Perhaps you’ve noticed some degradation in the behavior of your aging parents. Or maybe they’ve had a serious but unexplainable accident. In any case, you’re becoming worried and know that the time may have finally come to make the big decision of moving them into a nursing home.
By no means is this an easy choice to make. Initially, it can seem as though you’re taking away their independence, pride, and dignity. However, the consequences of leaving them to continue as they are could be more dangerous than you realize.
For instance, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall nearly every 11 seconds across the country. To make matters worse, an elderly adult dies every 19 minutes from something as simple as a fall.
While having “the talk” about moving into a nursing home can be a difficult one to make, there can be a lot of positive outcomes. Relocating them to a nursing facility will place them under the watch and care of trained professionals who know exactly what to do. There will be staff who can manage their medications as well as attend to them immediately if any accidents occur.
Here’s how to know if you’re already at this point and if you should seriously consider a nursing home.
They Require Serious Medical Attention
Have your parents or loved ones been battling a serious physical condition such as Parkinson’s disease or emphysema? Were they recently hurt at home and require regular therapy and medical attention?
Unfortunately, as we get older, our bodies get to a condition where we’re no longer able to care for ourselves or even maintain our homes. Not only will a once familiar routine of getting around the house now feel like a chore, but it may also reduce their quality of life and happiness.
While choosing to move your parents into a nursing home would be a wise way to give them all of the medical attention they require, it may not always have to be the only solution. If the situation is in its early stages or the physical injuries aren’t major, then you might also have the option to pursue in-home care or even assisted living. Weigh the pros and cons of each alternative and be honest in accessing how much attention your loved ones will truly require before you make your decision.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Sometimes there are no obvious issues like an accident or debilitating medical condition to know that its time for a nursing home. If the nature of the situation seems to be more of a mental decline, then you’ll want to try to identify the red flags as early as possible.
For instance, when you go to visit your loved ones at their home:
- Does the house appear to be becoming cluttered or falling into disrepair without them realizing it?
- Are you noticing burn marks on the bottoms of pots and pans that didn’t used to be there?
- Are bills starting to go unpaid or late notices arriving?
- Did something unexplained happen to a pet?
- Are you noticing prescriptions or medications that are going unused?
Perhaps the changes you’re observing might be more behavioral:
- Do they appear to be dehydrated or losing weight?
- Do their stories about their day, recent situations, or even the past not align with facts or reality?
- Are they becoming more confrontational or aggressive than normal?
- Are they getting hurt more often?
- Are they becoming distant or don’t appear to recognize you?
Any of these warning signs could point to possible indicators of dementia or other possible developing medical conditions. Though they may not even realize or acknowledge that this behavior exists, it's up to you to act responsibly and insist that they seek out a proper medical diagnosis.
Becoming a Danger to Themselves and Others
It's important to remember that the act of moving your parents to a nursing home might not just be for their benefit, but also their protection. When left alone to fend for themselves (even if it's by their own choice), they could easily break a bone or get stuck in a situation where they are unable to call for help.
On top of this, they could also become a danger to others. For instance, if they still have their license, they might accidentally rear-end another vehicle or possibly even hit something or someone. If their behavior is becoming erratic, they might also verbally lash out or even assault someone while doing something as simple as shopping at the grocery store.
Though no one wants to deny their aging parents the ability to live at home or even drive a car, you have to also consider how their conditions could affect others. Again, look for the warning signs and discuss openly with professionals about the possible ramifications.
When You’re Ready
While your elderly parents or loved ones will ultimately be the ones who move into the nursing home, keep in mind that they are not the only ones in the equation. Since you have a vested role in your parent’s well-being, your time and feelings should also play a critical factor in making this decision.
For example, have you taken on the role of being the primary caregiver to your elderly parents? Do you now have to make regular visits to their home, help them with taking the right prescriptions and daily tasks, and manage their finances? Is this causing you to neglect aspects of your own life such as your family, career, or even personal health?
Perhaps the situation has grown worse and beyond your ability to provide care. Are they starting to have reactions or symptoms that you are unfamiliar with or unprepared to handle? Has helping them to move around physically become a chore that exceeds your capacity?
Finally, there’s the emotional toll all of this can take on you. While you might be trying your hardest to help where you can and enable your parents to be independent, it could be draining you of energy and possibly even having adverse effects on your well-being. It’s not selfish to consider these things with just as much weight as you would any of the other factors that would contribute to the decision.
Ultimately, moving to a nursing home is not an easy subject to approach. But its often it's one of the smartest and most responsible choices we can make. Discuss the situation openly with your siblings or other family members, and evaluate the pros and cons. If necessary, consult a trusted medical professional or even visit the nursing homes yourself. You might see for yourself that putting them in the care of true experts is a decision you should have made long ago.