As our parents age, many of us struggle with the thought that mom or dad may soon need 24-hour care in a skilled nursing facility. It’s normal to feel guilty or anxious at the prospect of taking your loved one from their home and leaving them in the care of strangers. In fact, many of us have promised that we would never put our parents in a nursing home. So, when is the decision to transition to a nursing home right?

It may be helpful to evaluate your loved one’s current living situation, as well as your own, before you make a decision. Does your loved one require significant rehabilitation or specialized supervision? Are you constantly feeling physically or emotionally drained? Are you finding it difficult to balance everything in life as a result of your caregiving responsibilities?

Threats to personal safety are a clear indication that it’s time to transition to a skilled nursing facility. This may include frequent falls or the inability to perform activities of daily living (such as preparing food and bathing). If your loved one has dementia or memory loss, safety issues might include wandering off, leaving the stove on or forgetting to take medication. In these scenarios, an elderly person would benefit from 24-hour care in a facility designed to keep them safe.

There are also times when you should consider how your role as a caregiver may jeopardize your own wellbeing, and perhaps that of your loved one as well. Here are some signs to consider:

  • Some of your work or personal responsibilities have fallen through the cracks
  • You’ve injured yourself while trying to lift or move your loved one
  • You start suffering from depression, sleeplessness, often lose your temper or exhibit other signs of caregiver burnout
  • You are scheduled to undergo a surgery or medical procedure that will incapacitate you for a while
  • You or your doctor has noted negative changes in your own personal health, such as high blood pressure, headaches, stomach problems or a decline in mental health

Sometimes, it’s hard to objectively consider elder care options when our own loved one is involved. It may be wise to heed the advice of others who you confide in about your caregiving responsibilities. If friends or family members frequently voice concern for you and suggest you research senior care facilities, it may be time to start looking. Finally, when a doctor recommends you start considering a nursing facility, it’s definitely time to start planning.

Weighing your options may leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed. But, keep in mind, you are doing the best to balance your life with the care your loved one needs. Don’t forget that if your health suffers, or you drop the ball on your other responsibilities, you won’t be able to help or provide for the person you’re caring for. Planning will ensure the best possible outcomes and allow you to continue providing the best of care for your loved one.