As we begin to adjust to our new normal, and learn to live in a post Covid world, I have come to appreciate even more the invaluable role of family carers. For many carers, the pandemic was a time of extreme isolation, and the need to protect their loved one came at a personal cost and sacrifice, as limited support was available to care for people at home, and there was limited access to see relatives in hospital or living in a care home.
One of the most challenging times for carers are when their loved one enters a care home. For many, this decision is not made lightly and usually follows either an intense period of caring for their loved one at home with support or following a traumatic event such as a hospital admission, where it becomes evident that their loved one can no longer be safely cared for at home.
In many cases, people living with dementia may not understand why they are no longer living at home, and family carers are faced with anger, sadness and frustration from their loved one. This was certainly the case for my grandmother when initially she moved from her own home to living with my aunt, and then later when she moved permanently into a care home.
Beginning with the initial diagnosis of dementia through to the end of life, people with a dementia and their caregivers face many transitions which can cause intense stress, burden, and depression. It is at these junctures where people are most vulnerable, health and social care teams play an important role in assisting people with a dementia and their family members to successfully, and safely navigate these transitions.
With the transition to long term care, family involvement in care often changes from direct care provision to responsibility for care coordination, health care decisions, and finances.
What are some practical ways to support family carers with this transition?
- Plan for the move. If possible, visit the care home in advance so your loved one can become familiar with the new environment. On moving day, take any items that might make your loved one feel more comfortable. Seeing familiar objects may also help the person adjust to the new environment. Take care of yourself on moving day, plan to have someone at home or you can call so you are not alone.
- As a caregiver, you will experience a broad range of emotions once the person you have cared for has moved. You may feel guilty or relieved, and you may even have second thoughts about your decision. These are all normal reactions.
- Adjusting to the new situation will take time for both of you. You have not lost your role as caregiver. You are now sharing the responsibility of care with others.
- Keep in mind that there is no correct number of times to visit your loved one. Go as often as you want and stay for as long as you feel comfortable. The important thing is to make each visit – no matter the length or the frequency – as full and rewarding as possible for both of you.
- There are bound to be some fundamental differences in the caregiving routine that is provided by the care home compared to what you had provided at home. You can help staff get to know your loved one by sharing information about their personal life, hobbies, occupation and daily routines.
Cooperative family and staff relationships are essential to creating a positive environment for the person living with dementia and fostering family caregiver adjustment. In turn, this improves care and quality of life, as well as family satisfaction.