Moving into an Assisted Living Facility
The goal of assisted living is to allow your parent or loved one to stay independent in a home-like setting. A quality assisted living facility can have a tremendous positive impact on your parents' mental, physical, and social well-being. But you need to find the right one. The checklist on the left will guide you.

Understand the Basics
 

Are you parents or other loved ones having trouble with activities of daily living? Have you exhausted other care options? Time to consider an assisted living facility.

An assisted living facility usually include a room or small apartment and meals, along with personal care and support services, social activities, and 24-hour supervision.

Some also offer health-related services. Their mission: to help your loved one enjoy the freedom and independence of private living.

Assisted living provides relatively independent seniors with assistance and limited health care services in a home-like atmosphere. They are designed to:

  • Minimize the need to relocate;
  • Accommodate individual residents’ changing needs and preferences;
  • Maximize residents’ dignity, autonomy, privacy, independence, choice and safety; and
  • Encourage family and community involvement.

Services include 24-hour protective oversight, food, shelter, and a range of services that promote your quality of life. The facilities are licensed by state governments.

They may be called many different names including residential care, board and care, congregate care, and personal care. Assisted living care is not the same as nursing facility care.

Because there is no common definition for assisted living facilities, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of facilities. However, it is currently estimated that there are 36,000 assisted living residences nationwide.

The "typical" assisted living customer is 85 years old. Three quarters of assisted living residents are female. About 68 percent of assisted living residents need assistance with bathing and almost half need help with dressing.1

Assisted living homes are very different from one another in size, appearance, and the types of services they offer. Some provide only meals, basic housekeeping, and help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing and grooming. Others also arrange transportation and certain health services. Costs vary greatly, and the monthly fee varies depending on the services provided.

The facility could be a small home with just a few people or a high-rise apartment-style building with as many as 200 or more residents. Living areas could be a single room or a full apartment with a small kitchen, with prepared meals also served in a common dining area.

This arrangement is good for people who can't live on their own but who don't need a nursing home. Older people have many different needs.

Those needs often change over time, so assisted living offers different levels of care at different costs. Residents who live in an assisted living facility that is associated with a nursing home may be able to get additional services if they need them later. 2

Services And Activities

The services and activities provided or arranged for in assisted living residences generally include:

  • 24-hour supervision;
  • Three meals a day in a group dining room; and
  • A range of services that promote the quality of life and independence of the individual; such as :
  • Personal care services (help with bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.)
  • Medication management, or assistance with self-administration of medicine;
  • Social services;
  • Supervision and assistance for persons with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and disabilities;
  • Recreational and spiritual activities;
  • Exercise and wellness programs;
  • Laundry and linen service;
  • Housekeeping and maintenance; and,
  • Arrangements for transportation.

In most states, assisted living residences are registered, licensed or certified by an appropriate department or agency of the state that has a process for issuance of initial licenses and for renewing existing licenses.

Each resident receives individualized services to help him/her function within the residence and within the community. Upon admission, a service plan is usually developed to coordinate the delivery of services to each resident.

The agreement, which includes an assessment or evaluation of the resident’s physical and psychosocial needs, is reviewed and updated regularly by the staff, and as the resident’s condition indicates. The resident and family, or responsible party are encouraged to play an active role in the development of the service plan.

A resident care or wellness coordinator is usually designated to oversee the process of developing, implementing, and evaluating the progress of the service plan. A copy of the service plan is provided to the resident, family, or responsible party upon request.

Personal Care And Health Services

Assisted living residences provide supervision or assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs); coordination of services by outside health care providers; and monitoring of resident activities to help to ensure his or her health, safety, and well-being. Assistance may include the administration or supervision of medication, or certain personal care services by a trained staff person.

The residence may assist in arranging the appropriate medical, health, and dental care services for each resident. The resident generally chooses his or her medical doctor and dental services.

Residents who have periods of temporary incapacity due to illness, injury, or recuperation from surgery often are allowed to remain in the residence or to return from a rehabilitation center, skilled nursing facility or hospital if appropriate services can be provided by the assisted living residence.

It is important to remember that assisted living residences are a bridge between living at home and living in a nursing home. Assisted living residences do not typically provide the level of continuous skilled nursing care found in nursing homes and hospitals.

Residence Accommodations

A residence is defined by the scope of services it provides, not by the number of residents it serves. It is important for residents and families to understand what services the residence offers, as well as the costs and limitations of those services.

Accommodations and options may vary greatly from one assisted living residence to the next (e.g. private rooms, private baths, kitchenettes, etc.). Personal needs and preferences are important criteria for selecting a residence and the amenities it offers.

Most residences are constructed and equipped to comply with a host of local, state and federal regulations. Assisted living residences are designed to be operated, staffed and maintained in a manner appropriate to the needs and desires of the residents served.

Caring for residents with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and disabilities requires a residence design and philosophy that assure resident safety and autonomy. Such services should be provided in an appropriate and safe setting that adheres to appropriate local, state and federal regulations.3

1NACL
2AARP
3Long Term Care Living

Assess Your Needs
 

When does a loved one need assisted living? When they can no longer live safely at home.

As they age, parents or other family members may have trouble getting around the house, driving, or remembering the things they used to.

Your first step: Get a professional assessment of their cognitive and physical abilities.

An assessment can help your family member live at home longer. It can also prevent accidents and producer a longer and high quality lilfe.

It's never easy to recognize when a family member needs help. Learning how to assess their needs will make it easier to help.

Assessments should focus on the following areas:


  • Physical Health. Does your family member have chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, or emphysema. What other diseases have they had: bowel or bladder problems, heart disease, stroke, or cancer? How is their vision or hearing? Have they had excessive weight loss or gain or trouble walking? List all of the person’s health professionals, as well as recent hospitalizations.
  • Mental Health. Has your loved one been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or psychosis? With Alzheimer's or another form of dementia? Is he or she getting confused, disoriented, or socially isolated? Suffer from mood swings or forgetfulness?
  • Medication Use. What medications is the person taking, their dosages, and how often. Include over the counter medications and supplements. Do they have trouble taking medication as directed?
  • Daily Living Skills. If your loved one is having problems dressing, bathing, getting up from a chair, using a toilet, climbing stairs, or using the phone, consider ways to make the home safer. If that’s not feasible, consider bringing in outside help. Other issues to consider: handling of emergencies, cooking, shopping, and driving.
  • Home and Community Safety. Does the person live in a safe neighborhood? Does the home have smoke alarms? Can the person hear them? Is the individual susceptible to telephone and door-to-door fraud? Able to do home indoor and outdoor home maintenance?
  • Support Systems. Friends, family, and activity are crucial. Does your loved one have frequent visitors and friends? Does he or she go to a Senior Center and get out socially? Do other family members live close by? Can you quickly contact key friends and family members in cases of emergency?
  • Finances. Can your loved one live on current cash flow? Will you need to provide financial assistance? Does the person manage finances responsibly?
  • Interests/Lifestyles. Does the person still enjoy hobbies, stay engaged with current events, go to movies or church?

The above items will help you think broadly about your loved one’s needs. However, you may want to consider hiring a geriatric consultant to conduct a more rigorous assessment. Get referrals from your local senior center, hospital, or agency on aging.

Consider a Higher Level of Care
 

If your loved one needs more involved care, consider the benefits of long-term care.

Nearly half of all Americans will need long-term care at some point in their lives. In fact, one in five over the age of 50 is at a high risk of needing long-term care within the next 12 months.

Therefore, try to arrange for care before your loved one actually needs it.

Have the conversation about long-term care before the need arises.

By planning ahead, you can find the quality of care and quality of life that you desire in a long-term care facility. Planning ahead will also make the transition easier because many important decisions will already have been made or at least discussed.

When considering long-term care, a key advantage to planning ahead is that you will be better prepared financially. While many people pay for long-term care with their own funds, purchasing long-term care insurance is an excellent way to prepare for these expenses.

In some cases, employers will provide long-term care insurance in their benefits package. Medicare, a government program for citizens 65 and older, may cover the first 20 days of skilled care in a nursing facility and may partially pay for the next 80 days for a total benefit not to exceed 100 days, as long as the person qualifies.

Another way long-term care is financed is with Medicaid. Medicaid is a government welfare program for those individuals without the ability to pay for health care themselves.

Financial concerns can be the most challenging part when considering long-term care. The level of care needed, the setting where the care is provided and the geographic location determines cost. To ease the process, your financial records should be well organized.

Take the initiative by doing your homework and offering options.

Before beginning the conversation with your loved ones, it is important to know the basics of long-term care. Being knowledgeable about the types of care available in your community will help you through the conversation.

With this information, you will be able to lessen the fears of your loved ones by providing educated answers to questions they might have.

Many people experience feelings of guilt when they consider long-term care for their loved ones. This is normal and. However, there may come a time when you are going to need more care or supervision than you or others can provide.

Long-term care gives professional caregivers the opportunity to provide the quality of care and quality of life you need and deserve in a safe, secure environment.

Include others in decision-making.

There are other people who will be able to offer guidance on what kind of services your loved one will need and how to tap into community resources.

During the discussion, it is helpful to designate what is most important when it comes to your care. That can include input from many different sources including your family members, physician, spiritual advisor, close friends or neighbors. They may have an understanding of what type of care is necessary and some will be able to help determine what facilities can best meet your needs.

Consider long-term care insurance.

Many Americans do not plan ahead financially for their long-term care needs. Others wrongly assume that Medicare, Medicare supplemental policies or standard health insurance policies will cover the costs of long-term care services provided in settings such as nursing facilities or assisted living residences. Consequently, many Americans are needlessly impoverished each year by the costs of long-term care.

Long-term care insurance is an excellent way to protect yourself from these expenses, and this brochure will help you through the important process of understanding and comparing long-term care insurance policies. Finding a good policy will take some effort, but the effort will be worthwhile.

© 2005 American Health Care Association

Choose an Assisted Living Facility
 

Which facility to choose? The one that can maintain the dignity and independence of your loved one.

The types and number of assisted living facilities can be overwhelming. Solution: Do your homework. By asking the right questions, you'll find one with the right services and care approach.

An Assisted Living Facility is a place for people who don't need to be in a hospital but can't be cared for at home. Most facilities have nursing aides and skilled nurses on hand 24 hours a day.

Some facilities are set up like a hospital. The staff provides medical care, as well as physical, speech and occupational therapy. There might be a nurses' station on each floor.

Other facilities try to be more like home. They try to have a neighborhood feel. Often, they don't have a fixed day-to-day schedule, and kitchens might be open to residents. Staff members are encouraged to develop relationships with residents.

Some facilities have special care units for people with serious memory problems such as Alzheimer's disease. Some will let couples live together. facilities are not only for the elderly, but for anyone who requires 24-hour care.

Facilities can be:

  • Hospital-like. This type of facility is often set up like a hospital. Staff give medical care, as well as physical, speech, and occupational therapy. There can be a nurses station on each floor. As a rule, one or two people live in a room. A number of facilities will let couples live together. Things that make a room special, like family photos, are often welcome.
  • Household-like. These facilities are designed to be more like homes and the day-to-day routine isn't fixed. Teams of staff and residents try to create a neighborhood feel. Kitchens are often open to residents, decorations give a sense of home, and staff are encouraged to develop relationships with residents.

Some facilities have visiting doctors who see their patients on site. Other facilities have patients visit the doctor's office. facilities sometimes have separate areas called Special Care Units for people with serious memory problems, often called dementia. When looking for a facility, it's important for families to think about these special needs.

How Do You Choose?

The National Institute of Aging recommends you keep the following in mind if you are looking for a facility:

  • Look. What choices are in your area? Is there a place close to family and friends? What's important to you—nursing care, meals, a religious connection, hospice care, or Special Care Units for dementia care?
  • Ask. Talk with friends, relatives, social workers, and religious groups to find out what places they suggest. Ask doctors which facilities they feel provide good care?
  • Call. Get in touch with each place on your list. Ask questions about how many people live there and what it costs. Find out about waiting lists.
  • Visit. Make plans to meet with the director and the nursing director. The Medicare facility Checklist (see Resources That Can Help) has a good list to use when visiting. Some things to look for:
    • Medicare and Medicaid certification
    • handicap access
    • strong odors (either bad or good)
    • many food choices
    • residents who look well cared for
    • enough staff for the number of patients
  • Talk. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask how long the director and department heads (nursing, food, and social services) have worked at the facility. If key staff change a lot, that could mean there is a problem.
  • Visit again. Make a second visit without first calling. Try another day of the week or time of day so you will meet other staff members and see other activities. Stop by at mealtime. Do people seem to be enjoying their food?
  • Understand. Once you choose, carefully read the contract. Check with your State Ombudsman for help making sense of the contract.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asks each State to inspect any facility that gets money from the government. Homes that don't pass inspection are not certified. Ask to see the current inspection report and certification of homes you are thinking about. Visit www.medicare.gov for more information.

Resources That Can Help

The rules about programs and benefits for facilities can change. Medicare has some helpful resources online. Visit www.medicare.gov for information about different care options.

You can find facilities in your area that are approved by CMS by visiting the Medicare website. You can also see summaries of recent inspection reports. Visit facility Compare at www.medicare.gov/NHCompare. The facility Checklist at the same website is a good guide to use when thinking about facilities.

Many States have State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Programs (SHIP). These programs can help you choose the health insurance that is right for you and your family. Visit www.medicare.gov/Nursing/Payment.asp.

Each State also has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman office that helps people learn about long-term care. Your local office may be able to answer general questions about a specific facility. Also, once you are living in a facility, the Ombudsman can help solve problems you may have with a facility. The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center has more information. Visit www.ltcombudsman.org.

A veteran in need of long-term care might be able to get help through the Department of Veterans Affairs programs. Visit www.va.gov or call VA Health Care Benefits toll-free at 877-222-8387. You can also contact a VA medical center near you.

National Institute on Aging, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, January 2007

Pay for Care
 

Assisted living isn't cheap. Weigh financial options carefully.

Costs for assisted living residences vary greatly, depending on room size, amenities, services provided, and location.

Calculating the approximate cost is important as well as understanding what happens if you run out of money.

In addition to the emotional issues involved, caring for an aging parent often stretches a family's financial resources. According to Consumer Reports, taking in a parent can add $7,000 or more to household expenses, including higher utility, food, and transportation costs and, possibly home remodeling.

A 2004 study of long-distance care providers estimated a monthly cost of $392 ($4,700 a year), which includes travel, medicine, phone bills, meals, and home maintenance. The cost is much higher when the value of lost wages and retirement plan savings, as a result of caregiving, is included.

Assisting a Parent Financially

If your parents need financial assistance, this advice may help you gather information, conserve assets, and make plans.

  • Encourage parents to share their personal and financial records. Otherwise, it will be difficult to assist them. Understand, however, that it may be difficult for parents to share information about their financial affairs with their children. They may consider this information "private" or fear a loss of control. Explain that you aren't being "nosy", but simply want to be well prepared to help out if needed.
  • Find out the location of important documents such as a will, marriage and birth certificates, military records, a living will, financial account information, mortgages and debts, and tax returns. Also secure the names and phone numbers of a parent's advisors (such as their lawyer and insurance agent) and learn the location and contents of their safe deposit box. All of this information is frequently found in a parent's home record-keeping system.
  • Caregivers will need the information described above to pay bills, deposit money in accounts, apply for insurance benefits and Medicaid, and handle other financial transactions for their aging parents. They may also need some type of legal authority, such as a durable power of attorney, guardianship, or Social Security representative payee status.
  • Help aging parents calculate their net worth (assets minus debts) and develop a budget for meeting basic living expenses.
  • Arrange direct deposit for regular income streams (for example, Social Security and pension) and automatic withdrawals for regular monthly expenses. This will save caregivers time and prevent situations in which older persons forget to pay their bills.
  • When caregivers first begin to handle their parents' financial affairs, they may need to spend some time contacting creditors, paying unpaid bills, and organizing household records.
  • Help parents stretch their assets as long as possible. For example, take advantage of all available public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and state prescription drug assistance programs for income-eligible seniors.
  • Online resources to determine what benefits are available at www.benefitscheckup.org.
  • A parent's home equity, through either a reverse mortgage or a sale-leaseback arrangement with an adult child, can also provide income with which to pay long-term care expenses. 1

Pay for care

An important part of planning for long-term care is deciding how to pay for services. This is because long-term care is very expensive, and contrary to what many people believe, their Medicare coverage will not pay for most of the long-term care services they need.

While some people may qualify for Medicaid – the major payer of long-term care services, most people won't. There are other federal public programs, such as the Older American's Act, or state funded programs, that pay some long-term care services, but like Medicaid they target those people with the most functional and financial need.

Consequently, if you are one of the 60% of people over the age of 65 who will need long-term care services – there's a very good chance you will have to pay for some or all of your long-term care services out of your personal income and resources.

Paying for long-term care out of your personal income and resources can be challenging. Even if you have a modest need for assistance at home with personal care, say a visit from a home health aide 3 times a week, based on 2006 average costs, you would have to pay about $16,000 a year for those services.

To make the best decisions about how to pay for long-term care you need to understand what services cost, what public programs you are eligible for and what they cover, what private financing options are available, and which ones work best for you.

What does Long-Term care cost?

LTC includes a broad range of health and support services that people need as they age or if they are disabled. The majority of these services are personal care, or assistance with activities of daily living that many families are able to provide all, or some of, free.

But, as care and support needs increase, paid care is usually needed to supplement family provided services and supports, provide respite to family caregivers, or to pay for more extensive services in a facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living, when individuals can no longer be cared for in their homes.

There are variations in costs based on the type and amount of care you need, the provider you use, and where you live. Home health and home care services, provided in two-to-four-hour blocks of time referred to as "visits" are generally more expensive in the evening, or on weekends or holidays.

The costs of services in some community programs, such as adult day service programs, are often provided at a per-day rate, but vary based on overhead and programming costs. Many care facilities charge extra for services provided beyond the basic room-and-board charge, although some may have "all inclusive" fees.

The average costs in the United States (in 2006) are:

  • $171/day for a semi-private room in a nursing home
  • $194/day for a private room in a nursing home
  • $2,691/month for care in an Assisted Living Facility (for a one-bedroom unit)
  • $25/hour for a Home Health Aide
  • $17/hour for a Homemaker services
  • $56/day for care in an Adult Day Health Care Center

If you have sufficient income and assets, you are likely to pay for your long-term care needs on your own, out of those private resources. If you meet functional eligibility criteria and have limited financial resources, or deplete them paying for care, Medicaid may pay for your care.

If you require primarily skilled or recuperative care for a short time, Medicare may pay. The Older Americans Act is another Federal program that helps pay for long-term care services. Some people use a variety of payment sources as their care needs and financial circumstances change.

Long-Term Care Services

Nursing Home Care
Medicare Pays in full for days 0-20 if you are in a Skilled Nursing Facility following a recent hospital stay. If your need for skilled care continues, may pay for days 21 through 100 after you pay a $119/day co-payment
Private Medigap Insurance May cover the $119/day copayment if your nursing home stay meets all other Medicare requirements.
Medicaid May pay for care in a Medicaid-certified nursing home if you meet functional and financial eligibility criteria.
You Pay on Your Own If you need only personal or supervisory care in a nursing home and/or have not had a prior hospital stay, or if you choose a nursing home that does not participate in Medicaid or is not Medicare-certified.

 

Assisted Living Facility (and similar facility options)
Medicare Does not pay
Private Medigap Insurance Does not pay
Medicaid In some states, may pay care-related costs, but not room and board
You Pay on Your Own You pay on your own except as noted under Medicaid if eligible.

 

Continuing Care Retirement Community
Medicare Does not pay
Private Medigap Insurance Does not pay
Medicaid Does not pay
You Pay on Your Own You pay on your own

 

Adult Day Services
Medicare Not covered
Private Medigap Insurance Not Covered
Medicaid Varies by state, financial and functional eligibility required
You Pay on Your Own You pay on your own [except as noted under Medicaid if eligible.]

 

Home Health Care
Medicare Limited to reasonable, necessary part-time or intermittent skilled nursing care and home health aide services, and some therapies that are ordered by your doctor and provided by Medicare-certified home health agency. Does not pay for on-going personal care or custodial care needs only (help with activities of daily living).
Private Medigap Insurance Not covered
Medicaid Pay for, but states have option to limit some services, such as therapy
You Pay on Your Own You pay on your own for personal or custodial care, except as noted under Medicaid, if you are eligible.

Paying for Nursing Home Care

People usually pay for nursing home in one or more of the following ways:

  • Private pay. Some people pay for long-term care with their own savings for as long as possible. When that is no longer possible, they may get help from Medicaid. If you think you may need to apply for Medicaid at some point, make sure the nursing home accepts it. Not all homes do.
  • Medicaid. This is a State program for people with low incomes. Each State decides who qualifies. Contact your State government to learn if you qualify. Keep in mind that getting approved for Medicaid can take three or more months.
  • Long-term care insurance. Some people buy private long-term care insurance. It can pay part of the costs for a nursing home or other long-term care. This type of insurance is sold by many different companies and benefits vary widely. Look carefully at several policies before making a choice.

Many people believe Medicare will pay for long stays in a nursing home, but it doesn't. It is important to check with Medicare and private "Medigap" (Medicare add-on) insurance to find out the current rules. For example, Medicare may only cover the first 100 days in a skilled nursing home for people needing special care after leaving the hospital.

When thinking about costs, keep in mind that there can be extra out-of-pocket charges for some supplies, personal care like hair appointments, laundry, and services that are outside routine care.2

1© 2005 National Endowment for Financial Education. All rights reserved.
2© National Institute on Aging, "Age Page, Nursing Home: Making the Right Choice," National Institute on Aging, U.S. National Institutes of Health, viewed 8/3/2010 at: www.nia.nih.gov/healthinformation/publications/nursinghomes.htm

Cope with Transition

Moving to an assisted living facility can be traumatic. Help your loved one through the transition.

Assisted living facilities provide home-like settings. But they’re not home yet.

Plan ahead.

As far in advance as you can, begin planning for the move. Remember, the professionally trained staff understands your concerns and is eager to help your loved one make a smooth transition to the facility.

Tell the facility about your loved one.

Your family physician can provide much of this information. The more the facility knows, the better they can help your family member adjust to daily life. Provide them with written details about individual habits and practices.

Include information about:

Diet

  • Good eater?
  • Any dietary restrictions: religious, medical or allergy-related?
  • Meal times typical portion size?
  • What about likes and dislikes?

Mobility

  • To what extent can your parent or loved one get around independently?
  • Need help because of poor eyesight?
  • Will accept help from a staff person or resent it?

Personal Care

  • Desired privacy?
  • What types of activities can be performed independently?
  • Manage personal bathing and grooming?
  • Prefer a bath or a shower?

Living conditions

  • Did your loved one share a room or bathroom?
  • Always did own cooking?
  • Likes eating with others?
  • Concerned about having a roommate?
  • Preferences that might relate to roommate selection?

Mental state

  • Becomes fearful in strange surroundings or at night?
  • Always knows who he or she is; oriented in time and place? who you are, where you

Religion

  • Has a religion? Active worshiper?
  • Wishes a particular clergy member to visit?
  • Would welcome or be hesitant of a visit by a new clergy member?

Habits and Practices

  • Smoke or drink?
  • Have a set routine that involves activities that are enjoyed and anticipated, such as watching a particular television show, going for a walk after breakfast or reading a particular newspaper?

Special Interests

  • Keeps busy? How?
  • Has hobbies?
  • Enjoys membership in clubs and social groups?
  • Has a special interest in sports, music, arts and crafts or gardening?

While some changes in lifestyle are going to be necessary, facility staff will do their best to help your loved one maintain their current living practices.

Complete paperwork early.

Get a head start on contract and financial details. Before admission day, fill out forms to the best of your ability, making note of questions. Provide a medical and personal history.

Openly discuss all costs. Know what's included and what's extra. Review your understanding of payment, money management and other details. Don't hesitate to ask questions.

Bring some of your loved one’s personal belongings.

Items from home are very important. A small piece of furniture, pictures, books, a radio or TV, a lamp, a clock — these familiar items will ease the transition. Discuss with staff what's appropriate to bring.

If some of the personal belongings have monetary value, make arrangements with the staff for safekeeping.

Consider clothing needs and laundry facilities. Be sure your loved one has enough comfortable clothing. Label each item with name.

Treatment decisions.

Encourage your loved one to prepare an advance directive. If you have questions, contact an attorney.

Let a new life begin.

Get your family involved.

Frequent visits from friends and family are critical. One way for them to stay involved: join the facility's family council, if available.

Get Support
 

As a caregiver to a parent or other relative, you have a lot on your mind. Get the help you need.

When a loved one needs your help, it’s easy to get overwhelmed—and isolated. Don’t let that happen. Take full advantage of your local caregiver’s resources.

Many local and national caregiver support groups and community services are available to help you cope with caring for your aging parents. If you don't know where to find help, contact your state's department of eldercare services.

Or, call (800) 677-1116 to reach the Eldercare Locator, an information and referral service sponsored by the federal government that can direct you to resources available nationally or in your area. Some of the services available in your community may include:

  • Caregiver support groups and training
  • Adult day care
  • Respite care
  • Guidelines on how to choose a nursing home
  • Free or low-cost legal advice

Once you've gathered all of the necessary information, you may find some gaps. Perhaps your mother doesn't have a health-care directive, or her will is outdated. You may wish to consult an attorney or other financial professional whose advice both you and your parents can trust.

© 2005 Forefield, Inc.

Take Care of Yourself
 

You can’t care for your spouse if you get sick yourself. Stay well.

Caring for someone can sometimes be overwhelming. As you well know, it can be physically demanding, emotionally draining, and cause stress and conflict when combined with other responsibilities.

So don’t neglect your own physical and mental health.

Sometimes we are so deeply concerned about the well-being of the person for whom we are caring, that we forget our own needs.

We “burn the candle at both ends” and become exhausted, emotionally stressed or ill, compromising our own quality of life and our ability to care for our family member.

Some Caregiver Do’s and Don’ts

We owe it to ourselves and to our families to also maintain our own physical and emotional health by:

  1. Getting sufficient sleep
  2. Eating a healthy diet
  3. Exercising and staying physically fit
  4. Choosing appropriate health care professionals and having periodic health checkups
  5. Not abusing alcohol and drugs
  6. Spending social time with family and friends
  7. Pursuing our own interests
  8. Seeking support from family, friends, professionals, or your religious advisor or joining peer support groups
  9. Using appropriate in-home and community-based services

Keep in mind that it is normal to feel angry, frustrated, or depressed from time to time. Caregiving can be a difficult as well as a rewarding undertaking. If you are feeling stressed, angry, or depressed:

  • Remove yourself from the situation by walking away, even if it’s just around the house
  • Talk to someone with whom you feel close
  • Call a hot line
  • Talk with your doctor or other health professional
  • Write down your feelings in a journal

If you find that you frequently are angry or depressed or that your emotions are getting out of control, you may benefit from counseling, and/or get relief in the form of respite, caregiver support groups, and supportive in-home services.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Sevices