I read an article the other day about a survey a retirement home company did with the children of seniors in an effort to discover the 3 main concerns people have about moving an elder loved one to a care/retirement home. The 3 most common worries are reported to be: having the "talk", making the right choice and feeling guilty. None of these issues are surprising and indeed we have been addressing all three for the many years we have been working on our website and book and when giving lectures to different groups of people.
I do believe that the fix for all of these issues is opening up communication with aging relatives early on - before anyone needs any help or needs to consider relocation. The trick, which is far easier said than done, is convincing people that they need to have this conversation BEFORE they need to consider options. More often than not, people are afraid to discuss the topic of care and relocation so they put it off until at best, options are limited and at worst, there are no options. Try as I may, I simply cannot convince people that it's far easier to raise a difficult topic when it's not staring you in the face. If it takes time to come to a decision - and you have that time - and you have planned ahead - then finding the right place is easy and guilt is minimal if not, non-existent.
I suspect that the generation of boomers, who are now in the process or have been through the process of helping to relocate a parent, will be more inclined to plan ahead for themselves knowing what the reality was for them. That being said, it may be another 15 - 20 years before the lessons learned from the past translate into making things easier for those who follow.
So, for those who have not planned ahead and are faced with aging relatives who may or may not need care here are some thoughts on how to address the three concerns....
1. Have the talk ASAP - your concerns will not go away just because you refuse to discuss them. Be honest. Involve trusted others if necessary. Be understanding and supportive. We have many suggestions on how to deal with this conversation in our book and in our PDF - Care Options for Seniors (which is an excerpt of the book)
2. Take the time to look around and investigate options. Don't just choose a place from a list. Go and visit. Try a meal. Speak to people. Get references. Encourage your loved one to participate in decision making and stay for a trial period if it is offered. This only works though if you have time. If you are in the situation where you are under pressure from a hospital or a caregiver to make quick choices, you may cut corners and then the place you choose may not be best for your loved one. Again, the more time you have to make this decision the better the chances that you will choose a place that is the 'right one' for your loved one. Our book has a long list of questions to ask when you are on tour or you can download the questionnaire from our website (Retirement Home and Long-Term Care Visiting Tips).
3. If the decision is made with the consent of your loved one and they feel like they have been an active participant in making the choice and the move, guilt is minimal if at all. The key to all of this is having the "talk" early enough that they are able to participate in planning and decision-making.
It all comes down to time. We all have an endless amount of time until we don't. Having the hard conversations early enough makes all the difference in terms of choices, adjustment and emotional well-being.