April 9, 2010

USA: Move to assisted care emotional

. ROCKY MOUNT, North Carolina / The Rocky Mount Telegram / April 9, 2010 Life in Transition Move to assisted care emotional By Laura McFarland, Rocky Mount Telegram Jane Langston feels like she’s been let off the hook. She will receive three meals a day she doesn’t have to cook. Somebody else will be doing her laundry. She now has regular access to plenty of people she can talk to, a library full of books and a television room where she can relax. The only negative 73-year-old Langston could see in moving into assisted living at Spring Arbor of Rocky Mount was leaving behind an apartment full of belongings. A few items will be brought to her room to make her feel at home, but most probably will go in a church yard sale or be given away. “You have had these possessions and things for so many years. They have become so much a part of you. We all want to own something, even though we know that is kind of impossible. It is only on loan to us,” Langston said. For Langston, moving from home to Spring Arbor will bring more freedom. But many elderly people who have to make the transition into an assisted living facility or nursing home do not view it in such a positive light, said Shannon Peaden, inpatient rehab program director at Heritage Hospital. For those people and their families, the emotional, legal and financial issues associated with such a move can be trying. Claudis Earl Langston Jr., with Respracare, Inc., sets up an oxygen concentrator for Jane Langston in her new room at Spring Arbor of Rocky Mount assisted living facility where she was moving in Thursday. Telegram photo / Ben Goff Jane Langston shares stories while having dinner in her new room at Spring Arbor of Rocky Mount assisted living facility after moving in Thursday. Telegram photo / Ben Goff Emotions are going to be running high at this time, Peaden said. Families of residents often feel guilt over not being able to care for the person. For the residents, there is a fear of losing their freedom, of being abandoned and of leaving behind their homes and belongings, Peaden said. Some also are in denial that they no longer are capable of taking care of themselves. “Even if it is for their own good and they acknowledge it is for their own good, it is still very hard to give up the control of living what they think of as an independent life,” Peaden said. Most of all, be patient, said Abigail Walton, regional ombudsman for Wilson County with the Upper Coastal Plain Area Agency on Aging. Unless a person has a medical crisis that means admittance to a facility cannot be delayed, families should approach family members with the idea slowly and with a positive attitude and let the information sink in gradually, she said. “I am not saying that talking about it and having early conversations is going to make this a perfect transition. In a perfect world, perhaps. But there probably will be some arguments. There will be some gnashing of teeth and hair pulling. It can get ugly if you go about it too fast,” Walton said. Langston made the decision to go into assisted living, but it wasn’t spur of the moment, she said. She had many conversations with her doctors, friends and family and looked at different facilities. The families are the best antidote to feelings of anxiety and fear, said Deborah Pittman Coley, director of the Edgecombe County Office on Aging in Tarboro. Family members can allay abandonment fears by visiting regularly and taking residents on short or long trips, she said. If there are several family members in the area, visit on different days so the resident has regular company. Ask the resident’s friends, fellow church members and neighbors to visit. “Nursing homes are not the worst places in the world if the family goes there. If you drop them off and never go back, yeah it might not be the best place in the world,” Coley said. Families should encourage residents to take advantage of the opportunities at the facility, such as games, performances and being around contemporaries and do everything they can to help the person feel more at home, said Karen Sparrow, administrator at Autumn Care of Nash, a nursing home in Nashville. Bring things from home that mean something to the resident such as a lamp, pictures, quilts or a chair. Even if the residents are sharing a room, that space should feel like home, Sparrow said. The entire process is much easier on the resident and the family if some of these things are discussed before the transition ever begins, Walton said. Too often, families are caught unaware by an emergency situation that leaves a loved one incapacitated, and they are left trying to figure out what the person wants. Families should consider having a will, living will, power of attorney and health care power of attorney in place, Walton said. If there are special requests, such as how they will be cared for or what happens to their belongings, they need to let their families know. The more families educate themselves about the process, the better off they and their loved one will be, said Pat Silver, care manager at Nash Health Care. Too many families find themselves being surprised, whether it is not knowing how much facilities cost, how they will pay for them or being caught in an emergency situation with no idea of the resident’s wishes regarding resuscitation or life support. Families need to visit several facilities, discuss payment options with admissions counselors and prepare advance directives, Silver said. Most important, they need to let the prospective residents be as involved in the process as possible, so they feel more involved in the decision and not as if they are being cut out of their own life. [rc] Copyright 2010 Rocky Mount Telegram