By Micha Shalev
Part one of this series appeared in the April issue of the Fifty Plus Advocate. Part two appeared in the May issue of the Fifty Plus Advocate.
Most of us dread the thought of permanently moving a loved one into a skilled nursing facility (SNF), and this sentiment doesn’t change for those who are fortunate enough to have a selection of stellar facilities to choose from. As caregivers, even though we are fully aware of our individual limitations, it means giving up a certain amount of direct oversight and control. We also know deep down that this move is an admission that our loved one has passed a certain point in their health where returning home or resuming even a few aspects of self-care is no longer a possibility. This transition is a direct dose of reality for everyone involved.
- Your loved one should be able to look around their room and say, “These are a few of my favorite things.” It’s crucial to bring items that hold personal significance, promote happy reminiscing and stimulate the senses in some way.
- Family pictures are important and can be posted on a bulletin board, stored in a scrapbook or photo album, uploaded to a digital picture frame, or displayed as a collage on the wall. It can also be helpful to stick a small label under each photo or on the back to explain the name and relationship to your loved one of those pictured. This enables them to share their photographs without having the pressure of remembering names, faces and relations all at once.
- Another sentimental item to bring could be their favorite artwork or posters. Keep in mind that wall space in SNF rooms is limited, and the facility may have rules about what hardware is allowed for hanging frames and other wall decor. If nails are not allowed, poster tack or Command Strips may be helpful alternatives. Posters can be placed in inexpensive poster frames to make them look more polished, and the artwork can be changed out periodically at little expense. Numerous vendors sell affordable prints of famous works of art, nature scenes, military memorabilia, old movie posters and much more. The options are endless!
- A CD player and CDs or a MP3 player loaded with favorite music can also be a small but meaningful addition to a loved one’s room. Just as with the television, headphones of some kind are probably a wise investment for considerate listening.
- Other types of treasured items might include favorite snacks or treats (as appropriate to their current dietary needs), scented lotions, a stuffed animal or doll, sports memorabilia or team colors, a couple of favorite books, or small items from a personal collection.
- It is important to note that most facilities prohibit breakable items like china and glass, electric blankets, scented plug-ins, and, of course, any sort of open flame (candles), and weapons.
- All items must be clearly marked with your loved one’s name. Clothing and other items can easily be mixed up in the laundry. If the facility caters to residents with dementia or memory issues, belongings can be accidentally or intentionally stolen and end up in the wrong rooms. Use permanent marker on clothing and fabrics, and either purchase or make labels with your loved one’s name and room number so that all other items can be quickly and easily labeled. You can also iron or sew on decorative patches to identify clothing without them appearing like labels. Don’t forget to tag items like glasses, hearing aids, denture cases, personal care items, and durable medical equipment like walkers and furniture.
- This is a challenging time for both you and your loved one, and a room in a SNF is never going to be comparable to their long-time home. Treat this move as an opportunity to create a new home for them: a comfortable, safe environment filled with happy memories and fun activities. This is a place where your loved one can thrive and receive the higher level of care they need.
Micha Shalev MHA CDP CDCM CADDCT is the owner of Dodge Park Rest Home and The Adult Day Club at Dodge Park located at 101 Randolph Road in Worcester. He is a graduate of the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners program, and well known speaker covering Alzheimer’s and Dementia training topics. The programs at Dodge Park Rest Home specialized in providing care for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The facility is holding a free monthly support group meeting on the 2nd Tuesday of each month for spouses and children of individuals with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at 508-853-8180 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or view more information online at www.dodgepark.com.