In little more than a week my parents will travel from their lifelong home state to an independent living apartment three miles from our home. Those of you who have been following my blog for the last year know that this has been a long time coming. Now that we are down to the final countdown (days folks, days) I am overwhelmed by how much my siblings and I have accomplished – and by how much more we have to do!
For those of you who might face the same journey someday I wanted to share a bit of what I learned along the way. This week I have summarized the different living options we came across in our research, and in the following weeks I hope to post about the medical side of their move, hiring independent caregivers and out-fitting their new place comfortably and safely. While I am certainly NO expert in any of these areas, I myself loath reinventing the wheel and see no need for some else to blindly go where others have already plodded (back and forth and up and down in total confusion by the way). So I share this information with the hope that someone can use it to make their journey down this road a bit smoother.
When my mother became very ill this year and my father a bit forgetful we looked at various options in housing for them. At first they considered moving near one of us, but reneged due to fear of losing control. So we added a live-in aide to help them in their own condo. This worked for a while but eventually the stress of not being near any of us took its toll and we had to find an alternative solution.
Given our family dynamics, moving in with any of us was not an option for my parents. Thankfully they were wise with their money and can financially afford to live on their own. However due to their weakened health status they need more than a little help with “activities of daily living.” Research in four different states turned up the following options for residential living.
Independent living facilities – while these usually provide meals, transportation, activities there is no caregiver services by “in-house staff”. We did find that in many drop-in care/out-sourced caregiving is often allowed or available. Some local ones required that my parents be ambulatory (walkers were okay); while others were even okay with scooters/wheel chairs (my mother is now in a wheelchair). It is smart to check this carefully as you would not want to get your parent settled and then have to move them if their health declined and they no longer met the “house rules”.
Assisted living facilities - are very popular now with my parents’ generation and provide meals, transportation, activities and some in-house care. Most have “levels of care” to choose from (and pay for) depending on the needs of the senior citizen. Several of the ones I checked locally required that the person be ambulatory. Care provided can include things like “laying out clothes, medication reminders or assistance with bathing.” Because the care is provided in-house by onsite staff these types of facilities often do not allow “outside caregiving companies to come onsite to provide additional care. This is something to consider should your parent need more than the available “drop-in” care.
Skilled nursing care facilities – I have only viewed one locally and it seemed similar to “assisted living” in that care was provided in house at a facility that provided meals, transportation, activities. Interestingly this one did not allow wheelchairs due to the narrowness of its residence halls, so again check this carefully. Due to the skilled nursing care offered, these facilities can often have the look of a “nursing home” with nursing stations visible on the floors. That was one particular thing my mother did not like about the one she viewed in another state.
Garden Homes – these are usually stand-alone ranch-style homes located within a senior-living “campus” that may also contain a skilled nursing/assisted living facility and nursing home building. The main buildings usually include things like dining room service, activities and transportation, however to benefit from these the resident would need to be able to access the main complex (s). The advantage to this type of housing is the fact that a healthy independent senior could move into a garden home and live many years before needing to partake in all that such a complex has to offer. In addition, the resident of a garden home would be free to hire their own outside care while also continuing to live in their home.
Nursing Home Care – while this can often seem like a final option, many of our elderly parents might first encounter a nursing home as a “rehab patient”. Many “rehab” facilities for the elderly are located within nursing home facilities. My own mother has been in two different ones in the last year due to hospitalizations that left her too weak to be discharged directly to home. Nursing home care provides an added level of medical assistance not usually available at any of the other types of facilities I have mentioned (even with at home care by certified nursing assistants). However, it can often be a difficult placement. For example, we found that our own mother’s needs (often immediate in her mind) did not always mesh with the nursing home system where several caregivers/nursing aides are trying to handle numerous patients at once. In addition, she personally found both facilities she stayed in “depressing”, in part due to the fact that “rehab patients” were housed in the same rooms as the severely infirm and/or terminally ill. However, if you have a parent who is in need of skilled nursing and medical care and at home care is not an option then this is may be the only way to go. I found there to be several facilities in our area and as is often the case some were better than others. The state does keep scores of each facility so that is one place to start your search.
Next time: moving medical care from one state to another.