Make transition into nursing home smooth for all

Placing a loved one in a nursing home can be a difficult task. You not only have to face a wide range of emotions, there are dozens of details to deal with all at once. After finding the facility you think is right, you have to figure out finances, and de

“It’s going to be a traumatic time for everyone, there’s no doubt about that,” said Ed McMahon, director of Alzheimer’s care and quality of life issues for Beverly Healthcare, the nation’s nursing home and eldercare services leader.

“I can attest to that. My father didn’t make it easy for us,” said JoAnn Anderson of Cloquet, Minn., which is a small town south of Duluth. “He didn’t understand why we couldn’t take care of him at home anymore.”

Anderson’s father, Carl, had lived on his own until a bout with shingles left him blind. She took him in and cared for him for as long as she could. But eventually, it became too much for her to handle. She decided a nursing home was the best place for him. “I had a lot of time to think about it, but didn’t do a very good job planning for the move,” said Anderson. “If I had it to do all over again, I would do things a lot differently.”

“There’s no getting around the fact that the day of admission is going to be an emotional one; but there are a lot of things you can do to ensure a smooth transition,” said McMahon.

Since most people are not in the frame of mind to be organized enough to have all their information with them on admission day, it’s a good idea to fill out all the papers before you arrive. “The day of admission should be all about making your loved one comfortable in their new surroundings, not worrying about trivial details,” said Anderson.

Signed papers aren’t all you will need to bring along on admission day. McMahon said you should also have the patient’s Medicare, Social Security and insurance cards, as well as any important legal documentation. That includes, but is not limited to, any advance directives, guardianship, and power of attorney papers.

“Those aren’t things you want to worry about later,” said McMahon. “It’s important that the people caring for your loved one have all that information on hand from day one.”

As far as personal items go, it is recommended that you sit down with a social worker or admissions planner prior to the day of check-in to determine what is and is not allowed. Patients who live in dementia units, for example, are not allowed to have razors because they don’t always remember what to do with them and could hurt themselves or others.

“But you do need to remember to bring the patient’s toothbrush, comfortable clothes and shoes,” said McMahon. “Books, videos, music and any personal mementos are also a good idea.”

If at all possible, McMahon recommends you personalize your loved one’s new room before they get there. “When a patient finds recognizable photographs, pillows and blankets in their new room, it gives them a sense of security and can make a world of difference,” said McMahon. Speaking of personalizing, make sure each thing you bring — whether it be clothing, a book, video or something else — has your loved one’s name on it. “Things have a way of getting lost if you don’t,” said McMahon.

Plants are a nice touch, too; but before you pick one up, make sure it’s one that’s allowed. Cactuses and aloe plants, for example, are often off-limits because of their dangerous spikes.

Orientation sessions also can be part of the transition process, but you need to make sure you ask about those in advance. Some homes will only hold them if a patient’s family asks for one.

“By doing a little bit of work ahead of time, the transition will be a lot easier on the new nursing home resident and their family members,” said McMahon.

— Courtesy of ARA Content

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