Saturday, October 27, 2012

Considering Assisted Living

My mom's UTI was a doozie, of course.  She was hospitalized for 6 days while they administered antibiotics.  At some point, while she was hospitalized, they did some type of cognitive testing, and strongly informed my brother and me that "She should not be living alone any more, a person with dementia at that level cannot be safe at home alone."  That, in itself, was a shock, because we had no idea that there was dementia involved.  After all, she was fine a few days ago!

When my mom had recovered sufficiently to discuss what they had said about her not living at home any longer, she was, of course, resistant to any change.  She absolutely refused to live with my brother or with me, stating that she did not want to be a "burden".  The hospital gave us a book of assisted living facilities in the city where she lived.

Something people don't know when they are considering assisted living for a loved one or themselves is that while nursing homes are very similar to each other in many ways, assisted living facilities can vary greatly.  For example, one of the less-expensive assisted living communities that we looked at was almost (in my eyes anyhow) identical to a nursing home.  The resident had a bedroom with an attached bath, and all meals were taken in the "dining room" with all of the other residents.  It was also possible to have a roommate, which would lower the price even more.

Most of the assisted living facilities that we looked at, however, were more along the lines of a small apartment with services provided.  However, even the way the services are provided can differ by facility.  Some facilities only charge for the services that a resident needs.  For example, if a resident needs help getting dressed and taking pills, but doesn't need help with laundry, the client would not be charged any fee for laundry services.  Other facilities went more of an all-inclusive route, where a set "rent" amount covered all services to a certain point, and then once the resident needed more of those services, then the "rent" would increase.

"Rent." The most intimidating aspect of assisted living for a family member.  We looked at several of the available assisted living situations in my mom's city and oh, they were SO expensive, almost as much as a nursing home!  By that time, we were pretty frustrated, and my husband happened to notice that there was an assisted living facility in our small town.  By calling them, here was what we found:

1) the rent was HALF of what a comparable unit in the city would be
2) in a small town, the staff turnover is much less because there are fewer jobs available.

So.....we did opt for the small-town assisted living.  It provided a 2 bedroom apartment with a regular kitchen and bath.  She could have her cat there.  She had free cable TV and all utilities were paid except the phone.  We told her that if she tried it for a month and hated it, she could move back to her house and we would find a different solution.  So she agreed to give it a go.

My mom was very scared of moving, and who could blame her?  She had lived in her house for nearly 40 years.  Her new apartment, although built in the '80's, would be much more updated than her house was.  And not matter how we tried to explain the "assisted living" concept, and no matter that she had visited the apartment with us, she believed it would be a nursing home.  I think we all were pleasantly surprised, my mom most of all!

Basically, what it started out to be was her own apartment.  With her cat.  Where people checked on her 3 times a day, but she was absolutely free to come and go as she pleased.  She (or I) could cook a meal in her apartment, go out to eat, or eat in the dining room.  So she didn't have too cook.  She had a "beeper" that she wore on a chain around her neck, where, if she felt like she needed help of any kind, all she would have to do is push the button and someone would come.  The aides did her vacuuming and other cleaning.  It was all on one floor, so there was no worry about stairs.  If she wanted to go into town to shop or go to a doctors appointment, the facility provided transportation.  It ended up being so good for my mom!!!  She had people to chat with again, she could go to the in-house beauty salon, she could attend activities and exercise classes, it was genuinely freeing for her and ultimately, she loved it.  I wished she had moved there sooner, because it was exactly what she wanted and needed.  I teased her often about "living like a rich person" because she had people to cook for her, people to clean her house, and someone to drive her around town, too!

My mom lived in the assisted living apartment for four years.  During that time, as her needs increased, the staff just adapted.  Yes, her rent went up as her needs increased, but we always got much much more than we paid for.

In summary, if you are considering assisted living for a loved one, some things to consider are:
1) a small town or rural facility will likely be cheaper for the same or better services
2) a small town or rural facility will have more consistency of staff
3) you might not realize how isolated your loved one has become--the social interactions at an assisted living facility may be hugely beneficial!
4) an assisted living facility can be like the best of both worlds--an apartment with "helpers".
5) just because a facility is titled "Assisted Living" does not mean it will be similar to others. 
6) pets, if the resident can adequately care for them, are usually allowed.
7) be sure to ask about meal plans, some facilities only provide one meal a day.

There were a few things I wish we could have changed with the assisted living, I'll address them in the next post.  But in general, watching my mom's experience in the assisted living gave me a great deal of comfort and hope.  I would recommend assisted living to everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Appreciate your sharing! I am agreeing with you here that just because a facility is titled "Assisted Living" does not mean it will be similar to others also one should make sure that the management is providing well balanced and nutritional food before considering assisted living for your loved one.

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