Dealing with aches, pains, and forgetfulness is bad enough, but when an older person’s mobility and ability to make wise choices is impaired, it’s time for some form of assisted living. If someone you love is at that point, you know they need proper nutrition, safe surroundings and help bathing. There are some other things, however – intangible things that people really need whatever their age. A good assisted living community will strive to meet these needs as well as provide basic care.
Here are five of these “intangibles” that one might not think of when evaluating an assisted living situation.
- People need to feel loved and valued. Fortunately, many staff members do treat elderly residents with friendliness, warmth, and yes, even love. When you are considering a home for one of your loved ones, watch the staff interact with the residents. Do they kid around? Do you see smiles? Do you hear respectful laughter? Do you see compassion when one of the residents has a problem?
- Older people also need lots of patience. They should be able to get where they need to be as slowly as it takes. Of course, if they are not ambulatory, someone may push them more quickly in a wheelchair, but for those who still get around on their own, it is pathetic to see someone rushing them. They also need patience with eating. Sometimes they need help and supervision or else they will not take in adequate nutrition. Often, family members make a practice of coming in at mealtime to help their loved one eat.
- Nursing home residents need to feel needed if at all possible. This is particularly true if their minds are still sharp. A good assisted living staff will invent jobs and duties for residents who are able to pitch in and help, however simply. For instance, one woman of 89 who had always been active and independent was quite discouraged living in a senior citizens’ apartment. She felt lonely and unwanted, as well as being unable to take care of herself well enough to stay in the apartment. When she finally was moved to a skilled nursing facility, she found that she could entertain the other residents with her spirited piano playing. The result was that even though she received more hands-on care in the new living center, she felt more needed because the other residents enjoyed her gift.
- Sunlight, fresh air, and the great outdoors are another real need for aging people. Some nursing facilities provide many outdoor opportunities while others do not. Spending some time outdoors is a good way to ward off depression, a common problem for the elderly. The bright light outdoors, even on a cloudy day, is enough to improve serotonin stores in the brain and lift the spirits.
- Finally, older folks deserve to have their spiritual beliefs and standards respected. The last fifty years or so have seen a shift in values in much of the civilized world. The result is that aged people often have much different values than the young staffers who are taking care of them. For instance, many older people do not like to hear profane or obscene language, especially from women or when women are around. Others feel strongly about being able to attend church services. Does the facility you are considering take these factors into consideration?
Making the decision to place a loved one in assisted living is difficult at best. Look for a facility that takes care of the intangibles as well as the critical, if not more mundane, caring needs.