Many of us enter the “Sandwich Generation” when we are somewhere in our 30’s and 40’s. This refers to those who find themselves caring for their children, but also caring for their aging/elderly parents. While there are many tricks and tips for raising our children, helping and guiding our parents’ decisions is not as simple, especially when caring for them suddenly requires a move or transition in care.
When considering a move, we strongly suggest examining all available options and consider all parties that will be involved in your loved one’s long term support and care. This is a great opportunity to review all the available care options and decide on what works best for everyone.
It is a good idea to begin with an objective review of your loved one’s abilities and needs. An objective and honest assessment from a primary care physician is a great place to start. It is also a good idea to get in touch with other family members and friends who have regular contact and visits with your loved ones. While it can be difficult and emotionally challenging to accept that your parent or family member is experiencing difficulties or requiring more support, a clear and detailed understanding of your parents’ current and future needs will allow for correct placement and support.
Some considerations and questions to ask would be;
- Ability to Rise/Retire for the day – are they able to prepare for the day or bed on their own and without cues? Can they shower/bathe on their own? How well do they manage Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)? Are they able to toilet themselves or is assistance needed?
- Meals – are they able to prepare meals and clean up on their own? Are they missing meals due to low energy levels or are they forgetting to eat? Are they able to feed themselves? Any swallowing concerns?
- Memory – Are they experiencing normal aging forgetfulness or are they showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s? Are there consistent occurrences of wandering or getting lost?
- Mobility – Are they using a wheelchair or walker? Is there enough space in their current residence to accommodate these devices? Are they able to transition/transfer (i.e. sitting to standing position) easily or do they require assistance? Have they experienced any falls?
- Overnights – Are they sleeping through the night? Are they up and wandering? Do they need assistance throughout the night for toileting or repositioning in bed?
- Emergency Situations – Do they have the ability to remember to “push the button”? Can they call for help if they need it, and NOT abuse the use of the call button for assistance? This is an important consideration because this is a question of safety.
- Do they qualify for government assistance from the Local Health Integrated Network (LHIN)? If so, how many hours are they entitled, and is this enough support?
Once you understand the changing needs of your loved one, you are better equipped to help them make a decision about what living accommodations best suit their needs and make the most sense.
What are your options?
Basically, there are three choices. Private residence, Retirement Home, or Long-Term Care.
Private Residence – Living on their own or with others in a house, condo or apartment. Depending on government services that one qualifies for, private care providers may be required to allow for the individual to stay in the residence of choice.
Retirement Home – There are many private pay facilities that offer different levels of support. Retirement homes are structured to support their residents as “Independent Living Residents”, while offering extra support/services, like meal plans, bathing assistance and laundry, for a price. Some retirement homes will also offer specialized units for Assisted Living and Memory Care, where residents are offered more daily support. It is important, however, to understand that retirement homes have a maximum level of support. Once your family member surpasses this level of necessary support, they will be asked to find an alternate accommodation.
Long-Term Care – “LTC” facilities are able to provide a much higher level of care and assistance to those who require it. These facilities are not “free”, as many would like to think, but are funded by the government and will affect your family member’s government pension. Additional expenses are incurred for the type of room that is selected, personal clothing and personal hygiene products.
Always keep in mind that this move may not even be the last. Circumstances and health may change for your loved one, which would bring you back to the decision-making table. Although it can seem overwhelming, having more information is always better when making a critical decision like where to move your loved one. Fully understanding your loved one’s needs and what each living option offers will help all parties involved feel good about the decision. The best thing we can do for all our loved ones is to stay involved and stay informed.