Social Workers Can Help Ease the Transition to Long-Term Care

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July 19, 2011

By Jennifer Martone

Jennifer MartoneRemember the feeling of seeing your child off for their first day of school? That fear of the unknown can be similar when planning for skilled care for your parents.

Ask Questions

As you search, visit multiple homes and meet with the social worker. Ask many questions – take a pen and pad for notes. You can ask how often physicians visit or about regular visiting hours, salon services, meal times and choices, and whether you are able to take your parent out of the facility for day trips.

The social worker can provide guidance and help you understand the type of experience your parent can expect. Focus on finding a home that will be the best fit.

Involve Your Parent and Siblings

Social workers can also provide insight on how to discuss the need for skilled care with your parents and out-of-town siblings.

Take the time to involve your parent in the process as much as possible. Transitions are easier when they can make the choice – it offers them a feeling of control. Not all parents can be actively involved in choosing their new home, but showing them brochures or viewing the facility’s website may help.

Conversations about this decision with your siblings can be very emotional and difficult, especially if they live out of town and have not been part of the day-to-day care. Be honest, and provide as much detail as possible. Everyone may not be in agreement, but ongoing communication is important.

Get to Know Your Social Worker

Once your parent has moved into their new home, always get to know your social worker. They are your advocate and liaison to all the other departments.

Attend Family Meetings

Family meetings are an opportunity to meet with the interdisciplinary team – ask when will they take place. At anytime, you should be able to call and speak with the assigned nurse or unit manager, therapist or social worker for updates.

Most facilities offer a Family Council and have monthly or quarterly meetings. This is an additional support system for the family. Ask questions as you have them.

Visit Often to Help Mom or Dad Feel at Home

An adjustment period during the transition is normal – an average of three months can be expected. Change is not easy. Rely on the expertise of your social worker and the interdisciplinary team. During this time, visit as often as you are able and get to know the staff and the other families. Getting involved will help you and your parent feel more at home!