There are a myriad of concerns that could lead you to believe that your loved one is ready to enter a community where they can receive the care that they need. This could be a Retirement or Independent Living Facility where they are still able to live on their own, but have certain amenities available when they are needed or it can mean an option that provides more consistent care such as an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home.
If you haven’t yet used our caregiving guide to help you navigate your particular circumstances, we recommend that you begin there. If you have, and that is what brought you to this page, continue reading for advice on how to start the decision process for the loved one under your care.
Meet With Their Primary Care Physician
The first step that you should take if you believe that the person that you are caring for should be considering an Assisted Living community or something similar, is to set up an appointment with their Primary Care Physician (also known as a PCP). This is the doctor who they see on a regular basis for generic medical needs such as physicals or standard colds and flus.
Be sure that you, or the primary caregiver, are able to attend this appointment along with the individual in question. You’ll want this person there to assist in taking notes, remembering points of the conversation regarding any next steps, as well as to provide emotional support.
Aging can be an emotional experience, so having someone at your loved one’s side to support them in the process, even if they are relatively independent in their daily living, is important.
What To Expect During Their Doctor Visit
- Plan for Extra Time. These sorts of appointments can be rather involved and last longer than a typical checkup. Opposed to just checking vital signs like a heart rate or body temperature, the doctor will be asking questions and getting to fully understand what’s happening in your loved one’s life.
- Consider Physical Limitations. When making the appointment, be sure to consider the physical limitations of the individual. If they have difficulties walking, transferring from a chair to an exam table, or difficulty communicating, you’ll want to communicate this with the office staff before visiting to be sure they are prepared.
- Determine a Mode of Transportation. If the individual doesn’t drive anymore, be sure you have them set up for proper transport. Be sure that either you or another caregiver can pick them up or arrange for an appropriate third party transportation method, such as Uber or Lyft, that is equipped to handle someone with your loved one’s needs.
- Communicate With Your Loved One. Whatever you do, don’t surprise someone with this appointment. Have a conversation with the individual and let them know that you’ve scheduled the appointment. Help them mark it on their calendar if need be and communicate the expectations of the visit so that they aren’t taken by surprise.
- Determine If They Need Help Getting Ready. If the individual that you care for needs help in any way to prepare themselves for the doctor visit, be sure that you or another caretaker are able to be with them that morning to lend your assistance. This could involve help bathing, dressing, or anything else that might hinder their ability to get to the doctor appropriately.
- Consider The Transfer From The Car To The Office. Do not assume that the physician’s office will assist you in transferring the individual from the car to their office building or hospital. If you will be in need of a wheelchair or extra physical strength, make sure you speak with the doctor’s office about this ahead of time so that they can be prepared to help. If there is no way for them to help, you may need to consider a different physician.
- Communicate With The Doctor Ahead Of Time. When making the appointment, or sometime before the visit if things change in the interim, be sure that you have communicated the point of the decision making process where you currently stand. If you and your loved one have already determined that they would like to relocate to a community, let them know. If you’re still in the initial decision stages, let them know this as well.
What To Bring With You To The Doctor
• List of medical conditions • List of any specialty physicians and contact info • List of your primary concerns • List of questions from other decision makers (children, spouse, etc) • Paper or digital notebook for taking notes • Important paperwork such as Living Wills or DNRs • Identification Card(s) • Health Insurance Card(s) • Credit Card or other way to pay the bill • Calendar for follow up and planning purposes • Small hand sanitizer & antibacterial wipes • Any special mobility equipment (prosthetics, canes, walkers) • Dress them in comfortable, easy to dress/undress clothing • A light sweater or jacket in case it is cold
If the individual has a close relationship and frequents a particular specialty physician, you can do the above appointment with them, however make sure when making the appointment that they are able assist in this manner. If not, then they can refer you to someone who can assist.
Determine a way to monitor the individual during the time you are seeking help from a physician. Help for this type of assistance, unfortunately, does not happen quickly, so plan for this lag time in receiving immediate professional help. For example, if your loved one cannot prepare meals, plan to prepare them for him/her during this time to make sure that he/she is receiving needed nutrition.
If you need extra guidance during the interim, you can refer to our resources here.