Moving a family member to residential care
When a family member moves to a residential facility, caregivers often experience a roller coaster of emotions, from relief to overwhelming sadness and loss. As much of the daily responsibility has been transferred to facility staff, the caregiver now wonders, “What is my new role? How do I fit into my family member’s new surroundings?”
Most importantly, the caregiver can once again become a son or daughter or spouse. Rather than focusing on the physical duties of caregiving, she can now enjoy spending time with her family member. The new role is that of an Advocate, assuring that her loved one is receiving proper care and living the best life possible.
Navigating the world of long-term care can be challenging. Below are suggestions on how to be a successful advocate for your family member in facility care:
- Tell the staff as much as you can about your family member. What makes him happy? What causes frustration? What were her daily routines? The more familiar structure and interaction your family member finds in his new environment, the more likely he is to adjust.
- Place photos of family and friends in the new room. Spread a familiar quilt or blanket on the bed. Do whatever is needed to make the room feel like home. If your family member has memory loss, label the photos, not only for him, but also for the staff. Photos provide excellent conversation starters for staff and visitors.
- Get to know the direct care staff by name. They have a challenging job and are sometimes overlooked. Be sure to thank the aide staff for their hard work. Expect quality care, but not perfection.
- Don’t just rely on verbal messages with staff. Write things down. Leave notes in the room for everyone to see. There may be three different shifts of staff each day, and different aide staff on the weekend. Communication is essential.
- Attend care plan meetings. This is your opportunity to talk directly with staff, uninterrupted. Write down your questions and concerns prior to the care plan meeting so that you make the best use of the time.
- Attend activities with your family member. This will help the new resident feel more comfortable in a group setting at the facility. It will also give you a sense of the other residents and what happens during the day.
- Join your family member for meals, and get to know her tablemates. Observe mealtime to see if she is eating well and receiving the assistance or prompting that is needed. Be sure staff is aware of your family member’s food and beverage preferences.
- Attend family council meetings and special events at the facility. This gives staff a chance to get to know you better. The more they see you, the more comfortable staff will be in reaching out to you with concerns and questions.
- The squeaky wheel theory works in facility care, so don’t be afraid to speak up when you have questions and concerns. However, do so respectfully. There is always another side to the story.
- If you have concerns that are not being addressed, contact the facility Ombudsman. This person is typically a well-trained volunteer who advocates for residents in long term care facilities. You can find your facility’s ombudsman by contacting the area agency on aging.
- Finally, be aware that life in a facility may never provide the kind of individualized attention your family member received at home. However, you can rest assured that your family member is safe and receiving the care he needs. Enjoy the quality time you now have with your family member, and your new role as his advocate!