When it’s time for your elderly parent, sibling or relative to go into a care home, it can be a difficult time for everyone involved.
Whether your relative now needs a greater level of personal care than they can get at home, or you feel that you are no longer able to meet their care needs on your own, sometimes the best option for them is to move into a care home. But how do you find the perfect care home to meet all their requirements? And worse, what do you do if they refuse to go?
Don’t worry – Lottie is here to help. In this article, we’ll give you advice on every step of the process; from having the first discussion and the right language to use, all the way through to finding a care home and planning the move.
First of all, you can’t force anyone to go into care. The only circumstance in which someone can be put in care without prior consultation is if their mental capacity does not allow them to make rational decisions. This means that to get an elderly person into a care home, they’re going to need to want to go – or at least understand the reasons why they need to go.
Discussing moving into a care home with your loved one
The most important thing is to always involve the person going into care in conversations. There is nothing more upsetting and frustrating for an elderly person than feeling that people are talking behind their back, that their opinions don’t matter, or that decisions are being made for them instead of with them. Involving your loved one from the start will ensure that they don’t feel left in the dark and are more likely to cooperate.
How to approach the subject
When the time has come to have the conversation communication is key. Find a quiet, private place to talk and make sure both you and your loved one are calm and relaxed. You may find it useful for fellow family members to be present – but take care to avoid large groups, else your relative may feel as though they are being ganged up on or bullied.
Start by focusing on the positives, highlighting the things your loved one is still able to manage on their own. You can then point out things that they are not so good at handling and gently stress that these things are only likely to become more difficult for them as time goes on.
Make sure to mention your own worries and concerns for them – if you focus the whole discussion around their perceived shortcomings, they may feel attacked.
Lastly, give your loved one plenty of opportunities to speak – don’t plough into a half-hour rant and deny them the opportunity to ask questions or make comments. The choice to go into care should also be theirs and the discussion may bring up complex emotions or feelings of distress for them. If your relative becomes really upset and refuses to talk, or even walks out, give them some time and try again on a different occasion.
Language to use
Try to be as positive as possible about the move and avoid using negative language. Be sure to sing the praises of the care home and the benefits of living there – for example, it could have fantastic landscaped gardens, perfect for nurturing your loved one’s passion for gardening, or there could be regular Zumba classes on offer if your relative loves to dance.
Give your relative as much choice as possible when it comes to choosing the care home – this will give them a feeling of control and independence.
Seeing it from their point of view
If your loved one is resisting going into care, a useful exercise can be to put yourself in their shoes. Consider the reasons why they may not want to go into care and come up with a solution for each one. Could it be that they’ll miss their friends and family?
Choose a care home that allows visitors at all times or a care home within easy distance of your family home. Will they miss their little Yorkshire Terrier? Check with the care home whether pets are allowed to stay with residents. Are they fretting about losing their carefully tended garden and homegrown carrots? Find out whether the care home offers gardening and vegetable growing as an activity.
By empathising with your loved one and trying to understand their feelings and fears, this will help you to make the best decision for them when it comes to their care.
Reasons why they might be resistant
Co operation from your loved one is not guaranteed, elderly people can resist care for lots of reasons. The major reason is their perceived loss of independence.
It’s true that change can be scary – especially if they have lived in their own home and familiar surroundings for a long time. They likely have a carefully crafted daily routine, they can see thier friends and family regularly and visit their local shops or pubs whenever they like. The thought of all that disappearing along with fundamental changes and new surroundings can cause real panic.
Elderly people also resist going into care homes because they take the suggestion as a criticism that they can no longer look after themselves properly. Many elderly people can be proud and stubborn, living under the illusion that they are perfectly capable of living independently with no outside interference.
It can be really hard to explain why going into care is a good idea, particularly to those living with dementia or other conditions that affect their memory. Lots of people simply refuse to accept that they require additional care and support.
Finding the right care home
To ensure that your elderly relative’s transition into care goes as smoothly as possible, finding them the perfect care home is vital.
There are different types of care home you should be aware of, including privately-owned, public – which are run by the local authority – and voluntary care homes, but the main thing you’ll want to look at is whether the home is able to provide the unique care package your relative needs.
For example, do they require residential care, dementia care or a nursing home? You should also consider things like location, budget and the range of facilities available at the home.
Remember to involve your family member every step of the way and ask for their opinions and preferences on the home’s facilities. For example, if you have a gregarious grandma, a peaceful care home with separate rooms and private facilities isn’t going to be much good. Likewise, if your parent is a bit of a film buff and dislikes reading, they’d probably rather have a luxurious cinema room over a cosy library.
Before you select a care home, why not make a few visits and check out the feel of the home, as well as talk to staff and management. Take your relative with you when you visit and give them a chance to ask any questions they might have about life at the home. The key things to look at are:
- The staff: are staff welcoming and friendly? Do they seem interested in getting to know your relative and their likes and dislikes? Is the manager available for a chat and a tour of the building?
- The facilities: are floors and surfaces clean and hygienic? Is furniture, carpeting and paint in good condition? Is there a wide range of food options in the dining room?
- The residents: do residents seem happy, comfortable and looked after? Are residents socialising and having fun?
- The activities: Is there an activities calendar you can look at? Does it have things your relative would enjoy? Do they encourage residents to take part?
If you’re in need of a helping hand finding the right care home, we’ve got plenty of guides here.
Planning the move
Once the decision to move has been made, you will need to plan the move itself. Be aware of your relative’s feelings around what can be a stressful time for both of you. They may feel anxious, upset or scared at the prospect of going into a care home, so make time to listen to their concerns and assuage any doubts they might have.
You should also plan what they will be taking with them and what they will leave behind – if they are keen on keeping favourite items of furniture or personal items, ask the care home whether residents are allowed to bring these with them to decorate their rooms.
It’s also a good idea to ensure that your loved one is familiar with the care home before they actually move in. Lots of care homes offer the chance to have a meal at the home or a walk around the building and grounds to get a feel for it – and some homes even suggest a short ‘respite’ stay at the home as a sort of trial period.
Moving day: what to consider
The time has come: it’s moving day! Try to make the experience as stress-free as possible by making a schedule to stick to – this will ensure there are no surprises and everyone knows what they need to do.
Of course, it’s possible that your relative may have forgotten the arrangement. In the event that this happens, stay calm and gently remind them about the home and why they are going. Avoid situations or language which could cause conflict or distress.
When you get to the home, help your relative to personalise their room and put up their favourite photos to make it more homely. Take them for a look around and ask care home staff if there are any activities that they can join in with.
It’s sometimes difficult to know when to leave your relative at the home and it can be an emotional moment. For this reason, lots of care homes suggest leaving while your relative is busy doing an activity or eating a meal.
After you’ve left, it’s completely normal to feel sad, or even guilty. Talk to family or friends about your feelings and try to see the positive side – you’ve done the right thing for your loved one’s needs. Care homes suggest leaving the first week visit free to give your relative enough time to settle in, but you can always phone up for a chat with the staff to see how they’re getting on.
We hope this has helped to give you an idea of how to make your elderly relative or loved one’s move into a residential care home as smooth as possible.
The process can be difficult, but when they are safe and secure in their lovely new care home, you can rest assured that your loved one is getting the right level of care and support they need to be happy and healthy. You shouldn’t feel guilty as you are merely doing what is best for them.