Should I take my parent out of her seniors’ residence?

by Matt Del Vecchio

Who could have imagined taking a loved one out of their senior home? I have received calls from families agonizing over the thought of having to make an unthinkable decision that would have never crossed their mind a month or two ago.

We have all seen and read about the deplorable conditions in some long-term care homes. No wonder families are worried about their loved ones. There is a feeling of helplessness and desperation. Some feel the best option is to take their parent out of their senior residence and wait until this crisis passes.

This is one of the most difficult decisions we will ever have to make. The deciding factor seems to be the amount of care your parent needs and whether you are willing and able to provide that care. And if the person is cognitively impaired or needs 24 hour nursing care such as bathing, dressing, feeding and going to the toilet, this could be impossible or at least highly improbable. As for hiring a private caregiver, this is a possibility if you can find one and if you are willing to risk letting yet another person into your home every day and of course, if you have the money to pay for private nursing care.

In one case, I had a family whose mother was living in a private senior residence.  She was quite autonomous with slight mobility issues and she was receiving three meals a day. Another family had a mother at a CHSLD with much higher care requirements. She had dementia.

What to consider when making the decision to move your parent into your home

Commitment. Your family needs to be fully committed to taking over the care of your loved one. It will affect all members of the family and your lives will change and we don’t know for how long. For some, it may be a way for the family to bond and reconnect with their loved one. But if the parent needs a lot of care and/or is cognitively impaired, it may be extremely difficult to integrate the parent into the household. And the commitment you had at the beginning of this voyage may wear thin when you’re not getting enough sleep and have to work the next day. For some, it could put severe strain on your marriage. Of course, if there are no children in the household it will be easier.

Home set up. Be aware that what you take for granted could become hazards. Stairs, bathtubs, rugs, unlocked front and back doors, clutter and an appropriate bed are important considerations. And what about space? Will the parent have their own bedroom and bathroom?

Physical care. Can you provide the proper physical care?  This could include assistance with dressing, transfers, bathing, feeding and/or special meal preparation and toileting. Are you strong enough to lift the person if necessary? If the parent is cognitively impaired, do you have the expertise and patience to take care of them? Are you and/or your children willing to monitor the comings and goings of a parent who wanders? This may be especially difficult once summer is upon us. If you’re working at home, how many times a day can you go to the toilet with your parent or answer their questions that they ask over and over?

Hygiene and Protective Equipment. Do you have the proper Personal Protective Equipment? Family members, including children will have to be particularly conscious with hand washing, cleaning and physical distancing.

If families can confidently address these factors, a temporary move into their respective homes may make sense but again, the more care that is needed, the less sense it will make to move the senior. There is also the risk of infecting the family if the senior has not tested negative before the move, or infecting the senior if for example an asymptomatic child or grandchild transmits the virus to them.   

The first step for all families considering a transition back to home is to have a serious conversation with the manager or director of care at the senior home. Granted, communication with management can be challenging these days. Push hard to have this conversation. Inquire about critical issues such as having enough staff; PPE’s; policies concerning isolation of residents that have been diagnosed with COVID-19; cleaning and infection control procedures; protocol for outside visitors and the process involved in re-admission.

The answers to these inquiries will be crucial in your decision.  In addition, there are some signs of optimism. Critical staff shortages are being addressed. It is still a major issue in some residences but there have been improvements. Supply of PPE’s are also improving. And perhaps the most important factor is that some private caregivers are being allowed back into the residences.

Matt Del Vecchio is the owner of Lianas Services Senior Transition Support and host of “Life Unrehearsed” on CJAD800 Sundays at 4pm.

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