Moving Into a Care Home
If you're moving into a care home, or trying to move an elderly relative into a care home, there's a lot more details to be flushed out and thought about once you've gone through choosing the right care home!
Having come to your decision, you think that's it - but there's still a ton to do.
If you're moving an elderly relative into a care home then you need to try to ensure they're not missing anything, that the move is as seamless as possible. Of course you'll forget or overlook some things, but it's a good idea to think through what their needs might be and get them organised up front!
Below are my tips from having moved an elderly relative into a care home recently:
Getting Magazines and Newspapers Delivered to a Care Home
Most care homes will tell you that they can arrange for newspapers and magazines to be delivered. Find out how they do this - do they place an order at the local newsagent, or do they send a staff member down to a local shop to collect them?
If the care home sends a member of staff down to a local shop, pop into the shop yourself to check they carry the magazines you're after. If they don't, then you need to find out more about whether the care home will place an order to be collected. While a small, local, newsagent might have an order for the care home's needs, if the member of staff at the care home goes into a supermarket to collect magazines from the shelves, then they might not be able to get the ones you need.
Think about the needs of your elderly relative. How will they get more shampoo/conditioner/soap? If they have specific brands you could simply stock them up each time you visit (also think about where/how they will store these - perhaps getting a lidded storage box for under their sink), or you could send them an online order every 2-3 months.
The same applies to soap, deodorant, creams, makeup, perfume, shaving supplies, toothbrushes, toothpaste, denture fixant, denture tablets and any other products they use.
How will they wash their hair? Most care homes will have a hairdresser who comes along once a week or so - get them booked in for a wash and dry in each session as it's likely your elderly relative won't be able to wash their own hair. When first going into a care home a lot of elderly people are reluctant, at first, to have assisted baths - and will duck and dive for a few months having a strip wash - but this isn't information they'll volunteer so you need to get something in place from the start.
How will they cut their toenails and fingernails? Care home staff can't do this for you - they need to be 'qualified'. Care home staff are possibly only allowed to file nails down. Book your elderly relative in for the regular services that come to the care home for these to be done, but do check the current state of their nails and the date of the next chiropodist/nails dates in case you need to quickly cut those nails now!
For fingernails, you can get some very large nail clippers which are easily used by people whose hands can't grip terribly well, these are commonly called toe nail clippers, but they are perfect for fingernails as they aren't fiddly at all.
Dressing to Go Out
A good care home will be having some outings and excursions for residents, so make sure your elderly relative has a suitable set of outdoor clothes. These can fit into a box under their bed if they're not going to be used very often.
If you think about the residents, being elderly their needs will be different to yours when you go out! They won't need an umbrella, for example, as carers would hold any umbrellas. Make sure they have a good warm jacket, a hat, scarf, some warm gloves and some outdoor shoes (or boots). If a care home is taking its residents out they won't be yomping across fields and exposed to awful weather in any way - they'll be covering short distances, kept warm and not having to walk miles.
In many care homes hanging space is at a premium - check the wardrobe space out - you might be able to get a plastic lidded storage box in there labelled "Outdoor Clothes".
Also, don't forget that there will be celebrations and events to dress up for. In some care homes mobile residents are invited to staff weddings, then there are the usual special Holiday Meals and national celebrations where the care home will be decorated in party style. Make sure your relative has a nice, smart, outfit for such events. It's worthwhile putting any special party wear into a plastic suit hanger type of cover, with a label on saying "Party Wear/Events" so the carers who dress them will know they have something 'special' and it doesn't end up being used for everyday wear.
Label Clothes and Belongings
One thing they don't tell you about moving into a care home is that you need to label everything. Some things are easily done, with plain white labels, but there are other things that can quickly need sorting out.
Labelling clothes is quite important - in a care home the washing will be done - and you want to make sure your relative's clothes aren't disappearing. Most of the time there will be a system that works - and the carers will get to recognise who owns what, but you will need to label everything just to be sure.
One simple and quick way of labelling clothes is to get a permanent marker pen and write initials/name on the clothing label. This can be an issue though as I've noticed my relative's labels are coming back smudged as they use more powerful washing machines I guess.
The alternative is to use name labels - now, at first glance these seem like a perfect solution, but beware.... how are you going to fix them on? You'll probably already have 1000 other things to be sorting out. Your solutions are two types of label: iron-on labels, or sew in labels. Both of these, when multiplied by the number of garments your relative will have, suddenlyy seems daunting. Well, I figured out one quick and fairly easy way of using the iron-on labels. Simply use a small, handheld pair of hair straightening tongs - much easier than getting out an ironing board and iron and doing each one with the tip of an iron.
Iron on labels, with a pen, can be bought cheaply online too. This method works well for later clothes you buy as you can slip your hair tongs into your handbag and just affix 1-2 when you visit your relative!
Some homes will offer a labelling service, but this can take a few weeks before they've ordered them and then labels are only affixed as each garment goes through the laundry system. Using hair tongs and iron on labels is a portable solution that you can use immediately.
Get A Safe
Generally speaking, care homes are safe places for cash and valuables, but most rooms will often be unlocked and if there are 'wanderers' then they might wander in and pick up things and wander off with them. The care home staff will know who the wanderers are and will usually know where to look for things if things go missing, but it's good to minimise the potential for sentimental items or items of value to go walkabout in the first place.
Get a safe. It doesn't have to be fitted onto the wall/floor as you're not trying to protect belongings against a forced burglary - you're simply keeping valuable documents and items under lock and key.
You do need to think about the needs and abilities of the person moving into the care home though when you choose either a keypad system or one with a key. Think about whether they can reliably remember the code - and if they have the eyesight/dexterity to press the combination. If you're looking for a small safe with a key, then a bigger key will be better as older people can have problems with arthritis and osteoporosis.
With a safe in the room, you can store their personal documents (birth certificate, any bank books, wedding certificate) as well as some sentimental items (watches, jewellery) and any cash.
Even if there is no opportunity to use much cash in a care home, most residents will want to have cash as they still believe they will be going to the shops.
Having a safe gives the care home resident a feeling of privacy and independence.
You also need to think about the backup plan of what to do if they forget the code or lose their key - so you need to get the code and key lodged in their file with the care home office.
Having a safe, as I said, isn't about security as the main reason - it's about enabling the care home resident to maintain the dignity that comes from being able to keep their things safe and secure and the feeling of independence they'll get from having the code or key to their safe.
Clocks & Calendars
It's important that somebody going into a care home has a good, clear clock - and a good, clear and usable calendar. This helps them to keep track of the passing hours and days and keep in touch with what's going on and when things happened.
Although their social life is unlikely to be buzzing, you can use the calendar to write your name on so they can see which days people visited. Also there are outings and appointments with hairdressers, chiropodists and possibly even Doctor or Hospital appointments.
You should also write down family birthdays/anniversaries.
Having a good, clear clock and calendar around becomes quite important if your relative has any dementia issues as it does help them to understand the passing of time around them.
Make It Homely
You need to think about how to make the room homely, without it being cluttered.
Look around for old/familiar items, things that your relative has kept hold of for years - perhaps even an old clock you remember from decades ago and that no longer works; perhaps you can get it working again.
You can look at changing the curtains/bedspread that the care home provides - find out if your relative wants to take theirs with them, or to choose new ones in the colour/style of their choice.
Most care homes let you take your own furniture, but many of the rooms are quite small, so you might like to think about buying a new piece that will hold all your residents personal belongings and display their knick-knacks.
Don't buy rugs - they are a trip hazard.
If you're buying a new lamp, or taking in an existing one, think about how fiddly the switch is and whether the light is bright or if the lamp is intended for decoration and its ambience value.
Gather together all photos and make sure they're all in easy to use photo albums. Remember that your relative will have decreasing strength and dexterity, so it's better to have the photos in smaller albums.
It's also a great idea to take a photo of every photo in the albums - or at least key images - and buy a digital photo frame. Pick a digital photo frame that can be set up to change the photo every few minutes and your relative won't even have to get the photo albums out to look through them, they can simply sit back in their chair and enjoy the memories whenever they want!
Using a digital photo frame is a great way to also show them what you've been up to when you visit them - simply slip your latest images onto a memory card and you can show them your photos through their digital photo frame.
In choosing a digital photo frame for your relative, think about:
- A good sized screen
- Whether it's wi-fi compatible / how you'll transfer new photos to the frame
- How it is powered and where it can sit (or be hung on the wall) and be viewable/reachable.
When you're going through old photo albums, think about picking out some series of images and get some large photo frames for the walls of your relative's room. Plastic, or perspex, photo frames are very affordable and there's no glass to break either.
You could group the photos around people, or around dates/decades. Perhaps have one frame of "photos that show cars we've had over the years", or "Xmasses past".