The most important decision a family will have to make is how to provide care for their elder family members (parents, other relatives) when those family members are unable to physically or mentally care for themselves any longer. Different families have different, often emotional responses to this responsibility. Some families find ways to bring the care to their relative, within their own home. Others provide personal care by moving their family member into their own homes. Lastly, some families find that the best place for their elderly family member is in an assisted living or care facility.
It is a difficult challenge to find an affordable, yet perfectly (or mostly) suited assisted living facility for a family member. The time it takes to decide what kind of a facility is needed to address all of your relative’s needs is a second job alone, that often means that you have to liaison with medical care professionals who specialize in elder care services. The cost and quality, along with the services and specialties in the care provided vary widely. Having to take the time to locate even a single appropriate care facility for your loved one is a full-time job that can leave every person involved stressed out and frazzled, to the point of affecting individual’s job performances.
Thankfully, there is a document that has been carefully written to help guide you through this process. It starts out by describing the various issues that would require an elderly relative of yours to need specialized care. Then it describes the various levels of care that are offered and how that need is evaluated, per elder. Then these types of care are not only discussed but then important characteristics, unique to your relative’s needs are also discussed in relation to the type of care facility that they need. Lastly, it then outlines the dangers that the elderly relative and their family can undergo while making the transition into an assisted living facility.
As of 2004, there are over 90 million people in the United States who are over the age of 60. This means that of the 295 million general population of the United States (as of 2005), nearly ⅓ of the population is considered to be elderly. Within this population statistic, 58% of them require at least some form of assistance to continue as they have.
There is a great need for elder care in the United States, and this has spilled over into everyone’s lives. Out of the 106 million family homes in the United States, 22 million or ⅕ of those homes provide some sort of care to at least one elderly family member or friend. Out of these people, 10% of them work in some form of elder assisted living care.
To put it simply, if a family has not had to deal with handling the care of an elderly family member, they then know of someone who has, and they will be doing the same thing in the future. There is no other future guaranteed.
One should remember though–the aging process itself does not dictate that your elderly family member should lose their independence or decision-making abilities. True, aging does lead to declining health and bodily changes for the worse, but it is not guaranteed. Generally, they become more susceptible to certain diseases and illnesses, which can end up stifling their independence and ability to make decisions. Some may escape this and be able to live on their own to a certain degree, but most people will end up needing some form of reliable, constant care in the form of an assisted living facility.
Eldercare becomes necessary for your relative when they find themselves unable to go about their daily lives, in a safe and easy manner. Once their activities become compromised to the point to where they cannot move safely or independently, because their health has begun to fail and fail consistently, then it is time for eldercare. It does not matter the condition–it can be anything from a physical, mental, emotional or cognitive condition–it does not matter. Any and all significant declines in this area means that your relative will need eldercare.
However, there are several requirements that go into elder care e.g. type of conditions that are developed, the intensity and severeness of said conditions, the problems and deficits caused by said conditions, and the projected prognosis (outcome) of said conditions. Those who are very ill will obviously need more care than elders who are not, but subtlety is needed in these situations. A minor illness could be a red herring for a more serious physical or cognitive issue that would not be discovered without the minor illness acting as a symptom. Something like this could cause your elderly relative to be unable to drive their own car anymore, for example. Or they may have memory issues that cause them to forget to take their medications entirely. Lastly, the prognosis (expected outcome) of said illness should dictate the care that your elderly relative receives. This can mean evaluating whether or not an illness will continue to weaken them or consider when their condition will stabilize and they will get back to the way they were before.
There are some conditions, like a stroke, that make permanent changes to the person who suffers them. In an elderly person, these changes could be devastating to their independence, as it affects their own ability to care for themselves, but usually, they only suffer through them once. If there are no further strokes, then usually the person’s health and personal independence will not weaken further. However, there are some illnesses that continue to weaken the body as time passes. Elderly family members who fall in the latter category will need much more specialized and extensive care.
Lastly, the differences in health conditions and how those conditions present in different elderly people will mean that their care needs to be specialized and personalized not only according to the condition but also to the individual. For example, if your elderly relative becomes partially immobile due to a physical impairment, then they would more than likely need help with transportation and shopping and may need some sort of technology to help accommodate their needs (a motorized wheelchair, etc), but otherwise, they are capable of living on their own. However, elderly relatives that begin to lose their memory are not able to physically or mentally care for themselves and will need specialized care and constant attention–attention that can be found in an assisted living facility that specializes in eldercare.