For most individuals, placing a loved one in a sheltered community (nursing home or personal care home) is a long and difficult road. For some, it was difficult to determine what care was needed and where to find it. For others, it means promises to keep the loved one at home can no longer be kept. For still others, it means being on the receiving end of the loved one’s anger over the move. For everyone, it means a time of adjustment. The following are some ideas to help during this time of adjustment.
• Try to learn who the caregivers for your loved one are; recognize that they want your loved one to have a successful transition to the new community; be open to ideas they may have on how to help your loved one during this transition.
• Look for ways to compliment the staff caring for your loved one. Establishing a good relationship with the staff will make it easier to deal with any difficulties that may arise in the future.
• Remember that no place is perfect; focus on the common goal you share with the staff for your loved one to receive good care.
• As a family, appoint a representative to be the contact between the facility and the family. By having communication between family and facility go through one person, you are helping the staff to have more time to provide care because they do not have to answer the same questions for multiple family members.
• Learn the process to address any problems or concerns that arise. Getting any concerns or problems to the proper person can expedite their resolution.
• If your loved one wants to know how long he or she will be in this new community, focus on their functional limitations that require the care he or she is receiving. Explain your goal is to make sure he or she receives the care needed for as long as the care is needed, but you do not know how long this will be.
• Recognize that a promise to keep someone at home is really a promise to make sure that loved one has the care he or she needs and that he or she will not be abandoned. If we could see into the future, we would know when a promise is unrealistic, but since we cannot do this, we need to focus on the intent of the promise. Feeling guilt in this situation helps neither you nor your loved one. With conscious effort you can choose not to feel guilty because you have kept the intent of the promise, and therefore you are better able to support your loved one.
• It is difficult to be on the receiving end of anger, but it helps to have an understanding of the whats and whys of anger. At its root, anger is born from frustration. If a person feels that things should be different than the way they actually are, there is a perception of being wronged, and frustration and anger is a likely result. Unfortunately, that anger is sometimes directed at loved ones, even though they have not wronged the person. In these situations it is helpful to follow a Biblical proverb, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” By speaking in a calm, quiet voice you may defuse that person’s anger. You may also find the person will calm down after being allowed to express (vent) his or her anger. Once the person has calmed down, you may then be able to rationally discuss how realistic the person’s expectations are. But what can you do if the person has dementia and cannot respond in a rational manner? Calm, quiet voices are still helpful, but instead of trying to reason with the person, try to redirect the conversation to a different topic. If possible, focus the conversation on something that person has loved to do or talk about in the past. Above all, let your loved one know you care, through both words and actions. Smiles and hugs are hard to ignore.