Why It's Important to Look Early at Assisted Living Options

by Jacqueline Marcell Patient Expert

At one of my recent seminars, an "at-her-wit's-end" adult daughter, Sally, rushed up afterward pleading for my advice on how to get her elderly parents to move to Assisted Living before their health deteriorated any further. She lived cross-country and was terrified about them being alone as there had already been a few close calls like the time her father left the gas stove on without it lighting, filling the house with fumes and nearly asphyxiating himself and his wife. Sally had already tried to hire caregivers to come into her parents' home, but her obstinate father wouldn't allow it. She was desperate to get them to move before the next crisis call hoping it wouldn't be for actually burning the house down" or worse

It reminded me of the time I received a late night call from another adult child, Paul, begging for my advice on this same exasperating situation. He'd just flown cross-country after receiving his crisis call and was at the hospital with his folks, as his father had accidentally burned their house down. He said he'd begged his parents for years to move into Assisted Living and a couple times even had everything signed and ready to go, but they canceled at the last minute. I felt so bad for him and suggested maybe it would be better to wait a bit until his parents recovered from the smoke inhalation before he brought up the move to Assisted Living again; but Paul (a 60 year old man), burst into tears with, "Jacqueline, I can't wait -- I just found out my father already hired the contractor to rebuild the house. My parents are 90 and 92 years old!"

So how do you convince an obstinate elder to move to Assisted Living when they flatly refuse? Ohhh, I wish I had the magic bullet! Of course, the key would have been by having "the conversation" years earlier and being prepared how to handle these difficult situations. By documenting a person's wishes for their later years and having Living Wills, Trusts, and Durable Powers of Attorney in place (for health and financial decisions should they become incapacitated), much of this stress can be reduced. But unfortunately, most people go into denial and procrastinate dealing with end-of-life issues until they absolutely have to. And since our civil rights are very strong (actually a good thing) and you can't just move someone out of their home against their will, it boils down to:

1. Begging, pleading, and a test of wills and perseverance.
2. Repetitive family interventions.
3. Soliciting healthcare professionals to help with the convincing.
4. Contacting Adult Protective Services (APS) and an Elder Law Attorney, and going through the nightmare of trying to get a legal Conservatorship/Guardianship over your elder. This requires substantial proof that the person is a danger to themselves or someone else. But, if the day they go before the judge they are sharp as a tack (which kept happening to me with my father), you can't get it!

Sooo, it behooves everyone to talk to their elders early while everyone is still healthy and thinking clearly. By having rational solutions for their later years documented and discussing Assisted Living options, when the time comes it will hopefully be much easier to accomplish.

Recently I interviewed Ryan Malone, the editor of InsideAssistedLiving.com on my Coping with Caregiving radio program, and was impressed with his information. He was only 33 in 2005 when his mother had a stroke, which catapulted him into the caregiving world where he experienced nearly every level of eldercare. After finding so few options for families trying to evaluate Assisted Living options, Ryan dedicated himself to building a "by families, for families" resource on the topic. He's also compiled an extensive 25 question survey and is offering it free of charge to my readers: http://www.insideassistedliving.com/family-survey

Jacqueline Marcell
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Jacqueline Marcell

Jacqueline wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Alzheimer's Disease.