Every day somewhere in America, an aging parent has some kind of acute medical emergency. You get a phone call, rush to the hospital, and wait anxiously. Finally you learn that Mom will be ok, and you are so relieved. Then the news comes: “Your Mom can’t go home safely, but she can’t stay in the hospital.”
The time has come to make some kind of plan for long term care. How do I start? When will I find the time to do this? How much will it cost? How much time do I have? These are just a few of the frantic questions that might rush through your brain.
We are going look at this process in three parts: Crisis, research, and transition.
Your family is in crisis. There is a time crunch and you need to find a new home, soon.
You must find a home that is acceptable to Mom (and the family), safe, and affordable. Even though you’re in a hurry, it’s better to find a good fit for the long haul, or you may face another house hunt a few months down the road.
Most of the time this comes from a desire to “getittakencareofasquicklyaspossible” so you can go back to “normal”, whatever that is, and pretend that this is not really happening. Unfortunately, this approach almost never works out well well. Instead, take deep breaths, make phone calls, do your best to give yourself time to be thoughtful and thorough. There are so many resources available to help you. You are going to have to process a lot of information in the coming days. A brain frozen in fear does not absorb information well. Make sure you’re in a position to do what you need to in caring for yourself and your loved one. Sleep deprivation, starvation, and emotional isolation are not useful, though a wee tot of gin might be! Ok, just kidding about that last part.
Ask for Help
Your Mom needs help. You need help. Accept it. We are beings of community. Reach out to your hospital social worker (it is after all their job to assist). Ask for help from siblings, your book club, your co-workers, church, local senior center, the AARP, the Area Agency on Aging, the United Way, the local college school of Social Services, or county websites. Look for any person or organization where you might find insight and suggestions.
Ask a Friend
Often the best long term care places are found through word of mouth. Before you worry about being a burden, think of the situation in reverse: If your friend called you asking for help, would it be a burden? Or would you be glad you could do something? Don’t cheat yourself out of support, don’t cheat others out of the opportunity to feel good about helping you. Someday you will be on the other end of the phone.
Be honest about Mom's diagnosis and prognosis. What care needs can you expect her to have in the future? Will she be able to stay at the same facility? Is this facility licensed for that level of service? If not, no matter how strong the urge to “be done”, keep looking. Be honest about what your family can afford. Will she be able to stay if she runs out of money and has to fall back on Medicaid? Be honest about how involved you’re able to be, this may be different from how involved you want to be. If Mom is unable to take her own medication, she must be somewhere close enough for you to come by on a daily or weekly basis, or in a facility that is licensed to dispense medication (this usually includes even over the counter medication).
Research: Make the list, narrow it down, and ask hard questions.