By Damaris Lopez

Deciding when your loved ones need to move from home to another living situation is extremely challenging. Equally difficult is finding the right setting for them. Generally, depending on the level of care they need, you are looking at choosing between an assisted living facility and a nursing home.

Of course the first option is to have them stay at home for as long as it is the best and safest alternative.

In order to keep that option viable for as long as possible, it is likely you are going to have to look at bringing professional caregivers in before it becomes too overwhelming for family members.

“Staying home as long as possible is the best option,” said Sally Dahlem, co-owner of Home by Choice, a locally owned home healthcare agency. “If you can bring in a professional caregiver to help with housekeeping, taking them to appointments, helping with basic hygiene needs and providing reminders about medicine that’s the first step.”

An additional benefit of that step is that when it comes time to move – either to an assisted living facility or nursing home, the caregiver can go with them. That helps make the transition much easier.

“We regularly go in to assisted living facilities or nursing homes to continue to help our clients with things like feeding, dressing and some of the same things we did when they were at home.”

So when the time does come to move your loved one, how do you know what’s right. The best way is to look at the services provided in each situation and make an honest assessment of what is best.

An assisted living facility is best for seniors who may not be able to live completely alone, but do not require high-level care. Assistance in these kinds of homes generally deals with medication, meals and housekeeping. Most communities also provide transportation and social activities for entertainment. Additionally, some assisted living facilities also have units available for those who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Lindsay Willis, the executive director at HarborChase of Gainesville, says you need to be looking at the quality of life at home.

“We often tell people to look at three things – socialization, safety and care,” she said. “If they are starting to wander, or if they are just home watching TV, those are problems. And it will become more and more difficult for the caregiver. As far as socialization, while we want them at home as long as possible, they may need more stimulation. Lack of stimulation impacts sleep and appetite, leading to other problems. If you see these signs, it may be time for more of a community setting.“

If the need is greater than that, it may be time to look at a nursing home when seniors are in need of more constant help and high-level medical care.

“At a skilled nursing facility, they have a skilled nurse present 24 hours a day,” said Kala Fuhrmann, the administrator at Palm Garden of Gainesville. “If they no longer have the ability to take care of themselves, then this is an appropriate setting. If they can no longer do the activities of daily living – dress, use the bathroom, feed themselves, get from one chair to another – it is likely time for a skilled nursing facility.”

Ultimately this challenging decision belongs with the family. Talk to people you trust, visit any facilities you are considering and learn about their services before making any decision. Determine if the setting is right for your loved one and whether they will be happy and comfortable there. But if you are thinking about these issues, it is important to act soon. Waiting may put you in the position of having to make a decision while in crisis, and that’s not good for anyone.


Other stories in this issue include:

Sam Boone’s column on Elder$martS=$

How Do I Know If It’s Alzheimer’s Disease by David Huckabee

But, I Promised! by Tom Rinkoski

Sally Dahlem’s column on Relaxation Techniques for Seniors