A Continuum of Care – When Should You Make the Transition?

We all age differently and thereby will face different challenges over the years. Navigating health care decisions later on in life isn’t always a straightforward progression either. Making the decision to move from an independent living environment to one that involves 24-hour care is one that should be carefully thought through and discussed with loved ones.

We know change can be hard, that’s why it’s important to have a continuum of care plan and options available so that seniors can transition in place when needed.

When assistance is needed to accomplish daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, housekeeping, or meal preparation a move to a continuing care community will ensure that support is available.  Continuing care communities also offer companionship, daily activities, meals, transportation, and socialization opportunities.

How to decide when it’s time to transition

When seniors and their families are considering a transition from independent living, it can be helpful to consult with senior care professionals, including physicians.  Some may struggle with the decision and resist the idea at first and it is important to acknowledge the concerns in addition to pointing out the many advantages of a move which include safety, fewer responsibilities such as meal preparation and cleaning, access to many amenities like free fitness and activities as well as opportunities for new friendships.  Reaching a decision to move can take time and the process may require patience, compassion and understanding.

There are some clear signals that indicate a move from an independent living to a higher level of support may be in the senior’s best interest, including:

  • A worsening of medical conditions, an increased number of falls and overall increased frailty.
  • Difficulty managing domestic finances or other money problems.
  • Difficulty keeping the house clean and a decline in ability to care for oneself.
  • Depression or social isolation.

Several major milestones can often trigger the need to consider a move.  These include:

  • The loss of a spouse who handled much of the daily housework, meals, shopping etc. and the surviving spouse struggles to adjust and take on the additional task while also grieving and feeling lonely.
  • A senior develops multiple medical issues at once, especially a progressive or neurological disease. As the condition progresses, the senior will need more and more day to day help.
  • A senior begins to have memory loss or memory issues which may be symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. A transition can help a senior avoid injury or the risk of wandering.

Seniors may interpret suggested changes as interference or disruptive so initiating ongoing discussions about the evolving needs associated with aging is highly recommended.  Having this conversation before a crisis can help alleviate fear or resistance while providing a clear way forward when needs do shift.

  • You don't have to do it all at once. You can make small inroads before you sit down for a really big talk.
  • Try to do most of the communication in person so you can pick up on body language and other nonverbal clues about how your loved one is feeling.
  • Be empathetic and try to understand how difficult these conversations can be. But don't pity them – we should all be so lucky as to reach the age of needing a little extra support.
  • Ask about safety issues or challenges they might be having, and if these can be easily remedied, such as by installing extra handrails around the bathtub.
  • Ask if your loved one wants help with housekeeping, laundry, running errands or other daily chores. They might be struggling in silence and hoping you'll offer or find them some help.

It’s always best to preplan the next step in the continuum of care. Transitioning sooner rather than later can ensure a better quality of life and better support as health care needs change later in life.

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