When most of us think of aging, we think superficially about the transitions that take place. We think about grandparents we visited in nursing homes. We think about friends who talk about putting parents into assisted living.
But when we face the situation head-on, the concepts become more challenging to grasp.
What happens when your loved one no longer can navigate life on their own? Can they remain at home with care? Do they need assisted living? Do they need nursing care?
There are also transitions that aren’t as permanent, such as when your loved one goes into the hospital. They may require a few weeks at a rehab center. They may be released back home, albeit in a different condition when they went in.
Throughout these processes, your role as a caregiver doesn’t end. Instead, it changes. You suddenly have different requirements and different expectations. How do you manage this new situation? How do you cope with your feelings about the transition? How do you deal with the new way of life?
Stay active, especially in the first few days/weeks. It’s important for you and your loved one not to feel abandoned. Even if your loved one is active with therapies or activities, make sure you are part of the process.
Introduce yourself to everyone involved in the care process. They should feel as comfortable talking with you as they do with your loved one. They should understand that you are part of the process.
If your loved one will be moving to housing with more care available, it’s important to remember that all their needs must still be met. Be sure you understand what your loved one receives throughout the day. There is a difference between assisted living care and one-on-one care. You may still be required to handle some of your loved one’s needs.
If your loved one has dementia, remember time is a different experience for them. Two hours and twenty minutes can feel like the same thing. Concentrate on quality time rather than simply logging minutes.
Decorate the space. While this may be transition, your loved one will still feel more comfortable with things they like, such as flowers, pictures, artwork, plants, or other familiar items. Be sure they have low value and aren’t easily broken.
Understand the new people in your loved one’s life may not do things the way you do. Be clear about your care expectations and do what you can without overriding the care your loved one needs. If you have questions or concerns, address them immediately.
Practice letting go. Having a life outside of caregiving is okay. Consider these new arrangements a chance for you to do something just for you. Even if it’s a one hour massage before your loved one returns home, it can give you a renewed sense of energy to be able to take time for yourself. It can also inspire you to take more time for yourself when things change once again.
Embrace transitions for what they are. Each moment brings something new to your day. How will you approach it?