3 Tips to Support Family Care Partners When Their Loved One Moves to Assisted Living
If a person living with dementia moves into a full time care environment, such as Assisted Living, the family is often assaulted by a myriad of conflicting feelings…..Guilt (I told her I would always take care of her), Inadequacy (I should be able to take care of her), Fear (will they really take good care of my loved one?), Anger (it’s not fair that I have to deal with these difficult issues), Exhaustion (I can’t go on like this) and Relief (thank goodness I’m getting some assistance).
When Assisted Livings or other LTC settings accept a new resident, they are also accepting the family. Caring for the families of residents living with dementia can be as important and complex as caring for the actual residents! All of their fears and doubts have to be addressed and the Assisted Living needs to have a program to “wrap their arms” around not just the new resident but also the family members. Most likely the family has had a long struggle to find the right level and type of care that would be best for their loved one. Recent trips to the hospital, changes of medications or health status, and finally the realization that they can’t continue to do full time care at home, can leave them emotionally and physically exhausted.
Here are three strategies that Assisted Living communities can use to support the family care partners and give them confidence in your care:
1. Assign one leader in your community as their case manager.
Every leader is assigned a group of residents that they “case manage” and are responsible for. Initially the case manager is in frequent contact with the family, getting to know the family’s preferences, priorities and “hot buttons”.
For the new resident and their concerned family members, moving into a care community can be like that first day at a new school – so many new faces and names. By assigning a case manager, the family feels they have one person as the point of contact and don’t have to “tell their story” over and over again to many different people. As they become more familiar with other staff and develop trust, the family will begin to talk with others. Initially however, by assigning a case manager, they will feel they have a person who is accountable for the quality of care and will be their advocate and answer their questions. This can go a long way towards building family confidence in your Assisted Living community.
2. Have an on-site support group for family members.
From my experience of working in Assisted Living, I have utmost respect for the important role that support groups can play in helping families feel comfortable, encouraging them to take good care of themselves and begin to let go and trust you.
Invite new families to join the support group. This can be a great source of comfort and information. Other family members have an appreciation for the trauma and fears that new families are experiencing and participation in a group can give the members an outlet to share their emotions.
Members of a support group also encourage other members to take good care of themselves. A simple question such as “What did everyone have for dinner last night?” can bring to light problems such as sadness from eating alone, and risks of poor nutrition.
3. Plan fun social events for family members off site.
Sponsoring a gathering for Happy Hour at a local restaurant, a meet-up at a Museum or an afternoon of bowling, can add some normalcy for family members and give them something to look forward to. For a short time, they are just a group of adults having a social time that is not necessarily linked to caring for someone living with dementia.
Many care partners have necessarily put their own lives and interests “on-hold”. Friendships may have slipped away and they may be out of practice or not have the energy to arrange social events. Inviting them to a fun occasion can give them permission to begin to enjoy life again and explore their community.
I’ve seen wonderful friendships forged from family support groups.
If you work in Assisted Living and care for residents living with dementia, what is your plan of care for your family members? Are you meeting their needs?
If you work in Assisted Living and want
To make your dementia care program even better,
Or if you need assistance in
Planning care for a loved one,
E-mail or call me for a free consultation
Have a great day!
Anne Ellett, N.P., M.S.N.