Family Members Are an Important Part of a Skilled Nursing Facility Resident’s Care Team

A photograph of a senior man sitting with family members - his daughter and grandson.  Real family members.

The decision to move an elderly parent into a skilled nursing facility is often a difficult one for family members, even when they know that doing so will allow their loved one to live more safely. Often, there is a concern about how their parent will deal with their new surroundings and circumstances and the family caregiver is left wondering what to do to make the transition as easy and comfortable as possible.

The answer that many senior care facilities are coming to is “Stay involved!” Research shows that family involvement helps increase a resident’s overall well-being in any senior living setting. Most skilled nursing facilities welcome a family’s participation, because they understand it’s a key element in helping the resident stay healthy and engaged in life.

Here a just a few ways family members can work with staff and other health providers to ensure their loved one is getting the care they need to thrive.

Let them know they are still in control. Before circumstances require an emergency move, talk to your loved one about your concerns and offer to accompany them to tour local facilities. Let them know they have a choice of where they want to live. When visiting different facilities, keep an upbeat attitude and praise things that would be beneficial to your loved one’s well-being (e.g., “The library is a perfect place for you to read your favorite novel!”). Once a decision has been made, help them with ideas on how to personalize their new room or apartment (“Susie’s graduation picture would look great here!”) and discuss with the staff what options they have in dining and decorating, if any.

Help them meet fellow residents. Part of the fear of moving to a new place is the fear of not fitting in. Accompany your loved one on moving day and help them meet their new neighbors. You may need to take the lead and introduce yourself; then introduce your loved one and mention that they are new to the community. Feeling part of this new family will go a long way in helping ensure a loved one’s long-term comfort, happiness and health.

Let the staff know of any special needs. Your loved one will fare better in their new environment if the staff is aware of any special needs (diet, exercise, activity preferences) they have. This is particularly true if your loved one is living with dementia. Because a new Memory Care resident may not be able to express their needs and desires, providing a historical background (achievements, careers, hobbies, etc.) of their life gives caregivers a way to connect more meaningfully with your loved one.

Visit often. One of the best things you can do for your loved one is to visit as often as possible. This will provide a needed sense of connection to what they hold most dear. When you visit, be sure and listen to any concerns your loved one has and, if possible, try to solve any issues they may be facing. Allowing your loved one to express their feelings about their new environment will go a long way in making them feel less isolated. Also, visiting often will allow you to assess the care your loved one is receiving and raise any concerns you have to the staff.

Long-distance caregiving. What can you do if you don’t live nearby? Long-distance caregiving makes staying in touch a bit more challenging, but you can still be an integral part of your loved one’s care team. Here are some ways to keep in touch from a distance:

  • Call often, and encourage your loved one to call you.
  • If they express concerns – or even if they’re lonely or depressed – contact the staff to try and resolve the issue.
  • Set your loved one up with a simple email program if they aren’t already online.
  • Use a webcam or Skype for “virtual visits” – this can often reveal things that a regular phone call can’t.
  • Help your loved one create a Facebook page, or set up a family blog.
  • Visit as often as possible.

And find out if your loved one’s new community has a family council or other family organization. This can be a great way to create even more connections for your loved one—and for yourself. With a little care and attention, your elder loved one can thrive in a Skilled Nursing setting. The greater your involvement, the better they are likely to do.

Source: Real Properties in association with IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2017 IlluminAge.