job, they would give us a call and let us know if my dad wasn’t home when they came by to deliver the meals which helped significantly.
Once you’ve got your list going for people to take care of tasks, make sure you schedule in some time for you and your older adult to just be together. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, but it’s important to spend time with your parent as just a daughter or son.