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Institutionalizing the Elderly – Reasons, Advantages and Disadvantages


nstitutionalizing the ElderlyThe decision to institutionalize a parent, grandparent or other elderly relative is not an easy undertaking. There should be agreement between the caregiver and senior that it is the right decision for both parties and should be done in consultation with the senior’s doctor and a social worker. Sometimes institutionalization is necessary as is the case with certain physical and mental health ailments in the elderly. At other times it is a choice made by both parties for various social, economic and lifestyle factors. Irrespective of the reason, the decision to institutionalize the elderly should never be made in haste or when emotional.

Reasons to Institutionalize the Elderly

Institutionalizing a person, not only the elderly, may be advisable or sometimes even necessary in several instances. The first and probably most important is the inability of family members to care for the elderly, particularly those seniors who are immobilized or mentally unfit. Sometimes the responsibility care for the person is too great to handle at home or an elderly person may even pose a danger to others within the home.. At other times the decision may be based on factors such as affordability, disharmony within the homestead, difficulty caring for the senior due to professional, social or other commitments.

The need for skilled care which cannot be afforded by most people within the home environment may also be a consideration for institutionalization. However, not every instance depends on a situation where the elderly is living with family members. Sometimes the elderly are living independently, either with a spouse, other senior or alone, but has reached a point either physically, mentally or even financially where institutionalization needs to be considered. Reasons for institutionalization may vary greatly but revolves around a single factor – the elderly needs care within a facility.

Advantages of Institutionalizing the Elderly

The greatest advantage in these situations is that the elderly may be placed in a facility where there is specialized medical care to cater for individual needs. This means that the elderly may also be in less danger than by living at their home or with relatives and this alone may be a deciding factor for institutionalization. There is also the benefit of the elderly having companionship with other residents of these facilities who may be within the same age group or have similar ailments. The advantages to the relatives caring for the elderly is often overlooked but sometimes the institutionalization of an elderly family member eases the stress within the home environment and reduce the financial impact of caring for a senior.

Disadvantages of Institutionalizing the Elderly

Even the best equipped facilities with the most skilled staff may not be able to offer a level of comfort and personal care that the senior may find with family or in their own home. Parting from family members in the home environment and the senior’s social circle in the area of residence can have a negative psychological impact on the elderly and thereby lead to depression or worsening of an existing ailment. There may also be fracturing of the nuclear or even extended family by the decision to place the elderly in an institution even if it was the choice of the senior themselves. The disadvantages, however, are highly variable and depend on the individual situation, the physical and mental state of the senior and the facility.

Factors to Consider for Elderly Institutions

Deciding upon a suitable institution therefore depends on various factors including :

  • physical and psychological state of the senior and the impact of institutionalization,
  • medical facilities available at the institution including the training of the staff,
  • demographic of residents in the facility who will serve as the senior’s social circle,
  • affordability of the institution with regards to the senior’s financial resources or that of their family,
  • accessibility to family members and friends outside of the institution in terms of visitation regulations within the facility and distance from the area of residence,
  • advice from the senior’s doctor, a psychologist or other counselor.

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