Assisted living facilities are growing like wildflowers in many communities. What do they offer, and how can you talk with your veteran about considering one?
Assisted Living Basics
Assisted living facilities are housing for elderly or disabled people that provides some level of assistance, but not total care. This assistance may include meals, housekeeping and help with daily activities like bathing, as well as nursing care, such as disease or medication management. Assisted living also provides safety and security 24 hours a day, opportunities for socialization, local transportation to nearby stores and doctors’ offices, and entertainment.
Before you talk with your veteran about potentially moving to assisted living, do a little homework. This conversation is not easy. Knowing the details about assisted living facility options before you talk is helpful.
- Review the shared decision-making form provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Carefully read this form on your own before the veteran fills it out.
- Explore the assisted living facilities available within the veteran’s budget. The VA does not pay for the rent or cost of basic services in the facility. However, it may pay for extra services needed, such as professional nursing. Inquire about how the facility accommodates issues the disabled vet may have, such as mobility issues.
- Research choices relevant to the veteran’s age. A younger veteran may not want to live in a facility that has primarily older vets.
- Search for other options that would also fit the veteran’s needs, such as domiciliary care or a community living center (VA nursing home). These are included on the shared decision-making form.
For a Successful Talk
Once you have an idea of what you want to discuss with the veteran, it’s time to plan how to have the conversation.
- Be patient. Many people resist the idea of transitioning to assisted living. They don’t want to leave their homes or admit they need assistance, for example.
- Pace the conversation. It shouldn’t take place all at one time. Plant a seed, and then bring up the topic again later. Set deadlines for next discussions and maybe even a timeline for a final decision.
- Work together. Reassure the veteran that you’re making the decision together.
- Look at the pros and cons. Help the veteran identify both the advantages and disadvantages of moving to an assisted living facility. Write these down on paper so that the veteran can see how the pros outweigh the cons.
- Be compassionate. Assure the veteran that changing living arrangements does not mean losing relationships with friends and loved ones.
- Take some tours. Seeing an assisted living facility in person may help the veteran see the opportunity in a new light.
After your veteran moves into a facility, help personalize the space. Decorate with the veteran’s favorite possessions and throw a housewarming party with friends. That way the veteran will see this as a transition, not as the end of a portion of life. Also, attend a few activities and meals with your veteran to help him or her break the ice as the newcomer. Finally, offer to act on the veteran’s behalf for anything he or she needs from the facility, like requesting modifications to the apartment or the staff who are assigned to help.
Nancy Kupka PhD, RN is an experienced caregiver who enjoys sharing her knowledge with aging veterans and their families alike. She serves as Manager of Clinical Program and Quality for Walgreens, where you can find an array of home health products like lift chairs to help assist your disabled veteran stay mobile.
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