Senior Apartments For The Elderly
Where Are We Going With This?
My Mom began her journey in eldercare facilities five years ago. She is now in the fourth facility of her journey. Each facility met her presenting needs at the time. She has experienced several levels of care as her illness has progressed.
I wish to encourage you on your journey through this maze of housing and healthcare choices. Be bold in speaking up for your spouse, parent, family member or friend. Make those difficult decisions so that they can receive the assistance needed! They are depending on you!
I Knew It Was Time To Make A Move
With an earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's, Mom began losing essential skills. Her first struggles were writing checks and managing essential medications. She avoided monthly bill paying and skipped her medications. I took over these tasks and she continued to live independently for several months.
The family was grateful for her decision to lay down the car keys and give up driving. We did not battle over this issue at all. There were a couple of fender benders that caused fear of getting behind the wheel. Her car remained parked in front of her condo until she eventually turned over the keys and announced that someone might as well be getting some use from it.
Her eating habits began to change. Even though we shopped her grocery list and kept the refrigerator full, preparing the simplest meal became difficult for her. She needed to have meals provided three times a day and medication administered. The daily pill box no longer worked. She missed two days of meds because of confusion, even though they were clearly labeled.
It was time for additional care!
Which Type of Facility Is Appropriate
There is an Alzheimer's facility not far from my house. To test it out, we arranged for Mom to visit one afternoon. The visit cost $50.00 for two meals and an afternoon of supervision. After seating her at a table in the dining room for lunch, I quickly introduced Mom to her table mates, and left. The staff reassured me that they would take good care of her.
I returned five hours later and Mom was furious! She glared at me. Her only response through clenched teeth was "Get me out of here!"
The First Facility
Further research provided another facility with more independence for Mom approximately seven miles from my home. It had an inviting dining room with table cloths on each table. Meals were beautifully served with healthy and appealing foods. The residents could make choices from a limited menu. A meal with the family member was available for a reasonable price and with advance notice. The atmosphere was classy, homey, and well designed.
Each apartment was equipped with a kitchenette, living area, separate bedroom and bath. There was even a personal outside porch with a view. No furnishings were provided. Medication management and personal assistance were available for a price based on the services required. They even provided laundry service so a couple of times per week. The medical service officed in the facility but were an independent company.
Because of our recent experience at the Alzheimer care facility, this had to be our choice. Now for the move!
The Move From Independence to Dependence
Mom needed to move and quickly. Overwhelmed but motivated, I prepared for the move in just one day. By enlisting my Mother-in-Love's assistance, I was able to pack without interference. "The Moms" played cards for hours. We ordered dinner to be delivered and just kept packing.
The moving van was due to arrive the next morning. I knew they would wrap the furniture with contents enclosed. I organized dresser drawers and toiletries removing unnecessary items. Tags on clothes were labeled with her name. Hanging clothes, linens, dishes, television and lamps were loaded into two cars. These items were moved in before the furniture.
The next morning, the movers relocated bedroom furniture, a couch, love seat, a kitchen table with chairs, and end tables. We simplified the furniture by choosing favorite items for her new abode. We made the bed, stocked the bathroom and arranged the furniture. Visually it needed to feel like home.
The New ResidenceClick thumbnail to view full-size
Mom did not want to move. For her safety and well-being, she had to move! That same day she was settled into her new place. We stayed with her until bedtime, helping her crawl under her new new comforter.
To assist in the transition, Mom was escorted both ways to meals. Seating was planned to introduce her to other residents. Medications were given twice a day immediately. Activities during the day were encouraged by staff.
The transition to the new facility was not an easy one. The best decision we made was to have her escorted to meals. Meals were served at the same time every day which helped to set a routine. Unfortunately, it took several months for Mom to adapt to her new surroundings. I visited several times a week, stocked her refrigerator with snacks and brought toiletries as needed.
Different activities were provided on different days of the week. Many of the residents in this facility still owned cars and often disappeared after meals. Most did not attend the activities hosted by the activity director. Family encouraged her to join card games, attend the concerts, or exercize with others.
Mom often sat in her apartment and watched television or sat on the balcony watching the lazy traffic in the neighborhood. She would turn down offers to attend activities. In response to her choice of isolation, I arranged for staff to check on her between meals and during the night. Finally after two years, when considering another move, Mom began sitting in the lobby with other ladies in the afternoons. These women did not have deep discussions but seemed content to have the consistent fellowship. I would visit and often find them on the front porch in rocking chairs staring into the distance.
Mom graduated to a walker to navigate down the long hall to the elevator. She had several falls and her health began to deterIodate. After two years, it was time for another move.
Pro and Cons for Dementia Patients In a First Level Care Facility
Again I encourage you to be a voice for the resident. Be alert and aware because changes often occur with service and with your family member or friend.
There were many good things to be said for this type of facility. The food was excellent and the dining room made a great impression upon entering the facility. The staff was always friendly. They presented a welcoming face to new residents, There were two manager couples living on the facility grounds and available 24/7. Nurse care was available for a price and care was available around the clock. Light housekeeping was done regularly in all of the apartments. There were plenty of comfortable and large areas to gather with family members for parties or special occasions in common areas. A beauty shop was located in the building and many typical hair and nail services were provided at a reasonable price. This shop was also open to the community.
There were also cons to living in this facility. The hallways were long. Meals for most residents meant navigating down a long hall to the elevator. It is very easy to isolate in an apartment. The facility does not monitor the residents except for meals. It was comforting to know they checked on anyone not making an appearance for a meal. When the family took Mom for dinner elsewhere, we let the staff know of our plans.
Meals became an ordeal for Mom. She developed some social anxiety. She would wait until the very last minute to go downstairs for meals and refuse the assistance to walk down with staff. She did not eat well and would stare intently around the dining room. Staff did not monitor her eating habits. That was an extra fee for additional services. She was not eating the snacks in her room. Mom was losing weight and declining In strength.
Contract services did not work on a tight schedule. The building was large. Many times the medical staff checked on Mom at 4:00 pm instead of the requested 2:00 pm. Many times, Mom had falls or was not doing well and the medical staff did not call. There were call buttons in the apartments, but I don't think Mom could remember where or how to use them.
Hair appointments were sometimes forgotten because customers from the outside caused the stylists to run late. They did not let me know. I would have to make contact with the shop when visiting to reschedule a visit even though Mom had a standing appointment.
Laundry was done by the overnight medical staff. Two week days were arranged for Moms laundry to be done. I would often visit the medical office in search of the laundry. Sometimes the missing laundry basket was in the office, clean and folded but not delivered back to her. Sometimes it sat dirty in the laundry basket in her closet, forgotten.
The bottom line is that the facility does not want a resident to move. They will allow individuals to stay when they desperately need more care and need to be somewhere else. The facility loses money when residents move because it takes time to lease an apartment. There were some folks who did not have family carefully watching them and they needed help! Be a strong voice or advocate for your loved one!
I have learned many lessons from this first facility.
1. I must speak up when I see a need that must be met. By being a team player with staff, many problems can be solved.
2. Care for the elderly is expensive. Each new service provided for the resident cost money.
3. Physical and mental changes can occur quickly. Be alert and aware during visits.
4. Many of the staff personnel have a heart for the elderly. Even so, accountability is needed to make sure your loved one is receiving the care you are paying for. The staff may take shortcuts or get lazy if they think you won't notice.
5. Frequent short visits are best for all concerned. Visits at varying times will help keep staff on target and keep you from "burnout."
6. Mom may have done better with a roommate in the Alzheimer facility. The size of the facility and daily routine may have been more effective at meeting her needs.
7. Eldercare is a business. The bottom line is the profit for the owner.
Moving to the Alzheimer Facility
The next section of our process is found in Part Two. Mom moves to the Alzheimer facility she previously visited.