FAQs: Making the 'big' move easier

7/15/2019 by Natalie Mohammad, APRN, CNP

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When is it time to make the move for yourself or loved ones away from independent living? This point comes at different times for everyone, but it's never easy. These questions typically arise in families, and the answers may help you better understand the process and how to make the move go smoother. 

When is it time to move?

For many, moving from independent living, such as their home, happens when:

  • They're no longer able to care for themselves. 
  • Their loved one (spouse, child, etc.) can no longer safely care for them at home.
  • Their caregiver becomes ill or unable to handle their role. 

What housing options are there?

Many! Based on the level of care needed, these are some options:

  • Assisted living. Rochester has 13 assisted-living facilities (ALF). All offer similar resources, such as nurses on site, medication management, and help with bathing, dressing and meals. 
  • Adult foster home. These are homes that typically house four to five residents. They provide meals, medications and take care of daily needs, much like in assisted-living residences. 
  • Nursing homes/long-term care. These facilities have more resources than assisted living and are for people who need increased help taking care of themselves. If your loved one is no longer able to walk, or needs a lift to move from the bed to chair, they have the staff and equipment. 
  • Memory care. These are special units designed for dementia patients, including those with Alzheimer's, Lewy Body dementia, etc. They're locked units in case your loved one is prone to wandering and has left the house unexpectedly. They typically have more staff and closer oversight than assisted living. 

Where do I start, and how do I choose?

Deciding what type of housing is needed can be a difficult decision and is based on the care needs of your loved one. Many times both parents can live together in an assisted-living apartment if their needs can be safely met. 

A good place to start is by talking to your primary care provider. They may be able to offer insights and discuss prognosis so you can prevent numerous moves in a short period of time, such as moving your loved one to a townhouse, but then finding they need memory care a year later. 

At Mayo Clinic, social workers at the hospital and Employee and Community Health (ECH) are a great resource. We have a booklet that lists all assisted living and long-term care facilities. I recommend touring these early before you or your loved one may need to move. There are often waiting lists, and it's best to get your name on the list. 

Elder Network is available statewide to meet with you and discuss all senior living options as well. We also use the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (IMAA) Community Health Workers who can meet with you at your home and review options. SeniorLinkage Line is another statewide resource, with information available by phone or online. (You can find more community resources for seniors here.)

How can I help my loved one adjust to the move?

Making the move from independent living is a big adjustment and takes time.

  • For loved ones who need more help with daily cares, such as bathing and dressing, it can be difficult to let someone help you. Speak with staff about allowing your loved one as much independence and control as possible. 
  • For patients with dementia, we typically recommend giving them about a month to adjust to their new living situation. Dementia patients do best with routines and consistency. If loved ones visit the same time every day, it can help ease this transition. 
  • For caregivers, you may feel guilty about having to move your parent or partner into a different level of care. This does get easier with time. It's good to recognize your limitations and put your own physical and mental health care needs first. Caregiving is extremely difficult, whether you're the one providing care or overseeing the care of your loved one. Continue to advocate with staff about your loved one's needs. You know them best!

What happens when spouses/partners can't live together? 

This is a common situation. Often, spouses will move into an assisted-living apartment together. In time, the care needs of one may increase, and assisted living is no longer appropriate. When this happens, families need to decide where to move the other spouse. If one has dementia, they can sometimes moved into an attached memory-care unit. That way, the more independent spouse can visit daily and still be near their partner. 

Sometimes one spouse needs a higher level of care, such as a nursing home. Some facilities in Rochester do have nursing homes attached to the assisted-living facility. Close proximity helps ease this transition. But when this isn't available, I encourage the independent spouse to use whatever transportation (such as the ALF bus/transportation in Rochester) to visit their loved one in the nursing home whenever possible. These visits may be difficult at first, since you can no longer live together, but the goal is to ensure that your loved one is safe and that their needs — and yours — are best met. 

Natalie F. Mohammad, APRN, CNP, is a nurse practitioner in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Internal Medicine (CIM) and practices in the Care Transitions & Palliative Care Homebound Programs. She has a special interest in geriatric care, palliative care, end of life and ensuring patients die with dignity in the place of their choosing. She's also an avid gardener.