Should we keep Mom in a nursing home or move her home?

Lisa mcisaac asked...

My mom has dementia. She is in a nursing home because at the end of a hospital stay it was determined that she had an acute CVA. We are also awaiting test results for a mass in her lung. Now we have to make a decision if she should stay at the nursing home or we should have home care. I don't know how to make that decision. What should we do?

Expert Answer

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

Trying to make the decision between nursing home care and in-home care can be agonizing. There are many factors to consider. One of the major factors is how much time and energy you have, and how long that will last. If an illness lasts several months and the patient either recovers or dies, either way, the illness is over. that is one thing. If the illness is projected to last for years and get progressively worse, that is entirely a different matter.

If the mass in your mother's lung leads to a terminal diagnosis with a limited life time, you may want to consider taking a leave of absence from your job and staying at home to provide care. Even then, there are more factors to consider. Do you have space in the home for a hospital bed on the first floor, can you meet both her physical needs and the emotional ones? Do you have energy to stay up nights and still function during the day? Is there extended family nearby that can provide respite for you? Since she has dementia, do you have the patience to answer the same question hundreds of times every day, to reassure her constantly?

For many caregivers, the honest answer to the questions above is no. When that is the case, as it is in most situations, the best solution is to let the nursing home provide for her physical and medical needs while you meet her emotional needs and improve the quality of her life.