Starting the Search for Care: When and How

Editor’s note: This is second in a series of posts by guest blogger Michelle Seitzer.

Our guest blogger, Michelle Seitzer.

If you traveled home for the holidays, you might have left with extra baggage…mentally.

Witnessing a parent’s decline is definitely upsetting, especially since much of it is beyond your control. Though the final decision about what’s next should rest solely with the person who would be moving or receiving care, it’s up to you to make peace with what you saw.

I say:  Choose action.

Aging and all that accompanies it is inevitable. Too many people waffle in denial, avoid difficult decisions, and quickly find themselves in crisis situations. Making choices in crisis is far from ideal.

Knowing when to start the search for care is not a hard science. There is no flow chart that says, “If a loved one has A, or shows signs of B, choose C.” Some wait too long, while others jump the gun, suggesting an Alzheimer’s unit the moment a loved one leaves the stove on or misplaces a house key.

The best approach? If you are concerned about Mom, talk to her right away. Share your concerns with compassion, respect, and sensitivity.  (A must read: 35 Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents)

Next, establish her preferences (i.e., in-home care or assisted living? small, family-like community setting or large, resort-style campus? a place close to the grandkids or a return to her hometown?). Then, discuss all possibilities before things get worse. The situation may get better (life is unpredictable), and if it does, you’ll know exactly what to do in the future.

If you have siblings, set up a time that you can all talk togetherSkype is great if you don’t live in the same zip code or time zone – but make sure Mom’s wishes are honored above all.

In the first post from this series, I outlined three basic levels of care with corresponding examples for each. From this list, get a sense for what might be the most appropriate level of care and always let your loved one’s preferences guide the search.

Get tips for visiting a prospective community and finding the best care in the next post…

Michelle Seitzer has blogged for since 2008, and is the co-moderator of #ElderCareChat, a bi-monthly Twitter-facilitated discussion group for family and professional caregivers passionate about quality senior care.