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Answering ‘When can I go home?’ after a move to assisted living

With advancing age comes a time when a loved one needs more care. The death of a spouse may trigger a realization that Mom or Dad cannot live alone, the stairs may be just too steep or the house just too much. Signs of memory loss may be easier to identify, such as forgotten food moldering, a weekly pill case sitting full or money missing from an account without explanation.

The process to identify a care facility, get on a waiting list and sign on all the lines can be tricky, especially when a loved one is not ready. In these cases, a guardianship or conservatorship might be necessary to get needed help. Once the move occurs, it is not the end. Here are some tips for answering the “back home” questions.

Open-ended questions

These types of questions that start with what, where, when, why can be helpful. What do you miss about home? It might be a rocking chair that wasn’t moved. Locating it and moving it to a living area could be enough to bring something familiar into the space.

Answers to these questions may involve things that cannot be “fixed.” This is where “wouldn’t it be nice” or “I wish” statements can be used to show empathy.

A car ride to get away

Depending on the level of memory loss or care needs, a car ride to visit familiar places can sometimes be helpful. This comes with a warning, though. It might be beneficial to wait until a loved one gets adjusted to a new living situation to avoid issues with them not wanting to get back out of the car after that drive.

Frequent visits are probably one of the most important ways to show that you care. Although a loved one cannot return to the comfort of a known house where they lived and were proud of independence, being present and listening go a long way.

A loved one may have legitimate concerns about treatment by staff at a care facility or an overly restrictive routine. In these situations, open-ended questions are crucial to determine whether there is something truly wrong. In some cases, changing to another care provider or investigating family care options may be necessary.

Working with an elder law attorney is often one way to smooth this transition. It can even avoid the need for a court-ordered guardianship or conservatorship in some cases. Bringing in a professional can help with these tough decisions.

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