Caregiving and Residence Placement

By Barbara Small

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One of the most challenging caregiving transitions is moving a family member into residential care. This decision is often made during a time of crisis, either because the care recipient is no longer able to safely stay in his or her own home or because family members can no longer provide the required level or type of care. It is normal to feel guilt, grief or anxiety when facing this decision, and there will often be differing perspectives from those involved.

Caregiving does not end when your family member moves into a residence. You may have more free time and will not have sole responsibility for his or her personal care, but you will still provide emotional support, make legal and financial decisions, visit and participate in care decisions.

Keep these ideas in mind during this difficult time:

  1. Share the care. You are now part of a care team. Good communication is essential. Clarify what care the residence staff will provide and what is expected of you. The staff may not provide care exactly as you had, but your family member’s health has changed and care needs will be different.
  2. Visiting. There is no formula for how often to visit. Regular, predictable visits are helpful. Have others share in the visiting. Try to establish a balance between visits with activities and quiet time. When is the best time to visit? When is your family member most alert? When do they have their meals?
  3. Addressing requests to go home. Your family member may repeatedly ask to go home. This can be very difficult to hear and often triggers feelings of guilt. Acknowledge these requests with a statement such as: “I know how much you want to go home and I wish it were possible.”
    Remind them why they moved into care initially – “because you kept falling at home,” “you need more care now than I can give you,” “this is the safest place for you to get the care you need.”
    Try not to act defensive and don’t make empty promises to take them home. Ask them what you can do or bring them that would allow their new surroundings to feel more like home.
  4. Share your expertise with the staff. With your history, you know your family member better than any of the staff and can provide insight into your family member's needs and preferences, so they can receive the unique care they require.
  5. Become an advocate for your family member, so he or she receives suitable care. Find out what the protocol is for feedback at the residence. Find out whom to speak to about specific concerns and the best time to contact this person (for example, not during shift change).

Next month: Balancing Caregiving and Self-Care




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