COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted within senior living communities in New Jersey, with congregate dining and group social activities resuming. As a result, many elders and their family members who have resolutely stayed at home with family care or in-home care, are once again considering a move to assisted living.
It’s been a long and lonely year with everyone doing their best to social distance, stay-at-home, and stay well. Keeping all but a few loved ones at a distance has taught us that we need social connections and regular interactions with others to stay mentally and physically healthy. A recent CDC study found that social isolation among elders was associated with close to a 50% increased risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions. Yet another good reason to consider assisted living for a loved one.
With this renewed surge of interest in supportive senior living, adult children are inquiring and touring assisted living residences in preparation for their parent’s move to the community that best suits their needs. Typically, the family member doing the assisted living search is an adult child who lives closest to the parent and who has done most, if not all, of the caregiving during the pandemic. Here are some timely insights to help prepare you and your loved one for the move:
Keep lines of communication open with your parent and do your research.
Don’t refer to this type of residential setting as a “facility.” The term “facility” can bring up images of institutional nursing home care. Instead, opt for the term “senior living community” and describe such communities as cruise ships on land, with care available when needed. Do your research before selecting which facilities to consider. Plan on visiting at least three potential communities and make sure you see all aspects of the assisted living residence. When touring a facility, make sure they offer the type of care your loved one needs, whether it’s assisted living with medication management or dementia care in a secure setting. Once you start your search, you will quickly realize that there are many different models of residential senior care. There are communities called continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) that have a continuum of care including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing all on one campus. Other assisted living communities have assisted living apartments with various levels of care alongside a secure memory care neighborhood if your loved one should ever need to transition to dementia care. Once you have narrowed the choice of communities down to two, it’s time to take your parent on a tour. You don’t want to overwhelm your loved one with too many choices that might not be a good fit. And, if you happen to be the family member charged with guiding your senior loved one through this process, our Elder Care Coordinator, Nancy Carman, MA, CMC, can help you identify the most appropriate communities to consider and narrow down the options. Nancy guides many Fendrick Morgan families through this difficult process.
Make the new assisted living apartment like home.
Moving to an assisted living apartment is a major adjustment with a new lifestyle to settle into. While you may be tempted to overstuff your loved one’s apartment with furniture and belongings from the home they are moving from, bring only those items that are cherished and fit well into the new space. A favorite painting, a comfortable easy chair, cherished photographs, and photo albums, a familiar blanket, and a bedside lamp will provide familiarity. Too much clutter can set up a scenario for a fall. On the other hand, you may be tempted to furnish your parent’s new space with new furniture, decorations, and technology to make it feel fresh and coordinated. It’s always best to only purchase a few new items that are needed, such as a bed that fits into the apartment and primarily use strategically placed familiar items from home.
Listen to your parent throughout the process.
While you may have enthusiastically researched and embraced this new lifestyle for your parent, they may have very real fears about this major change in their life. Acknowledge their fears and concerns and assure them that you will be with them every step along the way in this new journey. Tap into the care team at the assisted living residence to address their concerns and make them feel welcome, even before they arrive. Make sure that all your siblings and family members are on board with the assisted living decision for your loved one, so he or she is hearing the same positive message.
If you are considering a move to a senior living community for a loved one, Fendrick Morgan offers Life Care Planning services, a more holistic approach to elder law, which combines more traditional elder law and asset protection planning with care coordination, oversight, and advocacy. Our legal team works to ensure that all estate planning documents (wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives) are in place and that any appropriate asset protection and Medicaid planning is undertaken. All the while, our experienced Elder Care Coordinator, Nancy Carman, can also help you research and identify the assisted living residence that best meets your loved one’s needs. Not only can she help with the community selection, but she also provides advocacy and care management support after the move.
If you think you would benefit from our assistance with an assistant living transition for a loved one, or if you have questions about care or elder law needs, generally, we are here to help. Please call us, Fendrick Morgan, LLC, at 856-489-8388 for more information or to schedule a consultation.