Assisted Living 101: final thoughts

Did I mention at the beginning of this that so many people think “nursing home” when they hear the words “assisted living”? (Yes, I did.) The truth is that no one wants to be sick, disabled or senile and in need of a nursing home.  The truth is that no one really wants to be old, but the alternative is to be dead and that’s not great either. If we grow old without being sick, disabled or senile we will be blessed. Some of us will need to have good nursing care and a nursing home will be the safest place for us. Probably all of us will need assistance at some point. Who will assist you?

Before that time, we hope to take care of ourselves and be independent as “young elders”. It takes courage to ask where we best belong, and where we fit in. It also takes courage to deal with one’s pride and go live in a place where others might need us. Mom’s apartment at Water’s Edge is designed with aging in mind, but it is just like a nice apartment anywhere else. The basic plan here does not leave her feeling like she is an invalid, in fact, she feels like she’s on a cruise.  What would improve her experience here would be having more people closer to her age.

We have been meeting other tenants at meal time. Marjorie, Eleanor, Ken, Emil, Violet who is going to be 103, and the three Dorothys. Underneath the aging exterior, all of these individuals have interesting stories and quirky personalities that can come rushing out when you start conversing with them. This particular brand of assisted living has been good for them. They have family nearby but are really safer and happier here than they would be elsewhere. It is a good place.

Will Mom feel like she belongs here? She doesn’t know but is willing to give it a try. She has the option of returning home and living with family if she needs it. I will end the way I began. There is not one right way to do this aging thing – everyone’s situation is different and there are lots of variables to deal with. But I have learned that it is good to do the dealing gracefully, thoughtfully, and without fear before it is an emergency.

Aside: Today we met Ken who is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel of 27 years. When he could no longer play it, he donated his digital piano to the chapel at Water’s Edge. After we had lunch at the same table, he invited us to come learn how to operate the instrument. (Mom has always loved having a piano around to play when the urge hits…) Interesting people… see what I mean?

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Outside the door, each tenant has a name plate and a small shelf where they can place some object. For now, it’s a china doll, but eventually it will be something red, I think.

Assisted Living 101: Red!

20180107_162125957370457.jpgMost apartments where people come and go are painted in neutral colors – beiges and browns, as in Mom’s apartment at Water’s Edge. There are beautiful dark brown cabinets, doors and baseboards, a light brown carpet and vinyl hard flooring. The minute mom saw it she was planning how she would fix it up. It needed some punch, and the punch was going to be red.

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Red carnage begins.

The week before she moved she designated a rocking chair that would go there with her, whose outward façade would never be the same. I got in on the decorating fever and found a twin bed headboard and footboard at the ReStore. We put plastic down on the garage floor, obtained some of Walmart’s red spray paint and Mom went to work. Painting all those skinny spindles on the chair and headboard produced a lot of overspray. (Think “how to make your garage look like the scene of an axe murder” or “how to get pink hair for $3.89”). But she really liked the results, most of them (not so much the pink hair).

Moving day was last Friday, and has continued in increments since then. Having her former residence only a mile or so away has some advantages, because we forgot quite a few things at first.  Most of the cute, red stuff is here.

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Moving day! The SUV was so full we had to put a basket between us in the front. I’m not really that excited – I’m freezing. It was minus 12 F. and snowed the day before.

Another way that Water’s Edge assists its tenants is in the safety department, and I said I would mention a few of those features in this post. Inside Mom’s entry door is this notification system that they ask her to use each day. 20180114_213513326780616.jpgShe presses the “check in “ button by 10 am just to let staff know she is doing fine and doesn’t need them. “Help” doesn’t have to mean she’s dying, just that she would like some help, duh. She can use it anytime, even if it’s just to get the TV hooked up, or a picture hung, or a question answered. There are also call buttons in the bathroom.

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Sign out book, which we forgot to use the first night out. They forgave us. We’re new here.

Tenants here come and go as they please, but the outside entrance is locked at 8:30 pm and must be opened by staff after that time. They like to know who is out and when they are coming back, so there is a sign out book that keeps staff informed.  It’s not a jail by any means. Mom has an outside patio door on the ground floor and could get out anytime if she wished, but security is important for everyone living here and cooperative living means rules.

 

I’ve been getting some interesting comments on this series and want to sum things up in the next post by addressing some of what I’m hearing.

 

 

Assisted Living 101: how will they assist?

We started the process of entering the apartment at Water’s Edge with Mom undergoing an evaluation. It was to assess her needs in the basic areas and determine what kind of assistance she might want.

As you’ve caught on, we are in a very cold climate and we needed to schedule this appointment with a nurse and the assisted living manager. To my surprise and delight, they didn’t waste any time in assisting us and volunteered to come to Mom’s house and do the evaluation there. Later this week, before Mom moves in, the final paperwork has to be filled out. Again, our manager was quick to offer to come to the house rather than having us come to them. I was impressed that they would consider the difficulty an elderly person might have going out in below zero weather.

Concerning that weather (icy roads and snowstorms), transportation is provided to the grocery store and pharmacy every week on the resident bus. Water’s Edge and the hospital are also on the hourly bus route and will take residents pretty much anywhere for $.50. Mom still drives her car lots of places in town and she can have garage space at Water’s Edge, but the convenience of the bus is very tempting. We are going to ride it around it’s route just to scope it out and learn what it’s like.

Another day we were looking for a place to have lunch with my uncle and aunt. We decided to show them Mom’s soon to be abode and have lunch at the Water’s Edge Bistro. The Bistro is a volunteer staffed eating place with a “soup of the day” and accompanying sandwich. It’s open for residents and the public over lunch hour. The menu is limited but the price can’t be beat and the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed. All four of us had soup, sandwich, coffee and a dessert cookie for $11, total!

Mom has been a great cook and hostess all her life, and although eating is still fun, cooking is no longer her favorite thing to do. Shopping and cooking for one person is not easy and not as rewarding as fixing meals for a group. She is always worrying about using things up and not wasting food. She often eats standing up, looking out the kitchen window.

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The last meal Mom will probably cook for a while (until she gets lonely for cooking #shesaidnever)

Being assisted with meal preparation is one of the things Mom looks forward to most. At Water’s Edge everyone gets coffee any time of the day, a good continental breakfast buffet every morning, and a hearty lunch. The evening meal is available in the dining room for a small cost, but many people take part of their lunch home to eat later. In addition, everyone has their own kitchen in their apartment should the desire to cook suddenly overcome them. Guests can be entertained in the dining room for a reasonable price, or at the Bistro. Problem solved.

These are just a few of the ways that assistance is offered to residents at this particular place. Most assisted living facilities have put a lot of thought into what help is needed and appreciated, either for safety or just for convenience. I’ll tell you more about the safety features at Water’s Edge that we all liked and I’m sure will give Mom the security and peace of mind that we want her to have – in the next post.

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This is more like it…

Assisted Living 101: answering questions

Assisted Living: Who Decides?

I have come to the conclusion that the answer to this question is different, case to case. I can think of examples for every possible scenario. I can only give what has happened for our family.

My parents moved numerous times in their lives. They were tied to a general area but not to a particular house. Each time they moved they practiced parting with things. They practiced flexibility. Some people are not that way. I have always been a bit surprised by their flexibility because I have seen the opposite happen with my grandparents. They were not as comfortable with change and they stayed in the home they were familiar with until it was impossible to do so.

Mom has jokingly said that she looked forward to nursing home social life, playing bingo and cards, etc… so I know that she has thought about the subject way before she had to. Watching others go through decisions about caretaking made her lean in the direction of not wanting to be a burden on her children. We have all had to reassure her that we are all “burdens” to each other if we want to view it that way, and that every burden, planned for and accepted cheerfully, has corresponding joys and rewards. For mom, this means she can know she is loved and can depend on us. For us, this means that we trust mom to make a decision for herself, and that we will do everything we can to make it happen.

Mom was not afraid to put her name on the waiting list, but I think we were all surprised when it was announced that she was next in line for an apartment. This announcement came at a time when Mom was struggling with her feelings of loneliness and isolation, the shortened days and long dark nights, the winter cold. There were people she could reach out to, frequent phone calls and my brother and his family checking in on her, but even with all this there were sometimes days at a time when she was not face to face with anyone. She became very clear about one thing – she no longer wanted to live alone. Maybe it was not a coincidence that there would soon be a place for her in a warm, secure building with people to see and be with any time she wanted. When you are a praying person, you examine “coincidences” in a whole different light. And that’s what Mom has done. She says she owes it to herself to find out if this is right for her, and why not do it while she is young enough to enjoy the many perks?

Meanwhile, my brothers and I are battling winter with Mom in any way we can. I am so happy that I am free to visit her in Wisconsin for an extended time. Since I have been here, the apartment has come open and I will get to help with the move. We are having fun getting ready. Wait ’till you see what Mom is doing! Clue – a lot of red paint is involved.

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Mom and her five “kids” spending time at her home in Hayward, Wisconsin

 

 

 

Assisted Living 101

Our family is having a new experience this winter – I call it a learning experience because I’ve been made to see that we approached it with some bias, some presumptions that need to be adjusted. Although mom is the central figure in this experience, we are all involved and affected. Over Thanksgiving we had discussions with Mom and each other.  It is a blessing to have a close family that wants to work together and communicate.

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With Mom up in the cold north (Wisconsin). We’ll get this assisted living thing figured out…

My personal bias was the idea that someday, when Mom needed help, I would be her primary caretaker. I enjoy my mother and the idea of living with her has never been hard to bear. I have looked forward to that time.  However, there were many details about “that time” that were not defined or even thought about.

How will we know when “that time” comes? Who decides? Is it based on physical need? Financial need? Emotional need? Safety need? Where will “that time” take place? What if “that time” comes when it’s inconvenient?

All of these questions and more came into play this last year. It was a shock to me when my forward- thinking brother and my mom announced that they had put her name on the list for an assisted living apartment. She had already told me that she didn’t want to winter with my husband and I in sunny Florida. Travel wasn’t easy for her and she didn’t have many friends of her own there. She felt isolated and in the way. But assisted living?! She had a small but very comfortable condo in a safe community near my brother and his family. She had lived alone there for the two years since Dad had died. What was going on?

Mom had gotten on the list along with lots of others because there was a shortage of apartments in the facility of choice. It was a “just in case” move so she wouldn’t find herself in need in the future. I wasn’t the only one who balked at this idea. Other family members were concerned and even voiced the common sentiment “once you go to a nursing home, it’s all downhill from there”. Fortunately, nothing happened quickly.  I think it was by God’s design that we were given several months to process this idea.

Our first lesson was learning the meaning of assisted living. The term has been around for a number of years but even with my background in nursing, I had not paid much attention to it. I did not know how common these facilities had become and the variety of levels of assistance available. The facility Mom is interested in is connected to a hospital, but really consists of apartments, fully equipped, like any apartment building. They are small but very nice. Residents move in with their own furnishings and come and go as they please. Mom can bring her own car if she wants to.

As some of this information comes my way I want to share it with my family and with others who are also considering assisted living for themselves or those they love. Since Mom is moving this coming Friday, I will be posting over the next few days in hopes that following her journey will help others understand and feel informed about assisted living.

Click here to see photos of the assisted living facility where Mom is moving. Water’s Edge Senior Living