Winter 2002
Ask The Nurse: Finding The Help You Need

Tara Nykaza, RN My mother, who is disabled and has been in a nursing home, is moving in with my family. We're happy to have her, but nervous. All we know is that she will require more care than we can provide, and that we will all have to make adjustments in our own lives. Where can we go for help and advice?

Tara Nykaza, RN, of United Visiting Nurse Association, responds:

Many health matters can change a family's lifestyle—from the birth of a baby to injuries from a car accident to a diagnosis of chronic disease. As a home healthcare nurse, one of my most important jobs is to help people get the highest quality of life that they can. There are many community resources available to help. Here are some things I often remind people to think about as they cope with family health changes:

Will the family need health services at home? Your mother may benefit from physical, emotional, or mental assessment; intravenous (IV) medications; or physical therapy in your home.

Will the family need some part-time help around the house, or live-in help ? Life might be easier if you have assistance with daily matters such as housework, meals, driving to medical appointments.

How are family finances likely to be affected? For instance, does your mother have investments or bank accounts that you will need to manage? Will you need to change your own financial plans?

Will the home need to be remodeled? In your case, to make it easier for your mother to get around in it? She may need a wheelchair ramp, special bathroom equipment, wider doorways, or a bedroom on the ground floor, for example.

It's wise to consider end-of-life decisions before they are actually needed. Should a living will be created? Might there someday be a need for hospice care, or home-hospice care? Your mother may want to state her wishes about these matters.

An Adult Day Care Program can helpful. Might this be a problem-solver for you—daily, or just when you need to be out of town, or when you simply require some relief from caregiver responsibilities?

After a time, many families find they are unable to continue care for their loved one at home. If your mother's needs become more complex, you may want to consider the different levels of assisted living residences and nursing homes.

These are just a few of the decisions you might need to make. Finding resources and answers to these questions in advance will make life more relaxed and happier for your family and your mother.

United Visiting Nurse Association offers personalized Needs Assessments at no cost, to help you in situations like this. A nurse will visit you at home, at work, at a nursing home, or wherever you wish, to do a room-to-room safety check, to help you determine what kinds of assistance you will need, and to guide you to resources that can handle the questions above, and many more. For information or an appointment, please call 203-330-5527.