Preparing for Long Term Senior Care
Last Updated: November 19, 2019
The holidays are a wonderful time of year for fun, cheer and family gatherings. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, great meals will be shared, gifts will be exchanged, and loved ones will be reunited.
Amidst all these glad tidings, some families may learn that their loved one needs long term senior care. To avoid an unexpected downside to your holiday season, learn more about what to do in this situation.
Preparing for Long-Term Care Over the Holidays
It’s the holiday season, and it can be difficult to discover that your parents or senior loved ones may now be in need of long term senior care. The need for personal care and support can sneak up on a family. After having been apart for some time, it can become suddenly apparent that it is no longer safe for someone you care about to live alone. If this happens to you, you must assess your loved one’s ability to live independently. Complete a safety and well-being check and consider creating a blueprint for a family action plan this holiday season.1
Know the Warning Signs
Over the holidays look out for the following signs that long term care for seniors is necessary:
- Physical deterioration: Look for a loss of ability to execute what is known as the Activities of Daily Living.2 ADLs include bathing or showering, dressing, eating, functional mobility, personal hygiene, and toileting hygiene. Healthcare professionals often use ADLs to determine what level of care is needed.Also, look out for signs of rapid weight loss or an empty refrigerator. This might indicate your loved one is experiencing a loss of appetite or is struggling to prepare meals. Pay special attention to any physical injuries, the inability to maintain balance, or a loss of strength or movement. These issues can increase the risk of falling. Other things to look out for include incontinence and worsening medical conditions.
- Cognitive decline: While almost all older adults experience some level of forgetfulness, frequent lapses in memory that are starting to negatively impact one’s life can be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.3 This forgetfulness can include misplacing items, forgetting important events and appointments, and struggling to remember the names of close friends and family members. Your loved one might have difficulty carrying on a conversation. It is also common to become lost or confused while completing everyday tasks, such as going to the grocery store.
- Some mental health issues such as paranoia, delusions, mood swings, personality changes, or depression are associated with different types of dementia. A dementia diagnosis does not necessarily mean a senior must immediately leave their home. However, developing a family plan can make finding care smoother as the disease progresses.
- Environmental degradation: Make sure you look around the house to see what kind of shape it is in since the last time you visited. Is it becoming disheveled? Are household items being put in odd places where they should not be? Are there signs of damage such as a flash fire in the kitchen or automobile damage in the garage? These can be important visual clues that physical or mental deterioration is starting to take a toll.
- Driving Troubles: A recent traffic ticket or car accident should raise a red flag that your loved one may be experiencing troubles driving. From vision problems to dementia, there are several reasons older adults may experience a sudden impairment in driving.4 A good way to gauge your loved one’s driving abilities is to go on a ride with them.
- Financial Difficulties: Piles of unopened mail can reveal that your loved one is neglecting to pay their bills and may be struggling financially. Other warning signs of financial decline include taking longer than normal to complete simple financial tasks or struggling to pay attention to important details. You may also notice difficulties performing basic math or understanding financial concepts.5
Making a Long-Term Care Action Plan
If these signs are being recognized by the family, it is time to discuss an action plan for a senior loved one. Start by first coming together as a family to get on the same page. Discuss what actions need to be taken. Taking action does not mean moving someone straight into senior living. There are many levels of care and many aspects involved that the family will want to work on together.
- First, assign jobs among everyone. Someone will need to be hands-on and drive to meet with care providers and tour possible residential care facilities. They will need to get good estimates for the cost of care, including home health care. Someone will also need to take on the task of determining what kind of assets and income is available to help with long term care costs. Consider whether someone may need to be established as Power of Attorney.
- You should also consider meeting with an elder law attorney to discuss estate planning and Medicaid eligibility requirements. You will need to determine if health insurance, including long term care insurance, will be able to provide any assistance in paying for care. It also makes sense to consider meeting with a geriatric care coordinator who can give their unbiased and professional opinion on care needs and options.
- Once you have your plan in place, it is time to sit down with your loved one to have an open and honest conversation. You will want to avoid any tone that sounds like you are imposing your will on them. This should be a mutual “discovery” process that leads everyone to the same conclusion. Work together to decide that adding long-term care support to the senior’s evolving lifestyle provides safety and security.
Choosing the Best Senior Care Option
There are several long term care options to consider. An in-home caregiver can allow your loved one to stay in their home. You can hire help for particular issues the senior has such as making meals or cleaning the house. If your loved one has minimal medical care needs but needs assistance performing basic ADLs, an assisted living facility, residential care home, or a continuing care retirement community can be a good option. Individuals diagnosed with dementia may do well in a memory care facility. If your loved one has extensive health care needs, he or she may benefit from the many long term care services offered at a skilled nursing facility.
No matter what option you discuss, you should remove any negative stigma by emphasizing the positives about moving forward in this direction. For instance, at a long term care facility there are many social activities, dining options and special events that the seniors can participate in. This often gives older adults a way to make new friends.
If you see any of the listed warning signs this holiday season, be sure to discuss as a family a plan to act. Don’t ignore this subject because it is uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Use the time together as a family to bestow on your elderly loved ones possibly the greatest gifts of all – health, safety, and happiness!
About the Author
Chris Orestis, CEO of Life Care Funding, is an 18-year veteran of both the insurance and long-term care industries. A nationally known senior care advocate; he is the author of the Amazon best-seller book “Help on the Way.” He is a legislative expert, featured speaker, columnist, and contributor to a number of insurance and long-term care industry publications. Chris is a frequent guest about senior issues on national radio programs and has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Woman’s World Magazine, Fox Business News and PBS.
A former life insurance industry lobbyist with a background in long-term care issues, he created the model to provide a funding option for middle-class people who are not wealthy enough to pay for long-term care, and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Follow his blog on senior living issues and reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Anderson, J. (2019, June 20). The Ultimate Senior Safety and Well-Being Checklist. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/12-5-2013-ultimate-senior-safety-well-being-checklist/.
2Fowler, K. (2019, June 19). ADLs and IADLs. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/adls-and-iadls/.
3Normal aging vs dementia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2019, from https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/About-dementia/What-is-dementia/Normal-aging-vs-dementia.
4Institute. (2017, December 4). What Is the Average Age Seniors Stop Driving? Factors in Determining Older Driver Safety. Retrieved November 14, 2019, from https://blog.ioaging.org/aging/what-is-the-average-age-seniors-stop-driving-factors-in-determining-older-driver-safety/.
5Kernisan, L., & Griffin, A. (2018, November 2). 5 Things to Know about Aging & Financial Decline. Retrieved November 14, 2019, from https://betterhealthwhileaging.net/5-things-to-know-aging-financial-decline/.
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