You have loved ones who are growing older. They may be your parents, grandparents, special friends, or other close relatives. Over the past few months or years, you’ve noticed a concerning pattern: they seem to need more and more help around the house. You’re worried they aren’t eating well that they forget to take necessary medication, and you occasionally notice bruises that they can’t explain. Are they falling? Bumping into furniture? What happens when or if they get seriously hurt?
You can’t be with your elderly relatives every minute of every day, but you’re not sure they’re ready for an assisted living community. Is there something “in-between” where they can live? A place where they will stay safe and yet still have some independence and freedom? Unfortunately, living with you is not an option. So, what will you do in case of an accident?
The First Emergency
You’ve just gotten a phone call in the wee hours of the morning with the news that your elderly loved one has taken a bad fall. You jump into your car and drive like a rocket to the hospital. An ambulance brought them to the nearest emergency room, and you get there as fast as you can.
You stand by and watch the unfolding drama of doctors and nurses working on your relative. As you wait for news, it starts to sink in that severe crises like this can and will happen. So how can you help your senior loved one prepare for, recover from, or, more importantly, avoid an accident like this? You can’t predict when an emergency may happen. Still, you know you should be proactive and sit down with your extended family to put together a plan for the near future.
Word comes back from the emergency room doctor that your senior loved one has broken a hip – meaning days of hospitalization and months of rehabilitation. Unfortunately, breaking a hip is a widespread orthopedic injury suffered by those aged 65 and over and can sometimes lead to additional and severe conditions.
These additional complications associated with a broken hip can be life-threatening. Some damaged or fractured hips will need surgery, and the recovery time may be different depending upon the person’s underlying level of health and age. Allowing a hip fracture to heal naturally means staying in bed for 2 to 3 months. Most doctors feel it’s too dangerous for elderly patients to be immobile for that length of time. Serious complications such as pneumonia, depression, muscle atrophy, and slower healing may occur. Blood thinners may be prescribed as well to reduce potential pulmonary embolism or stroke.
Depending on the type of break, there are several ways to repair a broken hip. This can include everything from adding metal screws to keep the bones in place to a partial or total hip replacement. Your loved one’s doctor will determine the best course of action.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
Your elderly loved ones stay at the hospital will most likely last up to a week post-surgery. Recovery time for hip surgery vastly differs between patients. Some people may begin to regain mobility after just a few weeks, while others can take six months to start feeling better. From the hospital, the patient will need to move to a care facility for rehab. However, some people can go home and have either in-home rehabilitation and/or go back and forth to a facility every day or week for their therapy.
But if your senior family member was having trouble caring for themselves before the accident, how will they manage at home with a broken hip? It’s more than likely that the doctor will insist on sending your loved one to a rehab facility where they can stay for the next few months or as long as necessary.
Recent research has shown that patients who take part in a rehab program for a minimum of six months after surgery are more likely to fully recover without having a permanent disability than those who only have physical therapy for a short time. At the rehabilitation facility, your loved one will re-learn how to manage daily activities. These can include cooking light meals while seated, bathing while on a bath stool, how to use a walker, crutches, strengthening their muscles for more stable walking, etc. Frankly, for some senior citizens, it may take up to a year for a full recovery.
Tips for a Faster Recovery
One of the best ways to help with your loved one’s recovery is to get them out of bed and moving. Help them walk across the hospital room to sit in a chair or up and down the hallway. This will limit complications and get the blood and other body fluids circulating. A physical therapist can show you a few easy exercises as well.
Older adults generally need more extensive assistance with personal care, taking medicines, physical therapy, etc., for a more extended period of recovery. You can also shorten your loved one’s recovery time by doing some exercises together every time you visit. Even taking a short walk can make a huge difference. Physical activity provides benefits such as improved mobility, increased muscle strength, better balance, and better joint function.
Other than exercising, here are a few more ideas to help your elderly loved one to recover more quickly:
- Help them get in and out of chairs. Don’t yank them up but allow them to use you for balance.
- Find out what medications they take and when each is taken. If any of the meds make your loved one feel dizzy, talk to the doctor. Find out if they can take it right before bedtime instead.
- Alcohol and tobacco reduce bone density. They are much more likely to cause fractures and slow down healing, even after a minor incident. If your loved one smokes or drinks alcohol, help them to stop.
- On the other hand, don’t let your elderly loved one push themselves too hard. Their body needs time to rest. It’s okay to take a nap in the afternoon!
Once your elderly relative is ready to leave the rehab facility, what’s the next step? Are you afraid that they might hurt themselves again? Are you concerned that they won’t take care of themselves or resort to sitting on the couch watching television all day? The last thing you want is for them to get hurt again and have repeated trips to the emergency room.
Planning Ahead – Crisis Prevention
Hopefully, your family has taken the time to discuss a plan with your elderly loved ones long before a crisis happened. If not, now is the time! Too often, a difficult conversation is put off, and the family begins to experience anxiety or guilt at the mere thought of putting their elders in a nursing home or an assisted living facility. A family member may feel that it is their responsibility to take care of the aged relative in their own home. Someone in the family may have even made a vow that the elderly loved one would never be sent to live in a nursing home or assisted care facility. Another family member may believe that he or she is the only one who can/should care for the senior loved one.
However, too many times, family members cannot help to care for their aging loved ones. They don’t visit very often because of work responsibilities or where they live. That means everything ends up falling to one person to do everything. This often creates resentment, anger, and frustration among family members.
By talking things out and creating a plan, the entire family, including the elderly loved ones, can take time to express their feelings, tour various locations, and feel good about the choices made. The goal is not to have just one brief talk and then suddenly move your aging loved one to a new facility. Instead, keep the lines of communication open to stimulate a respectful and effective way to address concerns and have as many conversations as necessary to come to an agreement.
When an Assisted Living Facility May Be Necessary
To prevent resident ER visits, it may be better for your elderly loved one to live in an assisted care facility. Professional care workers have the knowledge and understanding as to what the residents need to thrive and stay safe.
Sometimes there are abrupt changes in health or safety conditions when it’s clear that a senior relative must move immediately. The family may have very little time to make decisions in these situations. These can include:
• Onset of dementia
• Death of a spouse or caregiver
• Injury leading to hospitalization
• Severe, sudden illness
How does a family know when the move to an assisted care facility is necessary, other than the above situations? There are several signs to recognize:
• Family members have tried other resources to keep a loved one in their own residence. Still, adequate assistance is not being provided.
• You realize that an assisted living facility is healthier and more beneficial than hiring someone to help with your elderly relative’s care needs.
• A doctor has recommended that it’s time for an assisted living placement.
• Your elderly loved one has healthcare needs that they can’t manage well, even with your assistance.
• Important relationships are suffering significantly.
• Your aging family member has made repeated trips to the emergency room.
• Your own physical and/or emotional health is declining because you are concerned about the aging relative and the amount of time you need to give them.
It may be time to go forward with a loved one’s move to an assisted living facility if any of these signs sound familiar. By talking with others in your community who can make a recommendation, your family can find the perfect place for your loved one. Research several sites and make an appointment to visit. Ask questions and get a feel for each location.
An Assisted Living Facility Can Prevent Accidents
Assisted living facilities are perfect for senior citizens who are somewhat independent and active but who want to connect with others around the same age – people with whom they share common interests, experiences, and memories. These residents aren’t able to do home maintenance tasks such as yard work, cleaning, cooking, or laundry and they often aren’t safe to be living alone. Companionship and organized activities fill their days. Residents living in this kind of facility have private apartments with their own bathrooms. However, there is also staff available to assist residents with simple jobs, taking medication, and daily personal tasks like bathing, dressing, etc.
An assisted living facility can be the ideal solution for an aging relative for many families. The entire family can enjoy peace of mind once their elderly loved one is living where they can be independent, enjoy themselves, and be safely looked after. The need for family members to be hyper-alert, daily caregivers is finally abated. Additionally, families know their loved one’s health and safety needs, independence, freedom, privacy, dignity, and socialization needs will be taken care of.
By offering arts and crafts, social hours, entertainment, exercise classes, and more, elderly residents stay motivated, connected, interested in life, and safe. Staff is available to be sure every resident takes their medication on time, keep tabs on everyone, help with daily tasks, and assist those who may not be steady on their feet.
A Final Word from Villa St. Francis
It can be very stressful when thinking about or discussing care options for your loved one. If it feels as if you or others in the family are drowning with the responsibility and the burden of being the caregiver, it is time to have a conversation with the entire family. Acknowledge that you love your elderly relative, but it’s getting to be more than you can handle.
Frankly, it is more dangerous for your aging parent to be home and potentially have an accident than to move to an assisted living facility. By making a solid plan, everyone can still be there for their loved ones and provide the emotional support they need.
Looking for the best community for an elderly loved one can be difficult, so start with Villa St. Francis.
Villa St. Francis is located near St. Francis Hospital on the south side of Milwaukee. Our facility offers a caring, home-like atmosphere for those who need some help with the activities of daily living or for independent seniors looking for a minimal level of assistance. Villa St. Francis can help them live life to the fullest. To learn more about Villa St Francis, give us a call at 414-649-2888 or contact us here!