This is the final part in our story about how we found the best assisted living facility for 82-year-old Sally to live in. Please read the background info here, and the reports about our visits to Assisted Living Facilities “A” and “B.” Below is the outcome of our search . . . .
When we left Assisted Living Facility “B,” I decided to be quiet and see what Sally had to say about the tours we took that day as I drove her back to her friend’s home.
My Thoughts and Assessments
I was wondering if she’d seen enough places? Did she have long enough visits at both facilities to gather enough data to make her decision?
If Sally asked my opinion, I would have recommended Facility “A” for these reasons:
** Physically, the layout was smaller and easier to learn.
** There was a furnished room available immediately in a prime location with a lovely woman who would welcome her as a roommate.
** The Marketing Director took a lot of time getting to know Sally before we even began our tour. He made me believe the staff truly took an interest in and cared about their residents — it was more than just “filling a vacancy” there.
** The number of residents was slightly less in Facility “A,” and, therefore, the staff could get to know each resident better.
** I liked the suburban feel of the area “A” was located in.
As it turned out, I’m really glad I kept my mouth shut!
Sally’s Decision Was . . . .
Sally knew the next step was for her family in New York to speak with the Administrative Staff of the facility she chose to discuss the finances of her new living quarters, and what the move-in steps were they would need to take.
Before I could even ask, “Sally, which place did you like better?” she said: “When you speak with Mark, you tell him I definitely want to move to Facility “B!” It took her no time to make up her mind!
That really surprised me! But as I thought it over, it made total sense to me. Sally could see herself living among the people at Facility “B” because the majority of residents there had her cultural background! That’s what it really came down to. The demographics and the type of food they serve clearly outweighed the other factors I was weighing in my mind.
I had learned these lessons through my previous caregiving experiences with my own parents, but their importance was re-emphasized during my time spent with Sally:
To keep an open mind because not everyone has the same perceptions, perspectives and values as me.
As long as a senior citizen (aka Golden Oldie) can make decisions, allow them to do so (unless it’s a matter of their personal safety).
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It’s often better to remain silent and listen, than to speak too soon.
Sally moved into Assisted Living Facility “B” within two weeks. Her family flew out from NY to purchase furnishings, decorate her half of the Friendship Suite she moved into, and get her settled in. The other half of her new room would remain vacant until a suitable roommate could be found, but she made new friends there immediately. Sally is thriving in her new home, and I wish her many more happy and healthy years there!
Have you been on a housing search like Sally and I went on? What was the outcome? What factors went into the decision to select one Assisted Living facility rather than another for your Golden Oldies? Please share your story in the Comments section below.
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This is the third article in a four-part series about finding an assisted living facility for 82-year-old Sally to live in. Please read the background info here, and about our visit to Assisted Living Facility “A” here. Her story continues below . . .
Sally and I were running nearly two hours late for our scheduled tour of Assisted Living Facility “B,” but I called ahead twice to let the staff know we were behind schedule but still coming there. Facility “B” is owned by the same parent company as “A,” but as we approached in my car there were a few differences evident. While they are situated only about 20 minutes apart in Los Angeles County, the neighborhood around “B” has more of a “city” feel to it. The building is larger, high-rise in style, and located on a busier street than Facility “A.” However, this neighborhood was where Sally had lived for many years, so she is familiar and comfortable with it. And she has friends who live close by.
Because there was no street parking available, I dropped Sally off in front and parked in the underground parking structure. A staff person met me in the parking lot, and we rendezvoused in the front lobby. When I made the appointment by phone, the Marketing Director told me she wasn’t working on Saturday, but another Administrative Staff member would gladly give us a tour and answer our questions. We were greeted by a pretty, young woman who identified herself as Jill, the Activities Director for Facility “B.” We headed off with Jill for our tour right away.
It was obvious that this facility was in the midst of a major remodeling and redecorating project, which the Marketing Director didn’t mention on the phone. There were half-painted hallways, half-carpeted floors and half-finished rooms throughout the building. It surprised me that no one prepared us for this “construction-zone” appearance. Jill told us it would be completed in about six weeks.
Facility “B” is home to 100 senior citizens (compared with 70 residents at Facility “A”) so it wasn’t just our impression of it being a larger building from the exterior, it actually is a larger community of people. The Activities Director took us up to the second floor where the dining room is located, and we saw a large, concrete patio outdoors where residents may eat in nice weather. They had held a luau on the patio the evening before, and the pretty, tropical decorations were still up.
As we walked around, Sally asked and received answers to the two questions she asked at Facility “A” and were obviously very important to her. “B” also offers bus transportation to local doctors and drug stores, and they have Catholic services held there weekly.
I noticed some signs written in Asian characters in the elevator. I asked Jill about them, and she explained that 85% of their population was Asian. She also went on to tell Sally and me they served both Western and Eastern food. Upon hearing this, Sally stopped dead in her tracks, grabbed my arm and said, “My husband was Chinese!” He had passed away many years ago, but obviously the Asian cultural influence within Facility “B” thrilled her.
Jill showed us a vacant “Friendship Suite” that Sally could move into immediately. It seemed a little larger than the one in Facility “A,” but it was not furnished. It did have a balcony which was a nice feature. As we continued touring, Sally made the remark, “I’ll get lost here.” While Facility “A” was an easy rectangular, two-story layout built around a central atrium, this building had a more convoluted layout, with various meeting areas on different floors accessible by elevators.
I could see Sally was tiring — using her umbrella more for support now. We wound up sitting in the Arts and Crafts room. A staff member brought us some water, and at this point, I asked, “Is there space in an existing Friendship Suite for Sally to share?” Yes, there was one possibility, and Jill introduced us to a resident there named Aurora. She and Sally immediately started speaking together in Tagalog, their native tongue! After a brief conversation, Aurora went off to see some friends who just arrived for a visit. Jill informed us that if Aurora and Sally weren’t a good fit as roommates, they would start a new Friendship Suite for Sally and then find a resident, either a current or new woman, who would then become her roommate. Jill also informed us there were four Filipino staff members working at Facility “B.”
Getting Down to Details
Unlike our tour at Facility “A,” the Activities Director did not have the the authority to discuss financial details, nor the specific next move-in steps with us. She gave Sally a brochure with the required paperwork to be completed prior to moving there. Jill asked us to call on Monday to speak further with the Marketing Director if Sally wanted to move in there. While it would have been nice to have someone higher up to speak with then, it had already been a long day and we were both ready to head out. We had a lot of impressions and input from both residences to mull over.
OK. You’ve heard Sally’s story up to this point. Now it’s your turn to guess the outcome.
Which Assisted Living Facility (“A” or “B”) did Sally choose and why? What factors do you think weighed most heavily in her decision? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section below this post.
In Part 4 of this series, I’ll reveal Sally’s choice. So stay tuned! 🙂
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!
One eldercare question I’m asked often is, “How do I find the best assisted living facility for my aging parents?”
I normally go through this process with adult children who are making the decision for their parents. Recently, I received a different request — please help Sally, an 82-year-young woman with no family living nearby, find an assisted living facility to move into.
I approach the placement process in three steps: (1) researching facilities, (2) visiting or touring them, and (3) deciding upon the one that will be the “best fit” for the Golden Oldies (what I prefer to call senior citizens). This series of posts will focus on the visits and decision-making process Sally and I went through together to find her a pleasing new home.
Setting the Scene
One day I received a phone call from close friends who live in New York. Their 82-year-old Aunt Sally had been out of the country visiting family for about a year. Now she was back and living temporarily with a friend in Los Angeles, but really needed a place to live on her own. Her family knew Sally was declining physically and it wasn’t really safe for her to live independently any longer. They asked me if I could help them long-distance to find an assisted living facility for her, and I was more than happy to help!
A Little Background
Even before beginning to research places, I asked for details from her family about Sally’s current physical and mental health, pertinent medical history, and how she was functioning on a list of activities of daily living (bathing, walking, eating, dressing, etc.)
Sally is a Golden Oldie born in the Philippines, who spent most of her life living in New York City and Los Angeles. According to her family’s description, Sally is completely sharp mentally, with no memory loss at all. Physically she is also in very good condition for 82! She has some hearing loss, but her biggest challenge is her failing eyesight due to macular degeneration. She can eat, dress, bathe and walk without assistance, although her family feels she is a little unsteady on her feet and may soon benefit from using a cane or walker.
Her family asked me to find a senior community in Los Angeles within Sally’s budget that offers the residents transportation for shopping and doctor’s visits, because Sally doesn’t drive. She was fine with having a roommate, too. They knew that Sally was capable of, and would insist on, being part of the decision about her new home.
Armed with these basic facts, I began my research based on my experience, online resources and the eldercare consultant organizations and networks I belong to. After coming up with an initially long list of assisted living facilities, I narrowed down the choices to two that fit Sally’s criteria. Then I made a date to meet Sally and take her to tour both possibilities.
The story about our visits to the assisted living facilities and the outcome will be covered in my next few posts. To be continued . . .
In the United States, the weekend news focused on the story of Hurricane Irene, before, during and after the storm hit. There was one news story I heard that raised some practical, even ethical, questions for family caregivers regarding natural disasters, emergency plans and our aging parents (or Golden Oldies as I prefer to call them).
A TV reporter was interviewing a man in a NY suburb outside his father’s house the morning after Hurricane Irene passed through. He was talking about how his 93-year-old father refused to evacuate, even when the water started coming into his house through the front and back doors. The son, wearing waders to walk through the waist-deep flood waters, was talking to the reporter outdoors, had already checked on his father who remained ensconced on the second floor of his house, and luckily was okay.
That’s a happy ending. But . . . it brought up many questions in my mind:
Do people have the right to ignore mandatory evacuation orders?
Do we as adult children have the right to force our aged parents to evacuate? Or, should we respect their decision not to leave their homes even if it could put them in harm’s way? Does their safety override treating them with dignity and respect?
Although my parents have passed away, what would I have done in this situation? I’m still thinking this one over. On the one hand, I’d want to insist they leave; but on the other hand, they are adults and entitled to their own opinions and decisions.
What would you do if your parents decided not to evacuate?
If you decide to make them evacuate, could you physically do so? I’m barely 5’2′ and petite — I doubt I could have done it alone.
How prepared are we and our Golden Oldies for any natural disasters that might occur to our homes? There was also a rare earthquake on the east coast of the United States last week that many people had no idea how to respond to safely, according to news reports I heard.
How prepared are assisted living, board & cares, and skilled nursing facilities for natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes? If your aging relatives are residents of a senior community, please find out. Ask exactly how detailed their emergency plans are, where the residents would be evacuated to, what basic life-sustaining supplies they keep on hand, if their caregivers would remain on the job or go home to be with their families, and who the back up caregivers would be? You have a right to know how your loved ones’ care could be affected by a natural disaster, and decide if you’d want to bring your Golden Oldies to your home in this critical situation.
What would these senior communities do if one or some of their residents chose not to evacuate? Do they have a plan in place in case that occurs?
Even if we don’t have all the answers to these questions now, they are worth asking, discussing with our Golden Oldies and making emergency preparedness plans before Mother Nature strikes again.
Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below. I’m curious about what you have to say.
I read a very interesting guest blog post last week by Mike Davenport on the Men with Pens blog. It wasn’t written for the eldercare industry, but his ideas are excellent tools for family caregivers to put into their bag of tricks and use regularly.
Mike makes a distinction between time management vs. energy management. Most of us focus on time management in order to be most efficient each day. But he believes we should focus on personal energy management instead, and I agree completely.
Think Like a Power Company
Mike draws an analogy between everyday people and executives running a power company:
Imagine you’re a power company executive. Your top three concerns (if you want your company to succeed) producing, storing, and delivering. If you don’t manage those concerns properly, your customers demand energy…
… and you can’t provide.
… You need to make sure you produce, store and can deliver energy on demand.
As family caregivers, isn’t that always our goal? To have enough energy to fulfill our care recipients’ needs throughout the day, and often into the night.
Producing and storing personal energy is accomplished easily by most of us through eating well, sleeping well and getting enough sleep. It’s the third part of energy management that needs our attention, according to Mike.
Where we often fail is at the third concern, delivering energy when we need it. And this can have a big impact on the quality of our work. Thankfully, our bodies are great at delivering energy.
We just suck at scheduling those deliveries.
Three Ways to Maximize Your Personal Energy
Continuing with the analogy of being power company executives in charge of delivering energy:
Schedule deliveries around peak times. Think about when you have the most energy during the day. In the morning upon awakening, late morning, afternoon or evening? Really sit down and think about how you feel at various times of the day. For example, I know I’m a morning person, but my husband is more efficient accomplishing things late at night when there are less distractions. Once you figure out your optimal times, schedule your most difficult caregiving duties at those higher energy periods.
Use good fuel. As Mike puts it: “Loading up on caffeine and sugar when you need an energy boost does perhaps give you a quick jolt. But it’s lousy-quality energy and is usually short-lived, followed by a not-so-pleasant crash. . . . Eat good quality food for fuel. Especially because there’ll be a time when you need that fuel – and it usually comes when you least expect it.”
Plan for unexpected demands. Like power companies, family caregivers need to plan ahead for times demands will be placed on your energy that you didn’t expect. For example, what if it’s the part of the day when your energy is lower, but your loved one needs some help? Mike says in this instance to give yourself a “special delivery” of energy:
Try a quick cat nap or a power snooze, say 10 to 20 minutes before you plan to start working. A little exercise, like a five-minute walk, might help boost your juice. Try two yoga moves to a good tune.
All these activities spark your power and produce a special delivery of energy for you to use.
But of course, special deliveries cost extra. You generally only have enough energy to get you through the day, so a special delivery of it means you’ll pay the price.
That price is usually a little bit less energy later on.
And an Additional Power Grid to Draw Upon
Let’s add an important piece to this analogy from an eldercare perspective. As family caregivers we also need to take into consideration the care recipient’s own power reserves in planning our days together.
For example, if you know your loved one is more tired in the afternoon after lunch, don’t schedule doctors’ appointments then if possible. Try your best to schedule challenging trips or caregiving duties during the times when your maximum energy and their’s coincide during the day. That may not always be possible to do, but if you can make it happen, do so.
Synergy is a great tool, and two people functioning with their peak energy times in sync are bound to create better results and more win-win accomplishments!
Have you used energy management as a caregiving tool before? Have you determined when your peak energy occurs during the day? When your care recipient’s energy peaks? Please share your experience in the comments below.
The very wise Seth Godin recently posted this on his blog:
When did you get old?
At some point, most brands, organizations, countries and yes, people, start talking about themselves like they’re old.
“We can’t stretch in that direction,” or “Not bad for a 60 year old!” or “I’m just not going to be able to learn this new technology.” Even countries make decisions like this, often by default. Governments decide it’s just too late to change.
The incredible truth is this: it never happens at the same time for everyone. It’s not biologically ordained. It’s a choice. It’s possible to put out a hit record at 40, run a marathon at 60 and have your 80 year old non-profit change its business model. It’s not as easy as it used to be, but that’s why it’s worth doing.
Here is a visual of what he’s talking about:
If you can’t see this video in your browser, click here.
Watching your adult children move away and becoming an empty nester.
Seeing your parents age and becoming a family caregiver. (Then doing it again possibly for your spouse.)
These are all major life transitions that schools don’t give classes in! Most of us never have the opportunity to learn the basic how-to’s about these long-lasting roles and responsibilities we take on during our lives.
I’ve been dealing with Empty Nest Syndrome
I haven’t written a new post here in what felt like a few weeks, but I see it’s already been six weeks! I apologize for my absence, but I’ve been wrapped up in my own family situation. I needed time away from TLeC to deal with and process this life transition. However, I’m back again to help and support all of you family caregivers and dedicated readers of my blog.
To further explain . . . .
Our son graduated from college in the middle of May and came home shortly thereafter for a few weeks of vacation before moving out-of-state to start his first “real” job. My world changed very rapidly and deeply. And while I knew intellectually it was all normal and good, I crumbled inside. I thought I had already come to terms completely with having an empty nest when he went off to college. NOT!! I was a weeping wreck of a mom for over a month!
How does becoming an Empty Nest-er relate to caregiving?
The transitions of becoming an empty nest-er and becoming a caregiver share many similarities. I hope the things I learned the past few weeks help you in your life transitions, too.
1. Being caught off guard by, and overwhelmed in, our new roles. Just as I was perfectly aware our son would graduate college and set off into the real world, we see our parents aging, but we don’t really prepare ourselves for the transition to being their caregiver. It’s not just happening to them, it impacts our lives tremendously as well. As family caregivers, our parents will rely more and more on us. As an empty nest-ers, the reverse is true — our children need their parents less and less. Both are the natural order of life.
2. Ideas vs. feelings during transitions. Sure, we all talk a good game about how we’re dealing with our parents aging process in practical terms, but aren’t we hurting inside? Doesn’t it make your heart ache to see your parents, whom you always thought of as strong individuals, showing signs of physical and/or cognitive decline? Isn’t it scary for you to watch them becoming more frail, and worry about what’s ahead for them? Isn’t it upsetting to think about their ultimate deaths? Even if you’re pro-active and have care plans in place before they’re needed, I don’t think you can stop these underlying difficult feelings — not if you’re human.
3. The importance of self-care. First off, acknowledge you’re in a funk and give yourself permission to be in one. It’s OK to feel sad and blue for a few days or even a few weeks during life transitions, but don’t fall into a huge depression you can’t pull yourself out of. What are you doing to get yourself out of the doldrums and back to normal? Are you talking with others you know who have already gone through this transition? Are you doing things to increase your positive thinking and outlook, such as reading books or blogs, journaling or writing positive affirmations to repeat each day, meditating, doing yoga, or getting some exercise? Are you talking with either a spiritual leader or a medical professional if they offer you comfort, advice and more? Are you finding activities (either volunteer or paid) to get yourself out of the house and busy again? What are you doing to pamper yourself and pat yourself on the back for doing a good job as a family caregiver?
4. Keep looking forward. Be aware of what future life transitions lie ahead for you. Read this post again and try to prepare for what’s coming emotionally so you’re not taken by surprise as I was when the Empty Nest syndrome hit me like a ton of bricks. If you’re currently a family caregiver, what will you do when your parent(s) pass away? Think about it. Yes, it’s OK to grieve, but after that, what will fill up your time . . . and your heart?
Life transitions aren’t easy but we manage to get through them somehow. We all need to lean on each other more, and ask for help when we feel we need it — from loved ones, friends, and/or medical professionals. We are all in this life and world together!
Have you been through a life transition recently? How did you cope?
And flip that question around — Is there someone in your world who is going through a hard transition time and would appreciate your help and support? Reach out to them today.
Please share your experience in the Comments section below.