Elderly Care Navigation: Lets Talk Nursing Home vs. Assisted Living and Much More!

During this HealthYeah interview with Heather Eacker, founder of Eldercare Navigators, we get into the challenges of navigating elder care. Heather gives some wonderful advice, including:

  • Tips for children caring for an aging parent
  • Finding the right facility
  • Combating loneliness
  • Thinking through the big decisions of aging
  • Exercises for elderly
  • The importance of self-care while being a caretaker
  • Understanding the difference between a nursing home vs. assisted living care facility

Jump into the insightful elderly care interview anytime by visiting the Excy YouTube channel or by clicking on the below video. We have also included a summary of the interview below!

Heather’s Eldercare Navigators Background

Heather knows her stuff! Her insight comes from a place of experience and a passion for helping the elderly make the best and most informed decisions. All during some of the most stressful and unexpected times of navigating the choices of arranging for eldercare at home, eldercare in a nursing home, or eldercare in an assisted living facility.

She studied gerontology and business in college with the hope of one day saving the world. After graduation, she worked for a Fortune 500 company where she gained experience running nursing and rehab facilities and working in hospitals and assisted living homes. The experience in those environments taught her how to navigate both sides of the elderly care system. She used that knowledge to start Eldercare Navigators, a business where she helps people navigate the often confusing and vast elder care system.

Asking the Right Questions While Navigating Elder Care

During the interview, we discuss everything from senior housing assistance, errand services, care management, health directives, insurance/bill assistance, and eldercare planning. The goal is to help the elderly and their caretakers gain knowledge. With this knowledge, people will learn to ask the right questions to the right doctors, and have a better understanding their health situation. All of which is critical to getting the best possible care.

The types of questions that need to be asked vary greatly. So, getting to the right questions to ask is important. Some might be facing changes in cognition. Others, perhaps it’s changes in physical mobility or challenges managing things well at home. We suggest taking advantage of Heather’s free 30 minute consultation to get to the bottom of understanding the right questions.

Heather is a huge proponent of contacting a geriatric care manager to determine the best course of action for your loved one during the aging process. From her own experience, she knows that even if she cannot help you, she can point you in the appropriate direction. She also recommends finding a family member or friend – ideally someone familiar with health care – to sit in on doctor’s appointments. Do not be afraid to lean on others and ask for help because it can make the process go so much smoother!


Finding the Right Elderly Care Facility

Not all assisted living or nursing facilities are created equal. Heather says that the most important thing to do when touring a facility is to trust your gut. If something feels off, pay attention to it and try to locate where that feeling stems from. You can always research how a facility is doing online, but she also recommends touring and watching how the staff interacts with clients.

Sometimes this can be the best way to determine if it is the right fit for you or your loved one. Pay attention to the staff in the background and see if it feels they have built genuine relationships with the residents. Heather believes these interactions are the best indicator at determining a good facility.

If someone is unhappy at their current facility, ask them why and try to determine if a different facility could solve the problem. No one wants to live somewhere they do not feel safe, comfortable, and happy!

Combating Loneliness

Often, people live in assisted living facilities far away from their family members or the people they grew up with. Loneliness can negatively impact seniors’ mental and physical health. To combat loneliness, Heather believes it is important for each resident to form social connections. Loneliness is a killer. Everyone deserves someone close by that supports them, whether that support comes from a service, a group, or a helpful neighbor.

One way to help is by volunteering at a nearby nursing facility. When Heather ran a nursing facility, she had residents who never once had a family member visit. To combat loneliness, she would get volunteers to spend more time with those patients to make sure they still had a social connection.

Making Big Decisions as We Age

When Heather advises clients on whether to leave their homes or enter assisted living facilities, she gives them all the relevant information and leaves the biggest decision up to them. She believes it is important to understand the benefits and consequences of each choice and make an informed decision. But she works hard to not push clients towards one direction or another. If clients decide to stay in their homes, it is important to make the space as age friendly as possible. The main bedroom should be downstairs, and tripping hazards should be removed. These are just a few measures you can put in place to reduce fall risks and make the home safer.

Heather also recommends enlisting the help of professionals to make sure your finances are in order. She believes everyone should have advance directives. She also suggests seeking a financial planner to help you look at your assets. This can help determine how those assets should be used if you need to pay for assisted living in the future.

The Role of Exercise for the Elderly

Exercise for the elderly is crucial to maintaining balance and reducing fall risks. When entering a care facility, make sure exercise is a priority! Ask if the facility offers classes or has available elderly exercise equipment to use on your own.

Some elder care facilities have restorative nursing programs. In these programs, a physical therapist and nurse will work together to create a personalized plan for a patient and monitor their progress. A facility with a dedicated restorative nursing program will immediately let you know that exercise and movement is valued.

Proper exercise can help you maintain independence as you age. Excy helps the elderly maintain their strength and cardiovascular health, even if they can only exercise from a bed. We offer amazing positions for exercises for the elderly in a chair, exercises for the elderly to work on strengthening their legs and multiple exercises in bed. When looking at a nursing home or an assisted care facility, make sure that movement and exercise are important to the staff.

Caregivers Must Focus on Self-Care

As we wrapped up our May Mother’s Day May theme, we took a moment to focus on the female caretakers. Statistically, women tend to take on the caregiver role more than men. Whether a man or a woman, if you are the caregiver of an elderly person, remember to care for yourself.

Ask for help when you need it and try to divide up tasks to make sure everything does not fall only on your shoulders. If you are taking care of an elderly loved one, reminisce with them about their past, because once they are gone, that piece of history is gone as well. Reminiscing with your aging family members helps your loved ones reminisce about their positive memories and allows you to learn more about your own history.

Thank you for tuning into our May HealthYeah series with a lot of mom-related topis. June is all about men and dad-related topics. Sign up for our newsletter or visit the HealthYeah website!

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