When Is It Time to Put a Loved One In a Nursing Home?

a man sitting on a couch

The decision to put a loved one in a nursing home, independent living, skilled nursing, memory care, or senior living is a challenging one. Not only are emotions tied into this decision, but it can be hard to know the best choices for the older adult you love. If you’re struggling with whether to put your senior family member in elder care, the level of care they may need, or if a retirement home is a right decision for your parent, read on for some things to consider.

Being Honest With Yourself and Family Members


Before making any decisions about your loved one’s living arrangements and level of care needs, it’s important to have an honest conversation with them. Assuming the senior you love has wants, wishes, and needs, it’s a good idea to ask about them versus making decisions without their input. Not only will this give you an idea about their hopes and dreams, but it will be a good way to begin what may lead to difficult conversations.

Having honest conversations shouldn’t stop with the seniors you love. Instead, it’s a good idea to talk to your family member’s doctors about their recommendations. You might be surprised at how many ideas they have when it comes to a good fit for your family member. For example, maybe your mother is seeing a cardiologist in California who you trust. Perhaps you could ask to meet with them to discuss her long-term care needs. Getting a professional opinion will be another great thing to have as you navigate decisions and discussions with all parties involved.

Honest conversations should also be had about your own limitations, budgets, finances, visits, and how the future might look based on various living options. Senior housing is different than skilled care. Starting discussions about what needs are there and what makes the most sense is something you’ll want to do as early as you can while realizing that needs will change.

Finding the Right Fit


As you explore retirement communities, do what you can to visit them in person. This could include bringing your loved one with you so they have input on the final decision. You’ll want to meet with an admissions counselor who can answer questions and give you a tour of the facility. Not only will you want to ask about levels of care, but it’s important to think of the quality of life, too. If your family member is very social, for example, you’ll want to be sure the facility offers opportunities for events, trips, and socialization. Ask about visiting and day trips, too.

Support Systems and Self-Care


A strong personal support team will help get you and your senior through this tough decision. Ask doctors, friends, and people you trust to help you to weigh the pros and cons as you navigate choices and transitions. Ultimately, the more input you have, the more informed your final decision will be.

Just because your loved one is in a nursing home doesn’t mean you can’t engage in activities of self-care together. In fact, with your loved one’s daily living needs being met, it may make for more quality time you can spend together. The reality is that many seniors dread retirement homes, then find the right fit and fully enjoy them.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that your loved one is getting the best care they can. In taking time with this decision, asking for second opinions, doing your research, and having honest conversations, you’ll be closer to knowing what’s right for you and your family. Trust your instincts and remember that your senior family member is lucky they have you, too.