Understanding Your Fears
The Long Term Care Decision: Dealing With Fear and Concern
We know that the decision to place someone you love in a long term care home is one of the most difficult you’ll ever have to make. We know because we see people in your situation every single day. We’re the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) and our members care for more than 42,000 residents living in over 370 long term care homes in communities throughout Ontario.
The first thing to know is this: your fears and concerns are perfectly normal. Some people feel guilty, for example, because of promises they made at a different time – before circumstances changed and stretched them beyond their ability to cope. Some people feel anxious about the quality of care their spouse, parent, relative or friend will receive in a long term care facility – could it possibly be better than what they themselves could provide? And to top it off, many caregivers are overwhelmed by exhaustion, stress and family conflict.
We think we can help…and a good place to start is by offering some questions that will lead you toward a decision you can feel good about.
First of all, ask yourself if your decision, whatever it may be, is based on what’s best for everyone – including you and your family. Be realistic about what it takes to care for someone in your home, or in theirs.
- Can you provide the safety, medical attention and round-the-clock supervision that could be required?
- Will living with you in your home, or on his own, meet your relative’s companionship and care needs? Will you be able to provide a relatively safe and secure environment? Will your loved one be able to participate with friends in the activities he enjoys?
- If your relative lives with you, or on her own, how will that affect your life and the other relationships important to you? How do your spouse, your children and your siblings feel about the impact it will have on your time and attention? A good test for a reasonable promise is that all lives end up better, not just one.
- Have you considered the financial and emotional means needed to be responsible for your relative’s care on a constant basis? What about when care needs become more complex, as they often do?
Let’s say you decide the time has come and a long term care home is the right way to go. The truth is, you may still worry. Is your mother receiving the proper care and attention? Is your father lonely? Is your spouse eating well? Are staff compassionate and caring?
These are tough questions, and everyone asks them. Facing them head on, and involving your relative to whatever extent possible, will help you find the best possible long term care home for your loved one.
Something to remember: the most crucial issue is to choose a home based on the needs of your relative – not just your own. The members of OLTCA know that the decision to place your loved one in a long term care home is all about courage, compromise and connection…and finding the best possible place given your unique circumstances. The right home comes down to the right fit for your loved one.
When you tour a long term care home, ask yourself:
- Is the home clean? Does it smell fresh?
- Do you feel welcome and your relative respected when you come through the door? Are staff compassionate, and do they take as much time as you need to answer all your questions? How do staff interact with the people who live in the home?
- How will staff come to understand the unique needs of your relative? Will your relative be involved in making decisions, for example about medical treatment and diet choices? Will the menu appeal to your mother or father?
- What can friends, family and others tell you about the facility’s reputation? Is the facility accredited?
- Can residents make choices about the programs they participate in? Does the home offer activities and therapies your loved one will enjoy, such as art, horticulture, aromatherapy, massage, or pet therapy? What about foot care or physiotherapy? What about spiritual programs? Are there social, recreational, and cultural resources available, such as movies, games, books and music?
- What role can you play in caring for your loved one? How will you have an ongoing opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions that will improve your relative’s care? How will your concerns be dealt with? Can you join a Family Council or Advisory Board? Are there support programs for family caregivers?
- Under what circumstances will your family member be sent to hospital?
- How do home management and staff make sure that residents’ rights and choices are respected, as laid out in the Resident’s Bill of Rights?
OLTCA’s more than 400 members, who operate private long term care homes, not-for-profit long term care homes, charitable homes for the aged, and municipal homes for the aged, have helped thousands of people in exactly your situation for more than 40 years. We know that the decision to place your loved one in a long term care facility is all about courage, compromise and connection…and finding the best possible place given your unique circumstances.