Taking a parent to live in a nursing home is difficult. Many people who ask their parents to move to a skilled nursing facility often hear a flat-out “no!” After all, who wants to leave a home that they know to permanently live in a strange place, especially when they are in their senior years? Adult children are often consumed with guilt when asking a parent to move to a nursing home, thinking that they are upsetting or harming their loved one, that somehow it is abandonment.
Most people come to elder care after an event that makes it difficult or unsafe for the person to live on their own; or it highlights reasons why the elderly person should not have been living on their own for a while now. This can mean that the elderly loved one’s physical health has deteriorated, and other times it can mean that behavior and mental issues resulting from old age or illness have rendered an independent life impossible or dangerous.
No matter how our emotions may cloud reality, the truth of the matter is that your parent is in danger if they remain living alone – you understand that, which is why you are reading this and looking for a solution.
When a loved one is in the winter years of life, we are reminded that our time together is limited. This is especially true for people who have lost one parent already. When people lose a parent, it is a sorrow that never leaves, and they are missed every day. Therefore, when a second parent needs care, the children may feel that they must take on total care responsibilities. After all, if you miss one parent, how can you send the other to live away?
There is no way to change how much time we have together, but what you do have control over is the quality of time spent together rather than the quantity. The reality is that most people are not equipped to provide full-service medical and nursing help to their parents. That is, unless they are healthcare professionals, in which case they are likely busy at work all day. Leaving work to provide around the clock care to a loved one is not a luxury most people have, and no one wants to leave an elderly sick person home alone all day. Isn’t that why you are looking for the perfect nursing home for your parent in the first place?
At the end of the day, your parent’s health, safety, and long-term happiness is most important, and a decision made in service of those things cannot be worthy of guilt.
Most people start to look for a nursing home in the midst of an emergency situation, which is not the time to make an important decision. Make an appointment to visit a nursing home or two to see if you or a loved one enjoy the facility. This will give you the opportunity to ask any questions, including detailed questions about cost, insurance, and payment.
Your visit will also serve to calm any doubt or nerves that may exist around living in a nursing home. As with most things in life, it is the unknown that is more frightening than reality. Most people tour a nursing home and find that its comforts are not too different than those at home, and that the environment can provide much needed socializing.
The first thing to consider when selecting nursing home candidates for short-term or long-term care is which specialty care options you or your loved one may require. Some nursing homes specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, others may cater specifically to residents who are going through rehabilitation, and others may not have a concentration at all.
During your visit, ask to stay for lunch or dinner. Dining during a meal service is the best way to see (and taste) the food that will make up all or most of your meals for an extended period of time. Staying for a meal also helps you see how meal service works (time, frequency, etc.) at the home, as it may vary from facility to facility. Some nursing home allow residents to eat any time, within reason, while others serve meals at set times. Some people do well on a set schedule and benefit from that routine; however, others prefer to exercise choice at any given time and want the option of dining at any time.
Pay attention to the other residents and how they pass their time. A nursing home should have some recreational activities for residents, depending on the intensity of care being provided. If you will potentially have an extended stay and require long-term care and require a familiar environment, ask if residents are allowed to personalize the bedroom with personal effects.
Before making any final decisions, get information straight from the source. Ask residents who you meet on your tour what they think of the home; what are the pros and cons? What do they love and what do they want to see changed? When you get home, search reviews to see what different people are saying about their experience with the home.
National Caregivers Day
Mother’s Day is in May; Father’s Day is in June; and Grandparents’ Day is in September – what about the people that take care of the grandparents? Coming up this month is National Caregivers Day, the soon-to-be annual recognition of the trusted people that take care of the elderly and the ill, which is held on the third Friday in February – this year on February 19.
Professional caregivers provide individual attention and treatment management for people who require long-term care or are in hospice care. Caregivers are entrusted with providing elderly and ill people with vital services to keep them going and to do so healthily. A caregiver’s job is to be medically trained and attentive while also providing compassion and companionship to their patients in a long-term nursing home environment, in a short-term rehabilitation setting, or in the patient’s own home.
National Caregivers Day is actually a brand new holiday, being officially established by Providers Association for Home Health & Hospice Agencies (PAHHHA) in 2015. The very first observation of National Caregivers Day will be this year on February 19. However, this day of observation will likely stick around, as there are dates already set and advertised through 2026. This nationwide observation comes on the heels of other caregiver-focused days and months, but those typically focus on family caregivers. Although family caregivers are the most common type in the United States, there is still an army of highly trained professionals that are providing immeasurable care and support.
This is a bandwagon that everyone is encouraged to hop on because it inspires a showing kindness and appreciation for those who work very hard to care for your loved ones. All families who have a loved one receiving care can participate in National Caregivers Day, it just takes a little imagination.
Buy a small gift for the caregiver that shows that your family appreciates their efforts. The gift is not about the monetary amount associated with it, it does not have to be expensive – keep it simple! Do you know if your parents’ caregiver enjoys jogging? Then an iTunes gift certificate can keep them in fresh music to keep their workout fun and challenging. Does the caregiver work long hours, starting early in the morning? Then they would appreciate a gift card to Starbucks to keep themselves caffeinated. National Caregivers Day is all about making a connection with the professionals charged with your loved one’s’ care and expressing gratitude
Robots Are the Future of Elder Care
In any economy, it is known that one of the most stable careers is one in medicine and in elderly care. No matter what, people will age and get sick, and therefore require medical care. And as time goes on and people age, they will require specialized care and attention. As constant as they may be, like medicine, elderly care is not immune to change over time and the influence of technology. Cutting edge technology is a strong force in medicine and now it is also making quite a splash in elderly care.
There is a great need for nursing home staff in the United States. By 2020, “direct care” is forecast to be the largest job category in the country. This need inspired the creation of robots and semi-autonomous machines that could provide a helping hand. The robotics company Luvozo created the SAM robot, an autonomous-human hybrid that costs nursing homes only 25 percent of what a qualified human nurse salary would cost, and even this early-stage model is able to perform some of a nurse’s tasks.
SAM helps nurses by moving around the nursing home and checking up on residents, looking for fall hazards like clutter and spills, and it has a link to a caretaker. The robot is even capable of smalltalk about sports and weather, to greet the residents when it enters. At this stage, SAM is a nurse’s assistant at-best. Although SAM is multi-capable, the robot cannot provide any medical care.
SAM has already been tested in a real nursing home. Last summer Luvozo introduced SAM into a Washington, D.C. nursing home with reportedly great results. Observers marveled at how residents quickly adapted to SAM, even asking the robot if it was having a good day. SAM could hit the market nationwide as soon as 2017, with additional features, like the ability for family members to leave video messages for their loved ones.
It is difficult to predict where this kind of elder care technology will lead, but it is clear that this is only the beginning. However, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of robot concierges like SAM. When the current youth grow to become the elderly population, they will be very accustom to having machines and technology all around them – but that is not true for the current older generation. After all, there is nothing like personal attention and contact from a caring person
Helping Elderly Prepare for Fall Temperatures
Fall has come early in the Midwest and it’s a reminder that this summer has been all too short. This means that it’s time to start preparing for autumn, and that goes double for elderly people living alone or in other home arrangements.
The beginning of autumn brings a spike in season-related falls and illnesses as the changing weather sets in. When the temperature drops, we tend to stay indoors more, but still spend a lot of time outdoors during the early months. This requires twice the preparation, which can be difficult for elderly people that live on their own and have to maintain property.
Still, fall can be a really fun and beautiful time of year for everyone, the key is to take these steps to get ready.
Cold and flu season starts in the fall and with temperatures already dipping and people staying indoors, seasonal illnesses start early too so get your seasonal flu vaccine. Wash your hands carefully with hot, soapy water for at least 30 seconds to control the spread of germs. Youshould also get plenty of sleep, like the rest of the year, to keep your immune system strong and you healthy.
Elderly people that live alone should hire a specialist to check on their heating systems. Regardless of the living situation, now is a good time to pick up a space heater or two in case you feel chilly in an otherwise warm place. Make sure you never leave them unattended and leave at least three feet between it and a wall or curtains. Whether an elderly person lives on their own or in an assisted living community, it can take more time to get these types of errands accomplished so it’s a good idea to get started early in the season.
Summer has the reputation of being the season of yard work and outdoor activities, but autumn is still warm enough to enjoy time outside. The season can pose some obstacles in that rains create slick surfaces and falling leaves can contribute to unsafe conditions. There can be a lot of work involved with maintaining a safe outdoor space and walkways during autumn, so it’s best to hire a landscaping service to rake leaves and perform last trims before the winter. This way you can help prevent debris on your walkways and steps, but it’s important to still be careful when outside.
US Government’s Renewed Commitment to Elder Care
Many news stories that have been in the media lately have focused on what appears to be the United States’ government’s renewed commitment to elder care. Organizations are calling for improved nursing home administered to Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, and the Obama administration is hearing them loud and clear.
There are approximately 1.5 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in the U.S. that are receiving treatment across 15,000 long-term care facilities and nursing homes across the country. The new care proposal is a whopping 403 pages and it aims to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) unnecessary hospital readmissions and infections while improving quality of care and safety. Barack Obama announced a new set of rules and regulations at the White House Conference on Aging.
A document of this size surely has a lot of information and supporting data, but the highlights are already pleasing nursing home residents and others who have held off moving to a long-term care facility due to fear. Regulatory changes include ensuring that staff members are properly trained in dementia care and preventing elder abuse, improved care planning (including discharge planning) that involves an interdisciplinary team, and a thorough follow up including instructions to new facilities (in cases of a transfer).
This new proposal touches on another factor that is often overlooked. There are more controls put in place now to ensure that nursing home and long-term care residents are not unnecessarily prescribed antipsychotic medications. The over prescription of unnecessary antipsychotic medications can lead to death and other serious health and mental problems.
The new rules were proposed by CMS, the leading payer for long-term care in the U.S. Overall, nearly 64 percent of nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid, 14 percent are covered by Medicare, and the remaining 22 percent are covered by another payer. The new proposal would likely cost the nursing home industry around $729 million in the first year of its implementation, and $638 million in the second year.
Although senior advocacy groups and residents alike are thrilled with the possibility of widespread reform, some are not as excited. For one, these measures do little to address the chronic problem of nursing home staffing – particularly the understaffing and overworking of employees that leads to burnout symptoms like exhaustion and apathy.
Notes on these new rules are not due until mid-September so it appears that this is going to be a long process, like most things in government. For now, it is up to every nursing home and long-term care facility provider to hold themselves accountable for the quality of care they offer and raise the bar.
Registered Nurse Nursing Home Staffing
A bill recently introduced to Congress by Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky is one that is being celebrated by residents of nursing homes and their families. The representative introduced Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act (H.R. 952) in February, which would mandate that skilled nursing homes that receive federal reimbursements from Medicare or Medicaid to staff a direct-care registered nurse at all times – 24 hours per day, seven days per week. At this time, the requirement is to staff one direct-care registered nurse for at least eight hours during a 24-hour period, regardless of the size of the home.
So far, 11 representatives from eight states have cosponsored the bill. Although the list is growing, with three more sponsors joining the list in June, so far only congressmen and congresswomen from the Democratic Party have back this effort. Not surprisingly, national and local nursing associations and consumer advocates are championing this bill, as well. In her statement half a year before the bill was formerly introduced to Congress, Rep. Schakowsky wrote in a press release:
“Putting a loved one in a nursing facility is always a difficult decision. We must ensure that seniors and the disabled in nursing homes are not harmed because there is no RN on site to take care of their needs. Every American deserves the right to age with dignity and respect, and I urge my colleagues to support the Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act in order to guarantee proper care for our loved ones who reside in nursing homes nationwide.”
This news excites many people because, at times, there can still be a stigma regarding the level of care and quality of life in a nursing home. It is crucial to consider factors such as staffing and access to medical professionals in an emergency when choosing a skilled nursing home to entrust your wellbeing or that of a loved one. The Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act strives to alleviate the worry for families and ensure that this level of care is provided to everyone. Luckily, those that are currently living in a home that focuses on quality around-the-clock care will likely not notice a difference.
Currently, the Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act bill is making its way around various committees. The last significant update on the status of the bill was shortly after its announcement in February 2015 and no official vote date has been set.