Welcome Wisdom

Better Outcomes in Housing Decisions for Seniors

by Felicia Juntunen, MA, CMC, Director of Care Management

Among the various complex aging issues addressed by Aging Life Care professionals are the questions and dilemmas that revolve around housing decisions. Care managers are well equipped to help improve outcomes in housing challenges experienced by their clients. Families may reach out to a care manager for help when facing the possibility that their aging loved one is living in an inappropriate environment for their needs – whether that is at home or elsewhere. They may have already navigated a difficult move only to find that the chosen setting is limited in its ability to provide care or is otherwise not a good fit for the resident. The decision to move, whether from home or between care settings, is often one full of emotion for the older adult and their family. With their experience, care managers can provide insight, objectivity, and support to help all participants buffer the effects of a move or work toward resolution of a situation that is not serving an older adult’s need.

When consulted, we educate clients and families about options for care, examine what their resources and expectations are, and help them consider how those important variables will align as their care needs change. Often, older adults are not ready to make a change from home to another setting, even if their families think otherwise. Conversations with a care manager can reveal preexisting ideas or dispel myths about care settings. Sometimes, exploring the options is enough to propel the idea forward as it provides a foundation for more conversation about the subject of moving. A care manager can assist with working through the feelings and beliefs that make an older adult determined to remain in place, even in the face of limited support or looming safety issues. Again, we’ve found that information and the presentation of options are helpful tools, both early on and when older adults express trepidation about change. Supporting an individual at home may include the introduction of outside help which can provide a bridge to accepting help in another setting in the future. Care managers provide insight to clients and their families about the signs that a move to another setting should be considered.

If the need for a move to an alternate setting is determined, a care manager’s goal is to help the client and family realistically evaluate the available options and choose wisely. The first step toward choosing well is to have a clear understanding of needs, determined through an objective assessment by the Aging Life Care professional. Care managers are skilled at evaluating clients holistically – examining many facets of their individuality to determine the right level of care and to provide insight into appropriate residential living options. Care managers are familiar with a variety of care settings, understand the regulations that govern their operation, and work closely with knowledgeable placement specialists and move managers whose services can help make a transition smoother. A good assessment completed in advance of the search for a setting is one of the best preventative measures to avoid a move that results in an unsatisfactory experience.

Mediating the housing challenges of clients wherever they reside is a familiar practice for care managers. Along with education, care managers provide advocacy for their clients and work to improve their well-being in a setting for as long as possible, thereby avoiding unnecessary relocation. Access to information about the availability and limitations of housing choices, good assessment, and discussion about reasonable expectations of a care setting all contribute to better outcomes for clients who are served by Aging Life Care professionals.