“Is my parent safe and well cared for and is she happy?”
If you can answer yes to both, you may get it right on the first try.
However, according to “How to Avoid The Goldilocks Syndrome,” a recent article on Forbes.com, most family caregivers are unprepared to make the best choice for their aging family members.
More than 44 million Americans care for a loved one over the age of 50.
About 4 in 10 family caregivers look after a parent, often while juggling careers and their own parental responsibilities. These demands leave little time to thoroughly research and understand the variety of senior living facility options available today and make the right decision.
When a choice is made hastily or without a realistic analysis of a parent’s needs, families may wind up moving a mother or father through a series of facilities, impacting his or her emotional and physical well-being due to what’s known as relocation stress. Such moves can also affect a family’s financial health. When adult children try out several living options, forcing multiple moves until they find the “perfect” choice, we call it “the Goldilocks syndrome.”
Senior living options range from aging in place, perhaps with services from an agency like SeniorBridge, which can provide a spectrum of care from companion care to medically complex home health care, to continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs, that offer various levels of support on the same campus. Most family caregivers, however, are unprepared to make the best choice, especially if they underestimate a parent’s true needs. But since families often don’t begin the search for residential care until there’s an emergency or hospitalization, they are often pressured into quick, uninformed decisions that can backfire. For all these reasons, it’s important to plan ahead.
Follow these Five Tips To Avoid Relocation Stress
- Have “the talk.” Begin an open conversation with senior loved ones about their wishes for their retirement years. Everyone should be open and honest about their expectations and fears. If the discussion escalates or is no longer productive, drop it and revisit it later. Start the conversation early, and revisit it often. Perhaps enlist an aging care specialist for additional insight. Often you can receive a free home consultation from experienced care managers to help you devise a plan.
- Think Long-term. If your parent or aging loved one has a specific disease, like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it is imperative to critically think long term about the progression of the disease. Realistically evaluate the disease specific challenges that may occur in the future. If you are planning only for the present state of the disease, you are already behind. By thinking proactively, you will avoid having additional moves that create relocation stress.
- Ask Important Questions. It is easy to choose a community that looks nice and that you like – but dig deeper. Pay attention to amenities and activities, but make sure that you ask important questions about staff-to-patient ratio, nurse turnover rate and resident, family and inspection evaluations. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services annually rates long-term care facilities through its 5-Star Quality Rating program. In addition, Caring.com’s senior care directory provides consumers with ratings for more than 100,000 facilities, based on 51 criteria. Also, ask for referrals. Talk to other families about their experience.
- Seek Professional Guidance. Engage a geriatric care manager who can assess your loved one’s needs and provide objective recommendations. “Often professionals will save families the heartache and headache of making multiple moves,” Anne Cason, geriatric care manager and author of Circles of Care – How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Elders Cason says. “They can wind up saving families a lot of money.”
- Ask for a test drive. Many assisted-living communities now help you ease a loved one into a facility through respite care programs that allow a potential resident to stay for a weekend or even a few days. Such an arrangement lets the person become accustomed to surroundings and daily activities without feeling forced into an immediate decision. It also makes the entire family feel more comfortable if and when a permanent move is required.
“The same consideration we put into purchasing a new home or car needs to be applied to helping mom choose an alternative place to live out the rest of her life,” says Rick Grimes, president of the Assisted Living Federation of America.
Caregivers should conduct Internet research then embark on in-person site inspections, where they can get fully briefed on services and community resources, including the capabilities of the nearest hospital. The federation’s website offers checklists and financial information to help guide the decision-making process.