A Story About Finding Assisted Living — Part 2
This is the second part in a four-part series. Please read Part 1 here for background about our story of finding an Assisted Living residence for Sally.
On a Saturday morning I met Sally at her friend’s home, where she was living temporarily, and off we went to visit the first of two Assisted Living residences on our list. It was a few towns away, and we had about a 20 minute drive together. She was outgoing and friendly, and we enjoyed talking about New York, where she and I had both lived previously.
I was pleased to find out that her family’s assessment of her health and mental acuity seemed right on. Many times family members are in denial about the state their Golden Oldies are in, but as I spent time and spoke with Sally, I could tell they had given me an accurate picture of her condition. This was important to assess right away, or else the places I had arranged to visit may not have been the best potential living situation for her.
Visiting Assisted Living Facility “A”
The two Assisted Living residences I selected for us to visit are both part of the same overall company, with the same name, but located in different parts of Los Angeles. To further explain, think about a major hotel chain, such as Hilton, Hyatt or Sheraton Hotels. They are all owned by the same corporation, yet each individual hotel location has its own look, feel and atmosphere about them. And while the programs, policies and procedures are all alike at the corporate level, there are still differences from one location to the next. This holds true for some assisted living housing communities, as well as for major hotel chains.
Assisted Living Facility “A,” while in the city proper, is located in an older neighborhood that feels like a village with large, old trees lining and shading the streets. The building houses 70 residents, is two-story, and built in a simple rectangular shape, which is easy to navigate and not get lost in. The center atrium area sports a garden area for residents to walk or sit in on nice days. The building’s common areas are nicely decorated and we saw many residents sitting and chatting in the lobby area with staff, and what appeared to be other residents and younger family visitors.
We were greeted warmly by the Marketing Director, Mr. Tim, and shown into his office. He spent quite a long time (about an hour) chatting with Sally — asking about her life, what was important to her, and what she was looking for in the place she was moving to.
I introduced myself as a friend of the family, and didn’t tell Mr. Tim I had any eldercare background. I made this decision on the spur of the moment, when I realized I had identified myself only as a family friend during phone conversations up to that point, and could easily become a “secret shopper” and experience the tour from a family member’s perspective — something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do in a long while.
Sally asked two questions that I could tell were very important to her. One was if there was a Catholic Church nearby that she could attend. The answer was that they offer Catholic services there, and she didn’t even have to leave the building to attend! The other question was if they offered transportation to the drug store and her doctor’s appointments. This was also a requirement the family mentioned to me, and I already knew they did. I could see by her smiling face that she was pleased with the positive answers to both of her questions.
After about an hour of getting to know Sally, Mr. Tim took us on a guided tour of Location “A.” We saw two furnished model apartments, the arts & crafts room, the laundry room (Sally insisted she can and will continue to do her own laundry, even at age 82!), the dining room, other sitting areas, the daily calendar with many activities offered, and the library.
He must have sensed Sally was tiring as we walked around, and asked if we’d like to eat lunch in the dining room, as it was just starting to be served. Sally jumped at the chance, and I was happy to partake as well.
The dining room was on the first floor and we had our own table. Mr. Tim also went out of his way to introduce Sally and me to a nearby table of women. The residents and the dining room staff were very friendly, also answering any other questions we thought of, after Mr. Tim excused himself. The food was very good and we both really enjoyed the meal and hospitality.
After Lunch — Getting Down to Details
When we went back to Mr. Tim’s office after lunch, he proceeded to tell us about the current openings they had, the move-in fees and monthly rent, which includes all meals, transportation, and housekeeping. Sally is able and wants to live independently, and would not need any of the additional nursing or assisted living options available initially. But it’s reassuring to know these additional services are at her fingertips should she need or want them in the future.
Sally indicated she would be happy to have a roommate in order to save money, and Mr. Tim had just the spot for her. He led us down the hall to a shared “friendship suite,” and who was living there? Laura, one of the ladies we had met and spoken with during lunch! The room was large, nicely furnished, with a good-sized closet and bath. It was available immediately and Sally could move in as soon as she wanted. Mr. Tim explained it was in a prime location in the building — being on the first floor, and close to the lobby and sitting rooms, the heart of the residence. This felt like a good match to me, but I didn’t say anything out loud to either him or Sally. Sally seemed to like and approve of what she saw.
We then went over the next steps that Sally would need to take, including the move-in paperwork to be completed and a physician’s report. I also let Mr. Tim know her New York family was in charge of Sally’s finances and I would send the rate information to them and they would be in touch with him further.
After spending close to three hours there (I had expected about one hour), we thanked Mr. Tim, said our goodbyes and left Location “A” pleased with what we had seen and heard. Sally’s comment was along the lines of, “The people who live here must be millionaires. I wonder if I can afford it?”
In my mind I thought, “The next place we visit sure has a hard act to follow! ”
In the next post, we continue our hunt for Sally’s new home with a visit to Assisted Living Facility “B”. . . . stay tuned for Part 3 of our story!