Here’s my latest article at McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
5 lessons long-term care providers can learn from Joan Lunden
Award-winning journalist and author Joan Lunden and I met recently to talk about eldercare issues. Joan’s mother is 94 years old and happy in a small care home after living for years in the community with home care.
Joan, a physician’s daughter, talks with family caregivers around the country as part of her mission to educate people about the challenges of eldercare.
The observations she shared in our conversation deserve attention from LTC providers looking to meet the needs of residents and their families. As a spokeswoman for family caregivers, her experience echoes that of millions of families across the country.
1. Help people choose the right level of care for their loved one.
The small care home was the third placement for Joan’s mother once she could no longer live in the community.
Lunden: When I finally moved my mother into a facility, I moved her into a place that would have been great for my mother 10 years ago. I moved the mother that was in my head. In reality, the beautiful dining room scared her because she didn’t recognize people, she was alone in her apartment when she started sundowning. The place terrified her. I had chosen the completely wrong facility.
As LTC providers, who recognize the toll it takes on elders and their family members to move from facility to facility, we can do more to help families find a placement that meets the needs of their loved one.
- We can strive to provide the family with a realistic assessment of needs and what a facility can offer.
- We can refer residents to other levels of care within our systems.
- We can build relationships with other facilities so that we refer potential residents to each other.
2. Assist families with the transition to parenting their parent
Joan points out that shifting the roles in the family can be very challenging.
Lunden: When you get to that life transition when you become the parent to your parent, it doesn’t feel natural because you’ve spent a lifetime learning to be a child to them and they have always been in that parental position. To all of a sudden have that role reversed is very disconcerting to a lot of people. It’s a hard one to accept. It often feels uncomfortable to tell your parent what they can do or can’t do.
Some families come to us having negotiated the shift in roles for years, but more often we find adult children and their loved ones struggling to find a way to handle dramatic role changes in the midst of a health crisis.
We can assist families with the role transition when we:
- Offer family education groups.
- Refer to counseling resources in the community.
- Recommend written resources such as David Solie’s book, “How to Say It to Seniors” which focuses on the communication challenges between adult children and their aging parents.
- Use our consulting psychologists to help the team with challenging family issues.
3. Provide an opportunity for staff to take a break
Joan offers a place for caregivers to recharge through her Camp Reveille.