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Does My Loved One Need a Nursing Home?

The decision to place your loved one in a nursing home may be one of the most difficult decisions you ever have to make.  However, good communications with your loved one(s) about why this may be beneficial and your understanding of available options will make any potential transition into long term care, whether a nursing home or an assisted living environment, much easier.

Nursing Home - Rumph Childers

Sometimes, the decision can be obvious.  An elderly person that has already experienced a fall, a broken hip, or has been wondering the neighborhood due to progressive dementia, may need full time care immediately, and much of your investigation should then focus on the right facility.
In many other cases, perhaps you are considering this option because you are observing signs that have alarmed you in some way.  Some may appear to be minor or harmless, but others can cause harm or tragedy to your family if not properly addressed. Understanding the difference between these signs is important.
Warning signs may include an increasing problem with memory or confusion. This can be especially dangerous when it comes to forgetting to take necessary medications. Very frequently, elderly people rely on a number of medications for their well-being. Not taking medications can result in serious health conditions or even death, so this is a very important consideration. Another important factor would be if your loved one is having difficulty with getting around. This includes not only being able to walk safely, but also includes the ability to venture out into the community for goods and services that are necessary to their daily living. Loved ones who are having difficulty grocery shopping, visiting the pharmacy, or keeping doctor’s appointments can point towards the beginnings of much bigger problems.  This also includes being able to operate a car or other motor vehicle safely.
Other indicators may be more subtle and include things like a general desire of a loved one to have social interaction.  If not addressed, social isolation can lead to a general decline in one’s physical health as he or she become more sedentary, spending much of their time watching television instead of participating in daily activities and interaction, such as exercise. When a loved one spends much of his or her time alone, this can lead to a general decline in their overall mental health, like depression.  Depression can then lead to further health problems such as loss of appetite, weight loss, and inattention to daily hygiene.  These in turn lead often to more serious health problems.
Every situation is unique, but other common signs that it may be time to consider a nursing home environment include:

  • If you, yourself, have hurt yourself like a back injury trying to care for your loved one at home.
  • Your loved one’s Alzheimer’s or dementia has progressed to the point where they try to hurt you or exhibit other behaviors such as paranoia or anger as they become more out of touch with reality.
  • Your loved one has begun to wander from home and has the potential to become lost, or already has gotten lost.
  • You are having difficulty tending to other responsibilities in life due to caring for your loved one.
  • Your own health is declining, possibly due to stress and depression from the overwhelming responsibility of caring for your loved one with no outside help.
  • Your relationships are suffering either with others or with the loved one whom you are involved in taking care of.
  • You have surgery or another planned medical procedure coming up soon and may be tempted to put this important matter off because of the responsibility you have caring for your loved one.
  • Your loved ones doctor has said that it’s time for nursing home or assisted living placement.
  • Your loved one has care needs that you really can’t handle very well, despite your best efforts, such as toileting, turning, repositioning, and feeding.
  • You’ve had friends or family members repeatedly express concern for you and encourage you to look into the option of a nursing home.
  • You already have tried other options to keep your loved one at home and they just aren’t providing enough assistance to keep your loved one safe and healthy.

See http://alzheimers.about.com/od/helpyoumayneed/a/How-To-Know-When-Its-Time-For-Nursing-Home-Care.htm.

There are many resources available online. Several that were helpful in this discussion include:
http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving-resource-center/info-10-2010/ho_assessing_housing_options1.html
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/best-nursing-homes/articles/2009/03/11/figure-out-whether-a-nursing-home-is-needed
http://alzheimers.about.com/od/helpyoumayneed/a/How-To-Know-When-Its-Time-For-Nursing-Home-Care.htm
http://voices.yahoo.com/the-big-decision-putting-loved-one-nursing-42894.html