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Early long-term care conversations can help seniors with transition

April 7, 2010

Early long-term care conversations can help seniors with transition

 

Discussing the potential benefits of a senior living community well ahead of time can help them prepare for and embrace the change

 

By Ari Weinberger

 

For anyone with a spouse or parent reaching advanced age, ensuring that they maintain a happy and meaningful lifestyle is always a prime concern.

 

When a physical and mental condition requires more attention than they are able to provide themselves, family members often look for help in achieving this goal. In such cases the right long-term care facility can greatly enhance a senior’s quality of life while providing peace of mind to his or her loved ones.

 

As the need for a meaningful conversation about assisted living or nursing care presents itself, the key is to let your parent or spouse know their wellbeing is your foremost consideration. Change isn’t always easy, but sharing one’s genuine concerns and discussing alternatives in an open way can make a transition significantly easier. Starting a discussion before a move becomes imminently necessary is better yet, as it gives your loved one time to think about and embrace the next stage of their life.

 

The benefits of a long-term care community are numerous. For example, an assisted living or nursing community provides opportunities to participate in structured activities and have regular social interaction, things that become increasingly difficult for homebound individuals to enjoy. Look for facilities that make mental stimulation and emotional enrichment a cornerstone of their care, as opposed to ones that take a more custodial approach. A well-run community will recognize that one’s psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing are intimately linked.

 

Residents also have access to trained staff members who know how to manage a variety of physical and mental conditions. While individuals in an independent living unit may receive periodic visits from staff members during the day, assisted living and nursing communities typically provide round-the-clock supervision by a nurse or a certified nursing assistant, all within a secured building.

 

The advantages of long-term care are especially strong for individuals who suffer from significant mental impairments such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Facilities that specialize in memory-related conditions usually hire staff members with specific training in this area; consequently, they’re uniquely prepared to identify and address the safety and health concerns faced by such residents. While a home health aide may be able to provide an aging family member with extra attention, he or she may not have the specialized skills available through a first-rate facility.

 

One of the areas a specialized living community is able to address are the nutritional and hydration issues that frequently go along with a disease such as Alzheimer’s. Residents may receive special diets that help reduce their dependence on insulin or blood pressure medication. Or the staff may provide them with water at more frequent intervals throughout the day to make sure their intake of fluids is sufficient. For example, at our organization, CRL Senior Living Communities, residents with Alzheimer’s or other memory impairments receive two fruit or vegetable smoothies a day and cranberry juice martinis at “happy hour.” Little things like this can make a big impact.

 

Even the layout of a facility can improve a patient’s quality of life and safety. Patients with earlier stages of Alzheimer’s, for example, typically feel confined by small spaces. Communities serving this population are frequently designed with simple floor plans that encourage residents to safely explore their surroundings.

 

One of the advantages of discussing long-term care before a crisis presents itself is that families can take maximum advantage of the financial services a community provides. Some facilities even have a dedicated “financial concierge” who can help residents identify appropriate funding sources.

 

Raising the issue of long-term care usually isn’t easy. But sharing some of the advantages they offer your family member can help him or her become more comfortable with the transition and realize that their best interests are truly at heart.

 

Ari Weinberger is president of CRL Senior Living Communities (www.crlcares.com), an organization with 16 facilities in Illinois and Wisconsin, including Merrill Hills Manor in Waukesha and Northfield Manor in Menomonee Falls, which offer Alzheimers/memory care and assisted living, and Hickory Park in Greenfield, which provides independent and assisted living.

 

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