It’s About Time
Idiom- It is past time when something should have happened. Cambridge Dictionary
This blog post will talk about when it is time for family members to look at alternative living situations, for someone with dementia. Cat and I found our home at Brookdale Chambrel Roswell Senior Living Solutions in Roswell, Georgia. The time was right for us, but many wait too long to start thinking about where their loved one’s needs would be best served. This is not my first experience with a facility like where we are currently living. More about that later.
First, I would like to take the time to talk about the different living facilities available for someone like us. There are 5 types of living facilities that I will reference here.
Typical Retirement Community
The first is the typical retirement community. Most folks are familiar with these types of communities and they are dotted all over the US. Most are stand alone condo’s and they have many activities for active seniors. Some have a pool, golf course, tennis course and main activity building for card games and the like. The condo is self contained and you do your own laundry and cooking. The benefit is that you have activities with people your own age.
Independent Living Facilities
Next, I will talk about what is known as Independent Living Facilities. They can be small and self contained like most, 20 to 30 apartments under one roof with some of the activities mentioned above but with the added amenity of having a place you can go to, for your meals. Usually 2 meals are provided and in most facilities you get to pick which two you would like each day. They also clean your apartment and do some of your laundry, like linens and bed sheets, once a week. There are extras you can pay for on top of your monthly rent which would include help with medications, help dressing and bathing including toileting. These services are provided by in house caregivers. Or you can hire from an outside agency or privately yourself.
I found a place like that for my mom. At the time she had just turned 80 and had gone from a world traveler to a home body and the decline was becoming very evident. I had her come visit me in Louisville, Kentucky and after a few tries I was able to find the perfect place for her, near my home. I had her furniture moved into her new apartment so she then had all the comforts of home. She was surrounded by like minded individuals that made her feel welcomed.
It did not take long for her to fit right in and even became an Ambassador for the facility. In other words any one interested in living there would come by to ask her questions about her experience with the facility. She wore that, like a badge of honor and took great pride in that role. If she was not in her apartment all I had to do was look at the activity board to figure out where to find her. Needless to say, she loved the place. I used an agency call, A Place for Mom. It is a free service and I am sure most of you have seen their commercials on TV.
It is important that you take the time to figure out which child is best suited for this responsibility. It has to be someone they not only get a long with, since they love all their offsprings, but also someone they can depend on when the eventual decline starts. For my family I took it upon myself to be that person. Through her life all three of us took our turns, when it was appropriate and for the last 9 years of her life it was my turn.
Cat and I are in the independent section of the facility, here at Brookdale, since I can provide all the assistance, she now needs. I will talk later about, what if she did not have someone like me by her side and where most folks like Cat usually go. While we have been here for nearly 1 year I have asked, many here, why they chose this facility. Most start out with the fact that they are near one of their children. Many had lost their spouse and the family did not feel it was appropriate for them to continue to live alone. Most couples, also added, that one was starting to have either physical or mental difficulties and they needed more support than they were getting living on their own.
Assisted Living Facility
The next level is what is known as an, Assisted Living Facility. There are many other names used from company to company. That environment is much more structured. We did spend a week in a facility like that but the level of care was more than we needed and of course the cost was much higher. They have staff on site, 24/7, monitoring everyone and no one is allowed to leave without an escort. That being a family member or another staff member for an organized outing, which includes trips to the store or doctor appointments. These facilities are usually very small, 20 apartments or so and everything is very structured behind the locked doors of the facility. The part, I did not like, was the constant checking in on us in our apartment all hours of the day and night.
There to, you pay for the extras needed and some state laws require them to charge you for all of them whether you need them or not. Some larger companies like Brookdale will have both type’s of facilities under one roof. The activities and meals are more structured and there you are provided 3 meals a day.
I am sure all have heard of the dreaded term, Memory Care. These type facilities are no joke and for obvious reasons are very regimented. Once again, you can only leave if signed out and back in by a loved one or staff member. Many times they have doctors and nurses visit the facility and everything is controlled by the staff members to how many times a day a person is taken to the bathroom.
I have had two occasions to visit inside these types of facilities and it quickly took a toll on me, emotionally. Some living there are either chemically or physically restrained so not to do harm to themselves or others. When we first looked into Brookdale it was suggested that Cat reside in Memory Care, since they do have all three type of facilities on property, with me living in the Independent building. Here Memory care is in a separate building and as an alternative they were willing to provide a two bedroom in Memory Care, since I insisted that I was going to always be by Cat’s side. I knew that I was not going to be able to handle, emotionally, living with her there. I, instead was able to convince management to allow us to stay together in the independent section of Brookdale.
I do know of a few folks that are living with us independently and visit their loved one on a regular basis as they reside in the Memory Care building. In discussions with some women here they tried their best to take care of their loved one with dementia, as I am with Cat, but as time went on they were just unable. I am still young, by comparison, so I truly understand and also as the disease progresses some become uncooperative or down right abusive. So far, for me, sometimes Cat needs some coaxing but is usually very cooperative and pleasant to be around.
The last one I would like to discuss is Nursing Homes. I only have limited exposure to them. My mom was able to live independently until her diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer, where she went from the hospital to a nursing home for the last 2 weeks of her life. She then had standing orders for no operations, feeding tubes, resuscitation or incubation. We moved some items from where she had been staying to the nursing home and I gave the rest away to a church agency.
I felt it was a quick, peaceful and pain free transition but I could not imagine staying there more than we had to. All the care there is done by nurses or nurses aids with the rounds by the doctor to update the time horizon to expect. Visiting her there was very depressing but it was what was needed at the time. Since then I have learned there was another alternative and that was, Hospice care. That could have been done either where she was living or at my home. Payment for that level of care comes out of the persons, Medicare Hospital, Part A, since it is agreed upon that they will no longer be going to the hospital.
I truly believe it is important that each family try to stay ahead of the decision of where to go next for their loved one, with dementia. Like me, the one best suited for that task needs to take action sooner rather than later. Your loved one is not going to like the change. Some have lived in the same house for 50 years or more. Some have been together for 60 years or more and the thought of being separated would be devastating. I know of a few here, that cherish their visits with their loved one. Bringing them flowers and singing old songs with them.
If you can find a facility that has Independent, Assisted and Memory Care like Brookdale on the same campus, there are definite advantages. That being, if as a couple you can both live Independently and one has a slip and fall. Then after the hospital and rehabilitation you could then go to the Assisted living facility, until you are once again able to live independently. The same is true as the Dementia progresses that individual can move into the Memory Care Facility, which would facilitate regular visits from the other that is still able to live independently.
They come and they go
Since our campus has over 300 folks under roof in all three facilities people do come and go from time to time. For some, it just did not work out for various reasons. Others moved to other facilities here at Brookdale, as their needs changed and for some, their time had come to leave their earthly body.
When I would sometimes visit my mom, she would greet me with as an example, “Martha passed away the other day.” I would in turn joke, that she would have someone else to make friends with in a few days. I must admit for those that left us for the last reason it is still taking me awhile to get use to.
Most facilities have a table near reception where they put up the picture of those that had passed with a lovely arrangement of flowers. Some I did not recognize, possibly because they seldom came out of their apartment’s, or a few, I saw every singe day as the walked the corridors, like us.
Cat and I are the youngsters here at, 62 and 68 respectively, however, our neighbor is 102, dresses like she is going to the ballet and her mind is sharp as a tack. It is always sad to see them go for whatever reason but as I told my mom. Someone new, to make friends with, will be moving in the next few days. Everyone has been so gracious to Cat and I and I am sure the same will be true to you when the time is right.
It is going to be a difficult discussion to have with your family member but I hope that they understand that you have their best interest in mind. Some might outright say no but with this information at hand you can circle back at a later time when the situations have changed and you are able to approach the situation once again. It is not only a benefit to them but stress upon them that it is also a benefit to you as well when it comes to peace of mind, knowing that you don’t have to worry about them on a daily basis from a far.
You can read Cat and I’s story of how we picked Brookdale Chambrel Roswell, HERE and hope it get the wheels turning in the right direction, whichever direction that might be. For all of you reading this I wish you much success and hope I have given you options that are germane to your particular circumstance. I would be glad to answer any and all questions you might have. You can comment below or email me at, Flyprkr@aol.com.