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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Huelat

10 Considerations in Transitioning to a Care Facility

Deciding to move a loved one with dementia into a care facility is a deeply personal journey, marked by the nuances of each individual's experience. Dementia is a prolonged journey with distinct phases and understanding the disease's progression is crucial for making informed choices. Several considerations can guide this decision:

1.     Early Communication: Initiate open discussions with the loved one early on to understand their preferences. Personal experiences, like missing social interactions, can shape their desires. One poignant example is my father-in-law, in the early stages of Alzheimer's, who surprised us with his preference for a care facility. After returning from a trip, he expressed missing the social interactions and activities there. This unexpected revelation highlighted the importance of early discussions to understand their desires.

2.     Primary Caregiver's Health: Assess the physical and emotional well-being of the primary caregiver, emphasizing the importance of their health. The strain of caregiving can affect both the caregiver and the person receiving care. I vividly recall an elderly caregiver, my friend, worn down by the demands of caring for her ailing spouse. The toll on her physical and emotional health emphasized the critical need for the caregiver to be in good shape to provide quality care. Her decision to move him to a care facility was a good one. Daily, she remained at his bedside providing love and companionship while living the heavy lifting to others.


3.     Caregiving Team: Recognize that caregiving requires a team effort. If forming a caregiving team is challenging, a care facility may become a viable solution. Building your caregiving team should begin early in the journey. Seek the assistance of family and friends who are willing to support you both in the day-to-day aspects of caregiving and in the decision-making process for transitioning. Their involvement can extend to advocating for the necessity of a care facility, providing a valuable network of support during this challenging time.


4.     Unmanageable Symptoms: Evaluate whether the person with dementia displays disruptive or violent behaviors that pose challenges for the caregiver. In such cases, a care facility might offer a more controlled environment. Dementia often presents challenging situations. When a dear one exhibits aggressive behavior. The safety concerns and emotional toll on the caregiver can often necessitate a reassessment, eventually leading to the decision for a care facility with specialized support.


5.     Medical Criteria: Consider if the person's medical condition necessitates extensive care, like IVs or feeding tubes, which may be challenging for a home caregiver. A family may face a heartbreaking choice when their loved one's deteriorating health required intensive medical care. The complexities of providing at-home care, can become overwhelming, prompting consideration of a care facility.


6.     Loneliness: Weigh the social aspects of care facilities against potential loneliness. Investigate the facility's social programs and staff-to-resident ratio to ensure adequate engagement. In exploring options, a family discovered that while care facilities offered social opportunities, the transition sometimes left individuals feeling lonelier without the familiarity of loved ones. This realization underscored the importance of evaluating social programs within facilities.


7.     Caregiver's Life Balance: Recognize the impact of caregiving on the entire family, especially if there are children at home. Balancing the needs of the family may lead to considering a care facility. An emotional story involves a caregiver juggling the responsibilities of caring for a parent and raising children. The strain on the entire family prompted discussions about finding a care home for grandma, acknowledging the need to balance family needs.


8.     Caregiver Work Demands: Assess the demands of the caregiver's work schedule. A demanding job may make it difficult to provide consistent care, leading to the consideration of a care facility. A working caregiver, struggling to meet the demands of both career and caregiving, faced the realization that their job's demands were incompatible with the rigors of providing consistent care at home. This led to exploring the option of a care facility.


9.     Financial Considerations: Examine the financial aspect, as care facilities can be expensive. A family's journey involved exploring various financial avenues to support the cost of care facilities, including delving into long-term-care insurance, selling assets, and seeking assistance. Each avenue was a piece of the puzzle in the decision-making process.


10. Ongoing Role: Dispel the myth that placing a loved one in a care facility concludes the caregiver's role. While the nature of care changes, ongoing involvement, love, and support remain essential. Contrary to a common misconception, placing a loved one in a care facility doesn't conclude the caregiver's role.

Ultimately, the decision to transition to a care facility requires a thoughtful examination of the unique circumstances, preferences, and needs of both the caregiver and the person with dementia. In essence, the decision to transition to a care facility is a profound and impactful journey, influencing not just the present but leaving a lasting imprint on your own emotions long after your loved one is gone. It is a testament to the importance of ongoing support and love, recognizing that your role as a caregiver evolves but is never truly over.

For additional considerations in choosing a care facility, refer to my book Taming the Chaos of Dementia: A Caregiver’s Guide to Interventions that Make a Difference.

Best Wishes in your caregiving decisions.

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