First, consider your loved one.
There's a possibility that you have been so consumed with the idea of your elderly parent relocating that you may have disregarded their feeling and concerns. Your loved one does not want to be a burden on their family, financially or by moving in with them. Any move, however, is likely to be resisted in some fashion. A common pattern is that your loved one has noticed and reacted to their increasing frailties before you became aware of them. They progressively limit their activities to those which they can perform easily and do so in smaller and smaller areas of the home. They know those areas very well and rely on that familiarity to assist their ability to perform the activities of daily living. When they face moving from this "cocoon," they are, understandably, anxious and resentful of their need to do so. Sometimes they are further resentful of those who are causing this move to occur.
No good deed goes unpunished.
Planning the move always helps. Generally, moving your loved one at this stage in their life entails downsizing and getting rid of household items. Distribution of items to family members is common and desirable. Sharing treasured items with family members can be a great source of joy for the loved one and the family. It preserves traditions within the family and strengthens bonds.
Distribution of these items can also be a source of stress and friction as family members may disagree over who gets what. These squabbles are both common and unfortunate. The key is to resolve these sibling/family issues without involving the loved one.
Garage sales and estate sales are common tools to dispose of other items. There are companies in many communities which will assist a family with the move, the packing, the sale and disposition of items not wanted, utility connections and other details involved in the move. Look in the Yellow pages under "Moving" and "Personal Moving Services." Also contact the National Association of Senior Move Managers at www.nasmm.org.
It is important, however, to relocate as many personal items as possible to your loved one's new home: that favorite bed, chair, sofa, or whatever is important to the continuity and comfort for your loved one. Your loved one will appreciate the fewest number of changes possible in the midst of the move. Bringing personal special items will mean a lot.
- It is generally advised that you and other family members plan to spend some considerable time at the new residence with your loved one after they move in, especially the first week. It is critical that they still feel connected to the family. Loved ones are often concerned that they will be forgotten and abandoned. Your loving companionship at this critical time is very important to reducing their stress levels and increasing their acceptance of their new home.
- A regular visiting schedule might be best. It allows the loved one to have greater certainty of visits and seems to be very reassuring. It gives them something to look forward to. We all need that.
- Regular activities away from the new residence will reduce the feeling of the loved one that they are "confined" to the home. Visits to one of the children's homes, dining out, a walk in the park and an infinite number of other outings will bring very positive results. Freedom means a lot to the loved one at this time of intimidating changes in their life.
Moving to assisted living is a perfect time to get your loved ones legal and financial affairs in order. As distasteful as it may be, we should spend some time determining what legal and financial issues our families face if they die. The family should know where their loved one stores their financial and legal information. You should also know where this information is for your spouse, and other loved ones.
Certain documents are recommended to be created for all seniors for their benefit as well as for their family. It is certainly preferable that family members and other trusted family professionals and advisors be involved in creating these documents.
- Residency Agreements differ by community. Before accepting residency at any home has your attorney review the documents. There are significant differences in fees, entrance fees, refunds, discharge criteria and other policies which require a legal review. If your family is considering a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) this need for a legal review is even stronger as the financial commitment and contract complexity directs that professional help are involved.
- Wills are documents written by individuals, which specify the rights of other people over their assets after their death. Without this document, the assets of the deceased person are distributed according to governing statues, which may or may not be in accordance with the wishes of the deceased party.
Great strides in medical technology have increased our ability of to prolong life. With prolonged life comes the discussion of the quality of life for the person whose life is being prolonged. Consideration of the quality of life issues when life can be prolonged significantly has fostered the need for legal and binding means to assure an individual that their quality of life requirements be met, if they are unable to make these decision for themselves. Hence the need for advance directives.
Advance directives are documents which are created for individuals, prior to serious illness or incapacitation, which directs their care and treatment choices in the event they are unable to make those decisions in the future. Two such advance directives are a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
A Living Will is a document which allows an individual to enumerate the types of life extending care you want performed if you are unable to make these decisions in the future. Many states have their own living will forms, each differing in some fashion.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document naming another individual to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so. You can include any instructions for your care that will be honored apart from the discretion of the person given the Power of Attorney. Which one is better? Living wills were developed first and are used extensively. The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care initially offered some greater flexibility and was able to be applied in more situations. Some people have both a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Some states combine the two into a single document. Your attorney will provide guidance on this matter and will suggest other documents which should be created for your family and loved one.
Do Not Resuscitate or DNR is another type of advance directive which indicates the desire of an individual to not have Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) performed on them if they stop breathing or if their heart stops.
Not all states recognize and honor advance directives, but most do. Regardless of whether or not the advance directive is legally binding in any particular state, it can be used to instruct the doctor of your wishes — wishes that are normally honored if they are legal. You should inquire of all healthcare providers of their policies on advance directives. Assisted living providers are familiar with the issue of advance directives and will help facilitate the desires of their residents on this important personal matter.