Senior Care

Maintaining Independence in Long-Term Care

Dr. Scott Schabel explains how long-term care promotes independence and how you can talk to your loved one about transitioning to long-term care.

Dec. 24, 2020 5   min read

Independence in long-term care

Change can come about quickly in a senior’s life. One day your loved one is independent, and suddenly they require more attention and resources than you as a caregiver can provide. Long-term care facilities offer healthy, active, and safe programs that can help residents maintain their health without sacrificing their independence.

Scott Schabel, MD, Senior Medical Director for Rochester Regional Health Long Term Care, gives his insight into how long-term care can promote independence and how you can talk to your loved one about transitioning to long-term care.

*COVID-19: Many Long-Term Care facilities have enhanced visitor restrictions and reduced program participation until it is safe to resume. The information in this article is intended to guide participants and families when there is no risk of COVID-19 in our community.

Learn more about COVID-19 and Long-Term Care

More time for a healthy lifestyle

Many might worry that moving a loved one into a skilled nursing facility means a loss of control of their day-to-day lives. But in many ways, the assistance residents receive in long-term care allows them to take back control of their lives. By removing the challenges of tasks they may be struggling with or skipping at home, residents are often better able to focus on doing the things they enjoy.

"Some of the greatest benefits to the resident actually come from lightening the load on the caregivers,” said Dr. Schabel.  “Caregivers can then spend more time engaging with the resident in more meaningful ways that can only come through a loving relationship.”

When seniors have more time to live a healthier lifestyle, they also have more time to work on skills that may have deteriorated. Long-term care residents receive help with certain aspects of their day and gain access to many healthy and safe programs not available in a traditional home setting. They can exercise their independence and maintain important skills by participating in meaningful activities as an active member of a community.

Having the conversation

Once you’ve decided that a long-term care facility might be the right choice for your loved one, the first step is talking to them about why and how a long-term care facility will benefit them. You can help make the transition easier for your loved one by communicating clearly and carefully about their need for increased care.

What to say:

  • Explain the situation clearly and slowly
  • Ask if they understand what it means to transition to long-term care
  • Discuss the benefits of long-term care
  • Give them the time they need to process and understand the situation
  • Let them be part of the decision
  • Ask them to express their ideas and explain how they’re feeling
  • View the situation from their perspective
  • Avoid expressing sorrow or pity

Seniors often worry about how they will accomplish daily tasks without your care. Ask them if they have any concerns, and explain to them that basics like transportation, meals, activity programs, and social events are all provided in the facility.

“Our community offers a wide variety of settings for senior care, and one size does not fit all.  Only the senior can determine which setting feels like a home to them.”

Making the transition

Family members and friends can help move a senior into long-term care and can help reduce the physical and emotional stresses that may be involved. They can plan the move, participate on the day of the move, and provide love and support once they are in care.

*COVID-19 Reminder: Many Long-Term Care facilities have enhanced visitor restrictions and reduced program participation until it is safe to resume. The information in this article is intended to guide participants and families when there is no risk of COVID-19 in our community.

Learn more about COVID-19 and Long-Term Care

Before the move

  • Ask the facility about space limitations and for a list of items to bring
  • Arrange for moving transportation and storage if necessary
  • Discuss the facility’s policy for marking personal property, clothes, & other items

Day of the move

  • Help your loved one unpack and organize
  • Decorate their new living area with photos of loved ones
  • Give them a home-warming gift to represent exciting, new beginnings
  • Tour the facility and share a meal
  • Meet staff members and start to build a rapport
  • Spend some quiet time together and make sure they’re comfortable and reassured before you leave

Once in Long Term Care

  • Stay in regular communication
  • Establish regular and consistent visiting times, whether in-person or virtually
  • Encourage independent decision making like choosing activities, meals, hobbies
  • Work with staff to ensure loved ones are encouraged to make their own decisions

Our Commitment to Independence

Rochester Regional Health understands the unique needs and concerns of seniors, and we are committed to helping every resident remain healthy, active, and independent. For those in our aging community who require additional care, we offer a range of services and programs to fit most every need, including:

  • Therapeutic recreation services
  • Social work services
  • Dietary services
  • 24-hour round the clock nursing and medical care
  • Onsite physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • Ventilator care
  • Dementia care
  • Social activities
NEXT STEPS Our Long-Term Care Facilities

Rochester Regional offers several skilled nursing homes, each providing its own specialty of care, including Alzheimer's disease, short-term rehabilitation, transitional care, ventilator units and relaxation therapy.

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Scott L. Schabel, MD
Internal Medicine
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