How To Prepare to Admit A Loved One To Assisted Living


Written by:

Give InKind is honored to feature Dr. Sharagim Kemp, M.D. Dr. Kemp specializes in family medicine.

I remember sitting across from my patient of nearly a decade.

“Tom,” I said, “Could you tell me today’s date?”

Tom looked back at me with a blank stare. He replied with confidence.

“June 16, 1954.”

I looked outside at the snow, wishing it was June. But it was January and the year was nearly 60 years after 1954.  I shifted my focus to his three grown children in the room who were desperately trying to hold back tears.

Tom and his wife Regina were a wonderful couple. I’d look forward to the freshly-baked cookies they always brought to my office in in a little bag. Even as I gently scolded them about their cholesterol and blood sugars, I knew that I’d be having one of those delicious cookies with my coffee later that afternoon.

Tom’s wife Regina had died tragically in a car accident a couple of years earlier, and Tom had never quite recovered. He still came to see me every three months, but it became clear that his mind was failing him along with his broken heart.  That day I asked him the usual questions on the mini mental status exam, questions that were getting harder and harder for him to answer.

That day I realized I’d have to tell Tom’s children that the father that they knew and loved was declining, and that the man who once ran a company would now be unable to use the restroom without getting confused. I would have to tell them that the home he had shared with his wife of 53 years was no longer safe, that he would need to be kept in a place where he could be monitored twenty four hours a day because the family didn’t have the resources to take care of him at home. Tom’s family and his new caretakers would need to help him with this next phase of his life – being admitted into a nursing home facility.

Today this is a common scenario in many physicians’ offices. According to the AARP, in 2010, one in eight adults eighty-five or older resided in nursing homes due to an inability to participate in “activities of daily living.” These are basic activities we take for granted – toileting, eating, walking, being able to move around our homes.  In 2012, a total of 1.4 million individuals were living in nursing homes. And even though the elderly were more common in these facilities, younger individuals under 65 who’d suffered traumatic illnesses were also seen.

The cost associated with these facilities is staggering. In 2012, total sending (public, out-of-pocket and other private spending) for long-term care was $219.9 billion, or 9.3% of all U.S. personal health care spending. This is projected to increase to $346 billion in 2040.

With costs of care rising, I’ve found family members of these patients can have just as difficult a time as the individual going to the nursing home. I find myself spending hours reassuring and counseling families through the transition.  Many caregivers see this transition as a failure – that they were not able to take care of their loved ones themselves.

In my experience, I’ve found that the families that have an “easier” time with this period of change are ones that follow some of these steps:

Plan ahead – it’s never too soon to meet with an attorney who specializes in estate planning, wills, healthcare proxies, funeral arrangements – these may be morbid discussions, but the best way to take care of those we love most is through preparation.

Make arrangements to meet with the physicians – go to the appointments, get a sense of what is happening, ask questions – if arranged in advance, many physicians will hold family meetings to discuss care.

Utilize local and national resources – many towns have organizations dedicated to helping the elderly and their families – let them guide you through the process of arranging at-home care or nursing home care.

Start looking at facilities early – many facilities are full and some even have waiting lists – it is important to meet with admissions coordinators to discuss the details of having a loved one transferred to a particular facility as soon as possible.

Make sure that, as a caretaker, you’re addressing your own needs too – professionally, emotionally, physically – many caretakers seek counseling for their own issues of depression or anxiety that may have been caused by this new phase. Many employers will even allow for time off work in order to take care of a loved one.

And finally, remember that this is a new phase – not necessarily better or worse, but a new phase. And as with all new things, there will always be a period of adjustment. But in the end, know that what is being done is best for your loved one. Tom has since passed on, but I will never forget the day that the family moved him into the nursing him for his final years. A box of cookies came to the office with a note.

“You thought I forgot everything, huh?”

I smiled, knowing Tom would be okay. 

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

More from MediaFeed:

Have Loved Ones With Dementia? These 5 Easy Tips Can Help You Stay in Touch With Them

Have Loved Ones With Dementia? These 5 Easy Tips Can Help You Stay in Touch With Them

COVID-19 has left many of us feeling scared and alone. The damage done is far-reaching and has distanced us all from a life we all once took for granted.

Not only have most people isolated themselves from friends, but we’re also separated from our families. More specifically, many of us are unable to see our elderly loved ones — many of whom suffer from dementia.

Being unable to get in touch with your grandparents, parents, aunts, or uncles, adds another layer of fear and anxiety to the crisis.

Sitting back and waiting around for shutdowns to end will rob you of your peace of mind. And it’ll cut into the remaining time you have with an important person in your life. Fortunately, through the following five methods, you can stay in touch with your loved ones struggling with dementia as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis.


Part of the problem with giving support to your loved ones in this situation is that it’s challenging to coordinate effectively.

Chances are you aren’t the only family member that wants to step up to help show support. You can organize your efforts into a Care Calendar and keep everyone updated on what’s happening.

This will ensure that your entire family is on the same page and contributing to a concerted team effort. After all, staying in touch with your elder family member with dementia shouldn’t rest on your shoulders, especially amid the pandemic.

Give InKind customizes the kind of care needed, dependent on the person involved. As you’ll see with some of the following suggestions, through the calendar, family members can sign up to offer various forms of care, support, and assistance to your isolated, ailing loved one.


With Give InKind, it’s possible to set up a schedule of phone calls, where individual family members can ensure they touch base with your elderly loved one.

During such a tough time, it’s challenging to focus outside of ourselves. Sometimes you and your other family members might need a helpful prompt to stay in touch.

This way, someone will do their part every day, instead of days – if even weeks – going by without contact being made. Also, this effort to maintain a regular call schedule will establish a routine–and familiarity is essential when caring for someone with dementia.

On top of that, this will ease your anxiety. Use the Updates section on your page to help keep everyone regularly informed of what’s happening with your loved one’s general health.

Often, the worst thing is not knowing what’s happening. The more involved and dialed in you are, the more you can adapt and contribute to quality caregiving – even in the face of isolation.


    Did you know that sharing a family meal can help those suffering from dementia connect with you?

    It helps to discuss matters such as recipes – which allows dementia patients to get in touch with their own personhood. It’s the sense of ritual or routine that can pay massive dividends in your loved ones’ quality of life.

    Now, naturally, given that – to protect your elderly loved ones – you can’t visit them, this process requires creativity.

    Coordinate these delivered meals with the scheduled phone calls. If possible, or advisable (depending on the situation), video calls could make the experience more tactile and pleasing to the senses.

    Furthermore, mealtimes usually bring back our own memories that can be reminisced over and help your loved get in touch with their former selves. There is nothing that quite matches the warmth of a family meal.


    Part of your scheduled care could be sending gifts, such as flowers, or a senior-curated gift box to your loved one suffering from dementia.

    You should always be careful in these scenarios, though. Those suffering from dementia might not react well to something like flowers. For instance, a symptom of Alzheimer’s is eating non-edible items.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t send flowers. Instead, you can send edible floral arrangements. This little wrinkle allows your loved one to enjoy the flower’s visual stimulation while protecting them from the more negative outcomes.


      Many studies cite emotional and behavioral benefits for dementia patients when they listen to and sing songs. Generally, musical memories remain in those with Alzheimer’s because it doesn’t inflict as much damage on those facets of the brain.

      Direct benefits of sending video or audio recordings of your elder’s favorite song are:

      • Stress relief
      • Offsetting anxiety and depression
      • Decreased agitation

      Don’t fret if you aren’t the most musically talented of individuals. You can sing along with another track. Though, if you’re competent enough to play an instrument, that has its advantages too.

      Be mindful of what kind of songs you’re sending. Soothing music can be crucial during mealtimes, while upbeat music will help provide a burst of energy when needed.

      It’s also wise to encourage movement with clapping and dancing along, which is possible if you’re playing music during video calls. Of course, getting your loved one moving and active – with discretion – is exceptionally healthy. Namely, it can increase blood flow to the brain, which might help prevent further cognitive deterioration.


      Times might be more challenging than they’ve ever been, but we mustn’t forget about those in our lives who are most vulnerable. Suffering from dementia is a lonely enough road without social isolation. Meaning, you must find safe and healthy ways to work around restrictions to make your loved ones feel at ease.

      Following the above tips will go far in helping you establish a care regime from a distance, that you can maintain until everything re-opens. Once you ease back into physical visits, you’ll feel empowered to play a more significant role in bettering your elderly loved one’s life.

      This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

      Dobrila Vignjevic/istockphoto


      Featured Image Credit: PIKSEL/istockphoto.