Preparing a loved one for long-term care

If you’ve already had the difficult conversation with a parent or loved one about transitioning to long-term care, it can be tempting to think that the hard part is already over. Even with the full understanding that you’ve all made a loving choice that’s best for everyone, you may still face the daunting task of making the physical transition from their current home to a new home in a long-term care facility.

For many older people – especially those with dementia or Alzheimer’s – this can be a disorienting time. And even someone who recognizes the decline in their quality of life and welcomes long-term care may still fear the loss of independence and identity.

It’s important to acknowledge your loved one’s feelings with understanding and compassion and to recognize your own frustrations, guilt, and uncertainty about the coming changes. While this can be a challenging situation, there are some steps you can take to make the transition less stressful for everyone.

Plan ahead

Because downsizing is difficult, it can be tempting to put it off. However, it’s important to stay on track and on task. Try to allow yourself extra time to keep the process from being rushed and pressured. After a lifetime of gathering furniture and keepsakes, it will take some time to sort through and make decisions about all of it.

Prioritize

By starting with the items that absolutely must be kept – things like medications, clothing, cherished photos, and other important items – you can start to clear space to evaluate other items. It will also give you a chance to see progress in what can seem like an overwhelming project.

Start simple

Once you’ve identified those things that absolutely must be moved, you can shift to the other end of the spectrum: the items you know will not be packed (think boxes in the attic that haven’t been unpacked in years, an unused guest closet, a junk drawer in the kitchen, etc.). These are “low hanging fruit” easily cleared of unnecessary or unused items.

Collaborate

Involve your loved one in the process, engaging them in decisions about items you’re not sure about. The sorting process can be a great opportunity to talk about why individual items are important, the history behind them, and the stories that go with them. This collaboration stage can be a time to make sure your loved one understands that you’re looking out for their comfort and that you honor what’s important to them.

Don’t dispose, donate

As you sort through personal items, establish four categories: items that are moving to the new home, items reserved for family and friends, items for charity donation, and finally, items to discard. Hopefully that last category will be the smallest, as most clothing and household items are welcome contributions for non-profit groups. Some even provide pick-up service to make donations even easier.

Digitize to downsize

Consider ways to bring cherished memories along without adding clutter. Digitize a treasured record collection on a device that’s not only tiny, it’s portable. Scan photos into digital photo frames for a constant reminder of family and friends without adding to clutter. Start rebuilding a library of books on an e-reader. It may take a little effort to get used to the technology, so start the transition early. The new space will be tidier and less cluttered for your efforts.

If your parent or loved one has reached a point where you’re considering a move to long-term care, it’s time to evaluate and select a facility that can help. Facilities managed by American Health Corporation – including three locations in Alabama – offer the highest quality healthcare nearby and offer programs to help patients and families make complex and difficult decisions about living arrangements, now and in the future.

Contact the American Health Corporation nursing home in your area today for more information or to schedule a guided tour:

Oak Trace (Bessemer, AL) 205-428-9383

Colonial Haven (Greensboro, AL) 334-624-3054

Perry County Nursing Home (Marion, AL) 334-683-9696