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Should You Put Your Parent in a Nursing Home?

Updated on May 3, 2016
VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne was a caregiver for in-laws with Alzheimer's and shares her extensive research in dementia and elder care to help others.

Caring for Relative with Alzheimers

Alzheimer's affects a whole family.
Alzheimer's affects a whole family. | Source

How Alzheimer's Facilities Can Help

If you are worn-out with caring for your loved one with Alzheimer's or other dementia, you are not alone. Some caregivers end up having worse health issues than the ones they are caring for. The best advice I got when caring for my two in-laws with Alzheimer's came from my cousin who has been a hospice nurse for many years.She told me:

"Let the professionals do what they can, so you can do what only you can."

Types of Alzheimer's Care Facilities

Professional service for a person with dementia's daily needs can help you be a better caregiver. There are many types of services for Alzheimer's care:

  • Respite care in your home.
  • Daycare at a facility.
  • Independent living facilities with some daily needs support.
  • Assisted living care.
  • Combination care facilities which have graduated care from independent living, to assisted living to nursing care.
  • Long term care nursing homes.
  • Specialized Alzheimer's Units in Long Term Care Facilities.
  • Alzheimer's Facilities which specialize in Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

The type of Alzheimer's facility and care you choose will depend on your loved one's needs. However, it is important to look at the future needs of a person who is moving toward Advanced Alzheimers.

Long Term Care Poll

What is your interest in Alzheimer's facilities?

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Advantages of Nursing Home Care

Alzheimer's care facility let us spend more time enjoying grandma rather than worrying about her.
Alzheimer's care facility let us spend more time enjoying grandma rather than worrying about her. | Source

When to Seek Long Term Care for Alzheimers

Many times, families feel guilty about not being able to care for their loved one with dementia. Often, when a person is in the early stages of dementia, changing schedules and reducing work can allow families to provide the assistance their relative needs to continue to stay in their home. However, as Alzheimer's enters middle and late stages, caring for a person can be overwhelming. Long-term care should be considered when:

  1. Alzheimer's patient needs 24-hour supervision.
  2. Health status of loved one requires more medical monitoring and nursing care than can be provided in a home.
  3. The main caregiver is facing health problems, feel overwhelmed, don't get enough sleep, feel isolated or depressed (often the case when a spouse is the main caregiver).
  4. Health concerns of caregiver begin to be as much as those of Alzheimer's patient.
  5. Caregiver and Alzheimer's patient are having difficulty in their relationship because of caregiving.
  6. Safety of loved one with Alzheimer's is a concern.
  7. If the person lives alone, are they becoming unable to continue daily living tasks, feed themselves and take medicines appropriately?
  8. Do doctors and other professionals recommend long term care?
  9. The family is beginning to have troubles related to caring for Alzheimer's patient.

When Long Term Care Might Help

Alzheimer's Facility vs. Nursing Home

You may wonder if a person with Alzheimer's needs to be in a facility which specializes in Alzheimer's patients. Here are some things to consider:

  • Special Alzheimer's Facilities May Cost Much More: While many of these facilities might have resources which could help your loved one with dementia, the added cost of many of these types of long-term care homes may not be necessary. In our town, long term Alzheimer's facility care is about 30% more than other nursing homes in the area.
  • Most Long Term Care Facilities Have Alzheimer's Patients: A large majority of people in most nursing home facilities have Alzheimer's or other dementia, so they are used to handling the different needs of memory challenged individuals. So even if the nursing home does not state a specialty in Alzheimer's care, they may very well be quite competent at taking care of your relative.
  • Alzheimer's Patients are Difficult. No matter where your loved one is taken care of, whether at home or in a care facility, you will probably struggle with the difficulties of caring for a person in middle to late stage Alzheimer's, and so will the people caring for your loved one. Delusions, hallucinations, anger, sundowning (mixing up days and nights) and other behaviors make caring for a person very difficult. Even the best caregivers will sometimes be stumped at how to handle a behavior. No matter what long-term facility you choose, you will need to be involved in the care taking of your relative and there may be some difficult decisions and situations along the way.

Long Term Care Starts with Crisis

Alzheimer's imbalance led my mother-in-law to fall.  She needed 24 hour medical care.
Alzheimer's imbalance led my mother-in-law to fall. She needed 24 hour medical care. | Source

Crisis Starts Long Term Care Search

Like many people caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's, it took a crisis for us to consider long-term care. In our case, the problem was compounded by the fact that we were caring for two Alzheimer's patients at once, Michael and Nicole, my husband's parents.

For two years, we managed to help them stay in their own home. I stopped working so I could be available for their emergency needs and medical care. We assisted in caring for them and changing their routines so that they could cope with their changing abilities. Eventually, however, there came a medical crisis which put Nicole into the hospital. Within six months, both Michael and Nicole needed 24-hour care. Many of the items on the list above were true for us. We considered the special Alzheimer's facility in town, but they did not have beds at the time; moreover, as we investigated our choices in long-term care facilities, we realized that we needed to consider the different needs of each of them:

  • Nicole needed 24-hour nursing and medical supervision of her condition. She needed people who were very compassionate but able to deal with her explosive anger.
  • Michael needed to be assisted living services to help with daily living and activities to keep him busy. He also needed a locked facility that he could not leave. He also needed people who could re-direct his paranoia.

Nursing Home Facilities Vary

Nursing Home Dining Hall.
Nursing Home Dining Hall. | Source

Best Alzheimer's Facility

In the end, we visited with many Alzheimer's facilities, assisted living facilities and nursing home facilities. Since then, we've had many friends who have had parents in other long-term facilities in our town as well. The answer to which is the best Alzheimer's facility is:

The Best Alzheimer's Facility is the One Which Meets Your Loved One's Needs

The most important factor in choosing an Alzheimer's facility is determining what your loved one must have to be safe, stable emotionally and taken care of physically. Here are some of the typical needs your Alzheimer's loved one might need:

  1. Alarmed doors or monitors to prevent wandering?
  2. Lots of activities to keep them busy?
  3. Socialization and community meals?
  4. Privacy? A place without much noise?
  5. Regular schedules?
  6. Access to therapy and doctor's visits in-house.
  7. To be close for you to visit easily?
  8. Compassionate and patient caregivers?
  9. One consistent caregiver or a variety of different faces?
  10. The constant presence of a nurse on-site?
  11. Help with daily living activities?
  12. A place which allows them to move from assisted living to nursing home care as needed?
  13. A place where they can be outside safely?
  14. A physically attractive facility?
  15. A place where family involvement is encouraged with activities to involve other family members in special events?
  16. A facility which is adept at handling psychotic medications for individuals with difficult behaviors.

Nursing Home Red Flags

Best Alzheimer's Facility May Change

In the end, we used three different long-term care situations in our town during the three years Michael and Nicole needed Alzheimer's long term care. What caused us to change care?

  • One facility was not able to handle the two of them together.
  • Another facility had staff changes which made safety concerns.
  • Michael initially needed the stimulation of assisted living, but as he declined he needed to have the medical services of a nursing home facility.

In the end, we found that caring staff made the biggest impact on how well Michael and Nicole adjusted to the facility and felt about their time living there. Caring and gracious staff would be the first thing I would look for in touring any facility in the future.

Have you chosen a long-term care facility for your relative with Alzheimer's or dementia? Please share your stories and ideas for making the choice in the comments below.

Alzheimer's Caregiving Changes Family


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    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      My mother had Alzheimers' when she died. She lived with my brother, who never complained and would not have it any other way. However, it's nice to know that there are options where the elderly can find good and loving care in a nursing home. This is a lovely and helpful hub.

    • andredavidson profile image

      andredavidson 4 years ago

      Seems that while an Alzheimers facility sounds like the best choice, nursing homes have similar support without being as expensive.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Jordan--I very much sympathize with you about your grandfather. I am so glad that you were able to have him in a caregiving place where they really helped him. That was our experience too.

    • profile image

      Jordan Campbell 4 years ago

      This is a very touchy topic for me, in my Grandpas last days, he suffered from cardio vascular dementia. I was heartbroken to see a man that was once brilliant fight to remember some of the most simple things. Luckily, he was in place where the faculty really cared about the patients and went out of their way to keep them happy and satisfied .This was a wonderful and reassuring article that showed me there are other loving caretakers that really aren't there for only a paycheck.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      arkirchner--thank you so much for the thoughtful reply and examples from your own life. It is so very hard to know how to handle this very difficult situation. In my own family, I've had three relatives who were kept at home with family until there was a crisis. In all three situations, the person was put into full-time care when they were actually very near death. The move in that case was very traumatic for everyone and probably not as helpful to anyone as care help could have been if it had been considered earlier. You are so right that it is just by God's grace!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

      Saddest thing, Alzheimer's or any form of dementia. I was raised by my grandmother pretty much and she suffered from schizophrenia and dementia--it was so hard for her to chase the demons away.

      Over the years, I've known a few friends too who ended up with dementia and it's just the most devastating thing. I have a really good friend who kept her mom at home with Alzheimer's as long as she could and it certainly was a challenge--but I remember growing up with my grandmother. You just did what you needed to do--that was life then. Today it seems it's much easier to forget about our family and friends and just put them somewhere so they can be someone else's problem.

      Working in medicine, I do see both sides of it--my friend's mom actually eloped one night and was hit by a car, rolled into a ditch and had no ID on her...all the day of her daughter's graduation--my daughter's too. The whole town was out looking for her. That finally led my friend to have to institutionalize her for her own safety even though they were using every precaution under the sun at home. But I always give her the greatest kudos because she tried so hard. Just like we all did in our family to just keep my grandmother from being put somewhere--she eventually too had to go somewhere.

      I always say though--there but for the grace of God go I--your info and insights are spectacular~ Great photos and what a great family!!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks picadilly. I know I often talk with people who say they'd "never put their parents in a home" but I know that usually means they haven't really been close to taking care of Alzheimer's loved ones who show some of the most difficult characteristics of the disease--or ones who have serious medical needs.

    • picadilly profile image

      Priscill Anne Alvik 4 years ago from Schaumburg, IL

      You have written a dynamic hub on a subject that needs to be discussed more in today's world. I could hear your heart from the personal experience with the disease within your family unit. Bravo to you for tackling a difficult subject.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Seeker7--What a blessing you have been to many people! No one can pay someone enough to care for Alzheimer's patients in a loving way. It has to be a decision that comes from a person's heart. We were incredibly blessed by several people who chose to love my in-laws and care for them as if they were family. Thanks for sharing!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Another excellent hub on this important topic. I agree with you 100% about the attitude of care givers. Even if you have a facility that doesn't look quite as nice as another, but the carers are relaxed, friendly and caring, then choose this facility every time. No matter what form of dementia a person has, they will always respond so much better - like any of us would - to compassion, patience and kindness.

      I was very lucky to work in an establishment and finally became manager of a facility that won a few awards for best carers etc. Time and time again the families would say after visiting, that they didn't worry about going back to their own homes, since they knew their loved one was happy, loved and cared for. That's when we knew, we were doing our jobs as carers properly and it made us even more determined to ensure that all our elderly residents and their families felt the same way.

      An excellent hub with great information that will help any family to choose what care is likely to be best for their loved one. Voted up!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks kissayer--I noticed that many of the websites which deal with this issue are very impersonal, but this is perhaps the most emotional decision many people ever make and I think you have to deal with those feelings.

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      A very personal topic that you did a great job of covering, well done. I like that you highlighted that the facility that is best now, might not be later and it's important that all of their needs are catered to.

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