By Alan Moffatt
There may come a time when you need to help a loved one — due to illness, injury or condition — move into an assisted living facility or nursing home. While even the logistics of helping someone can make this type of move intimidating, the addition of strong emotions, memories, and “stuff” can easily be overwhelming. As the responsible person, you will need to consider your loved one’s finances, mail, clothing, and other personal goods, as well as the facility’s processes and approvals.
During this process, as a caregiver, the emotional burden can be great. Seeing loved ones deteriorate — due to pain or simply the aging process in general — can take its toll on even the strongest of individuals. Prayer, a healthy intake, and balance are what I recommend. You’ll need to make some fairly significant decisions during this process and having a roadmap in place is very helpful.
Physically moving your loved one is one of the easier tasks. However, you will probably need to consider if personal items need to be donated, stored or discarded. It’s likely that your loved one will only have a small amount of space available for their use. A small closet or two, dresser drawers, and a night stand will probably be about it. Anything above and beyond what will fit in that space will need to be stored for future exchanges, donated, given away, or discarded.
Making those other, more complicated decisions is just that: complicated. Which facility is best? How much care does your loved one require? What happens next? Work with the various authorities and experts in this field, such as your loved one’s medical doctor and the administrators of assisted living facilities and nursing homes; they can provide the information you need to guide you through your specific situation. When my parents moved to independent living in Advent Christian Village at Dowling Park, they were assigned a care coordinator, which is like a social worker. If your loved one has a representative like this, they are always a good start and are extremely helpful.
End-of-life decisions should be put in place with the appropriate legal assistance, if they haven’t already been completely taken care of and contracted. First, burial or cremation decisions should be made sooner rather than later, so when the time comes, you can focus on grieving and closure, not selecting a funeral home.
Most states have what are called Advance Directives, which, in simple terms, are the patient’s right to decide. A Living Will is a type of Advance Directive in which they state their wishes concerning medical treatment. Every competent adult has the right to make decisions concerning their own health, including the right to choose or refuse medical treatment. You may also have in place a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), which enables your loved one to appoint an “agent,” such as a trusted relative or friend, to handle specific health, legal and financial responsibilities during their lifetime if they are unable to do so. An attorney will usually need to draft these important documents. While you may not agree with your loved one’s decision, you must remember that these are their wishes, not yours. If you’re having difficulty accepting your loved one’s decision, talk with them about it. But don’t aim to change their mind; seek to understand their point of view.
Remember to visit your loved ones while you’re handling all of these tasks. This is a difficult time for them too. They may or may not understand everything that’s going on and frequent absences could cause unnecessary stress. They still need your love and support, especially during this disruptive experience. Even after the move has been completed, keep in regular contact with your loved one to make sure they know that the move hasn’t separated them from you.
Handling the details and supporting a loved one as he or she moves into an assisted living facility or nursing home is not an easy task for anyone. It’s important to prepare yourself for the difficulties, both logistically and emotionally. It’s also important to surround yourself with support. Having recently maneuvered through this transition with both of my parents, I can attest to the support, compassion, kindness, direction, recommendations, and genuine caring that the various staff at their retirement community — Advent Christian Village (ACV) — provides. From the kitchen staff, CNAs, doctors and department chairs, to the ACV president himself, each individual plays an integral role in ensuring a smooth transition and adjustment phase for not only your loved one, but for you as well.
Remember that everyone gets through this and past it. Lean on family, friends and loved ones, and ensure you’re maintaining a healthy and balanced life so you’re prepared for anything.
About the author: Alan Moffatt is an accomplished resource manager specializing in business development of global sales. In 2014, his parents moved to Advent Christian Village and lived independently until this year, when their medical needs necessitated a move to ACV’s Good Samaritan Center skilled nursing community. Alan helped his parents successfully navigate the waters of transition in order to receive the care they need. Alan lives in Cumming, Georgia, with his 13-year-old daughter.