Preparation is everything when it comes to planning for a parent’s move to senior living, whether into Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, or Skilled Nursing.
There are so many tasks associated with such a move, including deciding what possessions to discard or to keep, vacating the old home, making sure the new living arrangements fit your parent’s physical and cognitive needs, and getting all your financial ducks in a row.
As part of your preparation, you must also have honest but heartfelt conversations with your parent to ensure they are in a good place mentally and emotionally as it will foster acceptance of the move. Given all these aspects involved in such a move, you really can’t prepare too much.
“I’m not sure there’s such a thing as over-preparing,” says Christopher Esola, administrator of Mountainside Residential Care Center, a five-star-rated Skilled Nursing facility in Margaretville, New York (also a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network). “You need to prepare mentally, emotionally, and financially.”
Preparing Mentally and Emotionally
Preparing mentally means having discussions as a family ahead of time. “The best way to mentally prepare, if the person is in declining health, is to discuss how it’s better to move into a nice place that can meet your needs,” Esola says. “It’s not just about medical care. It’s also about social aspects—the ability to make new friends and participate in new activities.”
Preparing emotionally means giving your parent time to digest the idea of moving. The idea of moving into Assisted Living or a Skilled Nursing facility is sometimes difficult for older people to accept, especially if they’ve lived in their own home for a long period of time and have trouble letting go. The key is to understand their experience of the transition, listen to their concerns, and empathize with their feelings as much as possible. Your loved one may express anger with you, or you may feel guilty, but you can’t overestimate the importance of having time to work through these emotions. If instead you blindside an aging parent by making decisions without their knowledge or input, then they miss the opportunity to work through these emotions in advance of the move.
“If all goes well, a parent is ready to make the move,” Esola says. “When it does not go well, it’s usually because the parent is reluctant to move or is not even told about it in advance.”
Providing a tour of the selected senior living community helps your parent prepare for the move, Esola adds. That’s why Mountainside offers tours to potential residents and their family members. Each department—food services, social services, housekeeping, etc.—also meets with new and potential residents to acclimate them to the various aspects of the care center.
“Every situation is different,” Esola reports. “We help families prepare any way we can.”
Preparing financially for a move means ensuring that you understand the resources available and have the means to pay for your loved one’s community. “For people who can afford private pay, you need to ask, ‘How much is it going to cost?’” Esola says. “For those who don’t have financial support, they may need to look at the requirements of Medicaid.”
The families of many seniors mistakenly assume that their parents can use their Medicare coverage to help pay for senior living services. Seniors can use Medicare for Skilled Nursing services and physical or other forms of therapy, but only if the resident comes from an acute stay such as in a hospital. Understanding the additional resources available for your loved one can require research into other potential avenues, such as VA benefits for former service members.
Emphasize the Positives
The ultimate goal of preparing loved ones for a move into senior living? Help them see it as the best solution—not only for them but for their family members as well. Many times a family caregiver has reached the point at which caring for a parent at home is no longer practical or desirable, which only serves to highlight the importance of advanced preparation.
You need the assurance you’ve found the perfect place to suit your parent’s needs—not only physically, but also emotionally and socially. Emphasize this during the preparation process. As Esola concludes, “Let them know all the positives associated with the move.”
SHARE YOUR STORY: How did your family prepare your loved one for a senior living move?