The Start of a New Chapter in our Lives.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  -Alexander Graham Bell

I thought the title of this blog entry to be appropriate since I did write a book with 44 chapters, Running all over the world, our race against early onset Alzheimer’s. Don’t worry, there will be no pitch for that book.

In this case, since Catherine can no longer run, our chapter of running all over the world is now behind us and a new chapter has begun.  She is still very active, walking 3-6 miles a day and with the use of the “CatMobile”, when she gets tired, I can get my much needed runs in while pushing her.  We have even done some races and still cross the finish line hand in hand, as always.

I went for the two front wheel option and the Lowe’s outdoor cushion modification

Since far flung destinations are now in our rear view mirror it was time for me to look into an alternative living arrangement.  Typically at this stage of the disease progression the care partner, as I like to be referred to as, looks for a memory care facility for their loved one.

Since my approach towards this terrible disease has been counter intuitive, I could not see me doing such.  I promised “Cat”, my pet name for her, that we would always be together and tackle this disease as a team effort.  My mom instilled in me the golden rule.  Do on to others as you would want them to do on to you.  Knowing that if the tables were turned Cat would also be by my side.  With that being my guiding light, the selection process began back in July.

I had a number of different options to vet and the process took about 3 months.  When buying a house they say location, location, location, the same is true in this case. Our doctors recommended Atlanta since they are all here but I did look into Bloomington, Indiana, where Cat’s daughter, and grandkids live. It is also close to the rest of her family in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  I was not impressed with the facilities there with the majority of the good ones being of the assisted living variety.

These are facilities that offer 24/7 care and 3 meals a day.  They are usually rather small and are not cheap.  We stayed at one in Alpharetta, Georgia, about 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta but since I do everything Cat needs to be done for her it was basically overkill.  Why pay for something we don’t need.

Another option was Harrisonburg, Virginia where one of my two son’s, Shawn, live.  Him and his wife have two small children so it would be great to see these grandkids grow up on a daily basis.  It had the same draw backs with the facilities and even more expensive than Bloomington.  State laws require that they charge for all the extra services even if you only need some of them.  The extra twist is that after a few more years there, they might have to once again relocate.

My other son, Aaron, lives with his wife in San Diego, California and even though we love the city it is simply too far away for us now.  My daughter, Mariah and her husband my grandson recently moved from Athens, Georgia to downtown Atlanta so that was a plus. We also have some friends in the Atlanta area so we were pretty sure Atlanta would work.

My thoughts were that we would not stop traveling but just not at the every 3-4 day rate we enjoyed for nearly 8 years.  More like a 3-4 day trip somewhere once a month.  With that in mind Atlanta was now the most logical choice for the same reasons we chose it when we first became nomads.   With Delta nonstops to just about everywhere it is becoming a no brainer.  Easy for us to visit others and the same is true for others to come visit us.  Now that the location of the Atlanta area was decided upon all that was left was the location geographically and finally the physical location of the facility.

As an alternative, I could have looked into a retirement community or an Apartment and augmented it with an Adult day care program.  However, the social services folks at the Integrated Mind Center, reminded me that I would not have the, as needed 24/7 oversight, I now need.  Let alone I would have to fend for myself when it comes to meals.  More about that later.

Even though the assisted living facility in Alpharetta, had its draw backs I did like the area. We did look closer to downtown and my daughter and also south near the airport.  One of the caregivers I used, while trying out the Alpharetta facility, recommended a place called, Brookdale in nearby Roswell. They are a national chain and my mom stayed at one similar called Atria. They have all three levels of facilities starting with Independent living, Assisted living and Memory Care.  After touring the facility it was suggested that we try out one of their furnished apartments for what they refer to as, respite stay.  They use these apartments for when someone has a home but wants a bit of a rest from the day to day chores or in our case just want to try it out.

I was not sold on the idea since Catherine and I were clearly going to be the youngsters at the place. Mentally, it was going to take me awhile to adjust to all the canes, walkers and motorized scooters.  It took me back to the nine years, when my mom was at Atria, and tried to compensate with something else she instilled in me.  Do something for someone else ever day.  I found that to be easy to accomplish and in turn very fulfilling.

After the 30 day, respite stay, it was mutually decided that we give the place a try for 90 days.  I say mutually, since management was a bit leary, their words, on my idea of us both living in an independent environment.  As I said earlier most at this stage have their loved one placed in memory care and the partner either lives independently, stays at home or move into the assisted living facility.

Management has the ability to ask anyone there to leave for 8 listed reasons, in the lease agreement, with 60 days notice or immediately, for 3 listed reasons.  In the 7 stages of Alzheimer’s Cat has now stabilized in stage 6 and unfortunately with that stage some individuals can become uncooperative and in some cases combative.  Memory care facilities usually handle this by medically or physically restraining their residents.

The actual Brookdale property, they like to be referred to as, the Senior Living  Solutions, has a rich history.  The original owners of the property was Chambrel and the land was bought from the Mansell family back in the 80’s.  The original farmhouse is now home to the Alpharetta & Old Milton County Historical Society and is also used for weddings and special events.

There are two fountains, one outside right behind the person that took this picture and one right inside the lobby. Both we enjoy sitting by and listening to the soothing sounds

Chambrel sold the property to Brookdale in 2002 and the actual name is Brookdale Chambrel, Roswell.  Despite the age of the property it is very well kept and you can’t beat the location.  They have a 1/2 mile sidewalk/path around the facility lined with gorgeous trees and landscaping.  There is also several garden areas and an outdoor pool.

The main tri-level building can house around 300 folks with various size apartments.  The total carpeted corridors are about 2 miles in length so it is great to get our daily walks in.  Many decorate their doorways so it is fun to see what they all have displayed and we jazzed up ours. The walls of the halls and lobby area are filled with outstanding artwork and there are lovely plants and plenty of chairs along the way for some to rest as they make their way to the main lobby and dining area.  

I figure I can make adjustments by holiday and season

There are several quiet neighborhoods nearby so I can easily get in a 6 mile run/walk without ever needing a car.  Speaking of which, there is a Hertz facility within walking distance so when one is needed getting and dropping off one is a breeze and they don’t gouge me if I pickup or drop one off at the airport. 

In the main building they also have the Assisted Living Facility, which I was not impressed with.  Once again it was rather small and more expensive than the independent living apartments.  There are also several detached 2 bedroom cottages which did look very inviting but larger than we would need.  One feature all of the apartments have, that I have not seen anywhere else, is that they all have screened in porches.  We often keep that door open for a little extra space and fresh air as we watch the leaves change colors and the gorgeous sunsets through the trees.  One of the staff members, Charlene, lent us two fabulous rocking chairs.  We did clear out our storage unit so it will also be perfect to put Cat’s bike up on a stand for her to ride.

On the porch with her new bear, Ty, also from Charlene

In a separate, adjacent building, there is a rather new building where the Memory Care facility is located.  We were offered a two bedroom apartment there, but after visiting several before, I knew I did not need to see theirs, to know that was not for us.  As a matter of fact, when I contacted Brookdale Corporate offices, they told me that even though they do allow couples to stay together there, it was discouraged.

I did have to agree to a concession in order for us to stay at Brookdale.  That being for us to eat all of our meals in our room.  It seems some here are not comfortable watching me feed Cat.  It is not that she can no longer feed herself but she did lose weight, since she would get frustrated and would simply stop eating the meal provided.  She was able to put back on the lost weight and since we had been eating in our hotel rooms, due to Covid over the last two years, it was not a big deal.  I guess some people  are more comfortable with physical disabilities versus mental disabilities.

It ended up being a plus since I order and pickup our meals and can use the left overs for lunch the next day and can wait and enjoy our deserts later that evening.  Let alone we can watch TV or listen to our favorite tunes while enjoying the outstanding meals.  I must say the food here is exceptional.  This is from a guy who has eaten out all over the world for the last 8 years and really did not ever actually cook myself.

The people here are very nice, however, I must say there are many that do not even come out of their apartments on a regular basis.  Brookdale offers meal delivery for an extra fee. Those that do, I try my best to remember them by name and have been keeping a list in my note section of my phone so I can greet them by name in the hallways.

All of the staff members are extremely nice and very helpful.  They are all well trained and seem to be properly staffed.  They even have their own in house caregiving team called Brookdale at home. So far I have used them several times, however they are somewhat reluctant to care for someone like Cat.  I think they would rather have an assignment to watch someone watch TV versus having to keep up with Cat as she gets in her multiple miles an hour.  As a welcome gift I get 10 hours free.

Even though by comparison I am in pretty good shape I did have to take into consideration, what if, something was to happen to me.  Awhile back I signed up with Life Alert, we have all heard the commercials, “I have fallen and I can’t get up.”  It was more for Cat than me.  Her entire health history is included in my profile so if alerted they know to send someone to also attend to Cat’s needs.  At Brookdale not only do they have emergency pull cords in the bathroom they issue pendants to alert staff members 24/7.  Because of the mobile alert unit I have with Life Alert they are not needed by us.  Lastly they have a call sheet they go thru each and every day to check in on everyone.  To alleviate the call to us we stop by the front desk every morning on our way to pick up our breakfast items.

For the monthly lease payment you get  two meals a day.  That includes breakfast and either lunch or dinner.  Weekly apartment cleaning which includes washing your towels and sheets and they will even change your bed.  Each corridor has free washers and dryers plus in the same area there are garbage shoots and recycling bins.  There are plenty of various types of activities, transportation and an exercise area plus, in house, physical therapy.  There are weekly outings, last week to a nearby orchard, and we never miss the singers they bring in for weekly entertainment.

This decision was actually harder than us becoming nomads in the first place.  I believe that is because the plan was not for us to be nomads this long.  We were suppose to just find someplace else to live.  I guess it just took us 8 years.  I have always joked that we were like Goldilocks looking for that perfect porridge.  While trying to decide where would be best for us now I realized that nothing in life is perfect.  For now Brookdale Chambrel, Roswell is where I plan for us to age in place.  That is a new term I learned through this process.

I originally wrote to this blog, RunningwithCat.com, to document our travels and races in 82 different countries and on all seven continents.  It was originally meant to share with Catherine and family but over time it morphed into a book.  If you find this helpful please share with others or if you were directed here by other means please subscribe below.

Thanks

Tony and Cat

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