The move to an assisted living community not only changes a parent or senior loved one’s lifestyle but yours, as their caregiver, as well. You must now entrust the brunt of their care to assisted living staff. Will they provide the same level of care and love to your parent?
Read our top tips on how you can avoid distance and distrust and take a more cooperative approach with your senior loved one’s assisted living staff.
Your assisted living staff will be better able to do their jobs if you and your parent bring them into the fold and treat them as active and welcome participants in your senior loved one’s care moving forward.
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There are a number of reasons to take this approach:
It’s natural for family members to worry about the quality of care a senior will receive in a new assisted living community. The best way to put your fears to rest is to get to know the staff and regularly ask for updates.
It’s worked for Tom Lang and his family at Willow Towers. “I was worried that moving would have a negative impact on my mother, who is on the dementia spectrum,” he said. “But the assisted living staff let me know that she seemed to be adjusting well to activities and the environment… because we’re in such close contact, they were able to learn a lot about her and tailor activities,” he adds. “She’s playing bingo, listening to music — and painting, which she used to love doing! It’s a very full life.”
When you know your loved one is in good hands, you can let go of some of the stress and worry you feel about their care.
For as long as your parent or senior loved one lives in assisted living, staff will become the main people in charge of helping them with activities of daily living (ADLs) like getting dressed and taking their meds.
They’ll also be some of the main social contacts your loved one has in-between your visits and will become the familiar faces you see every time you’re there.
Your lives will be better if you stay on good terms with your loved one’s assisted living staff and make an effort to get to know them.
While you need assisted living staff to help with your senior loved one’s care, they also need you in order to do their jobs as well as possible.
Jocelyn Nadua, a Care Coordinator at C-Care Health Services, explains, “taking the time to know one’s interest and life story has always been our key to helping carry out individualized care plans. Having open and frequent communications with family members and friends allows us to get an inside look into the lives of our residents.”
Your loved one’s care needs, personality and preferences are all unique. The more you interact and openly communicate with assisted living staff, the better they’ll understand the person they’re taking care of and how to best treat them.
As your parent or senior loved one ages, their needs inevitably change. You want to know sooner rather than later when that happens and you want to make sure that assisted living staff knows as well.
The best way for everyone involved in your loved one’s care to stay aware and on top of all changes is by keeping the lines of communication open. When you notice something different about their behavior when they’re home for a visit, make sure you let the staff know so they can make any needed changes to the care routine.
Also, regularly ask assisted living staff about any changes they notice so you can advise on how best to handle them and know to bring them up with the doctor if needed.
Knowing you should treat assisted living staff as part of the senior care team isn’t the same as actively doing so.
To successfully treat your loved one’s care as a team effort you can all contribute to, here are a few important tips:
Working in an assisted living community is hard work. Be careful not to take out any of the difficult feelings you may have about your loved one’s condition on the staff. Communicate respectfully and always remember that you’re talking to people with an active interest in making sure your loved one stays as comfortable and healthy as possible.
Whether it’s through talking to them during frequent visits or making regular emails or phone calls, make sure you proactively communicate with assisted living staff. It gives you the chance to get to know them and shows them you’re interested in constant updates on your loved one’s care. Some assisted living communities will make this easy by initiating on their end. Ronni Siegel, Director of Operations at Willow Towers, says of their community’s staff, “We maintain a regular schedule of monthly emails and phone calls to all of our resident families.” She adds, “Families should never be surprised about changes in their loved one’s condition.” Regular communication keeps everyone in the loop and ensures you’re all on the same page about what your loved one needs and how to provide it.
Sometimes little acts of appreciation can go a long way. Consider giving your assisted living care team small gifts or thank you cards. Bringing donuts when you come for a morning visit, or getting a small birthday gift for a staff member you’ve seen go above and beyond —any little way you can think of to show them you’ve noticed the hard work they do and appreciate that it can help reduce their stress a little and make it easier for them to keep up the good work.
As you already know, taking care of an aging senior is a lot of hard work, and it’s too often thankless work. You can make the lives of your loved one’s assisted living care team easier and improve the quality of care your family member receives at the same time by actively embracing the people working with your loved one. Treat them like a part of the team and get to know them as human beings.
Are you a caregiver for a parent or senior loved one? How have you included assisted living staff as a part of your loved one’s senior living care team? We’d like to hear your stories and any tips you may have in the comments below.