I’m not quite sure what it is about this time of year. But in all my years of working in the senior housing and skilled nursing industry, there always has been an increase in “traffic” through my office — usually from late July to October. There are a ton of theories — enough to fill this column — but I don’t know of any scientific study that has come up with the answer.
Unfortunately, quite often the increase in traffic happens because of a crisis of some sort within the family and decisions sometimes need to be made immediately. In times of crisis, we aren’t always able to think things through clearly and without emotion. Having to research, visit and decide which “facility” and living environment is best for your family member can be difficult even in the best of times.
How do you determine what type of senior housing arrangement is best for you or your loved one? First, what happened to necessitate a move? Is it due to changes in health? Changes in cognitive ability?
Changes in mobility? Take an inventory of the loved one’s wants, needs, goals, insurance and financial situation. We always want to do what is right for our family member and sometimes it can be very difficult for us to accept the changes in our loved one.
I could write a book on the various types of senior living options, what to look for, what to run away from, how to pay for it, what they will tell you, and most importantly — what they won’t tell you. Two main things to remember when touring a senior community — trust your gut instinct and if you feel like you are getting a sales pitch – RUN. You are first and foremost a person with feelings and needs, not a sale that needs to be closed in order to make a quota or budget. What I can give you in a nutshell is some basic information to help you in your endeavor to find the senior community to meet your needs.
Different names can be used for the same type of housing and the same names are used for different types of housing. This has led to a variation on the old adage, “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.” When it comes to residential care, “If you have seen one ‘facility,’ you have seen one ‘facility.’”
There are many key issues to consider when exploring your options. Temporary versus long-term care: Someone may go to a nursing home for rehab following a surgery or stroke, then return home. In other circumstances, their needs are better served by planning a move into a situation that is likely to remain the same for many years to come.
Independence: Can the senior live alone, and more importantly, does he/she want to? Or would living in a more service-oriented environment be more nurturing?
Needs for personal care: How much and what kinds of personal or “custodial care” are needed or desired? Within each type of senior housing, the range of services offered and the level of care within those services varies greatly.
Needs for medical care: If the senior has a chronic illness that necessitates special medical care, or ongoing services of medical professionals, independent living and even assisted living may not be suitable.
Cognitive ability: Do your loved ones have memory issues that make it unsafe for them to live alone? Are they prone to wandering outside and then losing their way back? Does their memory travel back in time to the point that it is their new reality? Would they benefit from a secure community that keeps them safe?
Socialization: Does the community offer activities that interest you? Are they age appropriate? If they are scheduled, do they actually occur?
Costs: Learn about the financial aspects of senior housing to determine what options are affordable for you. Be sure to ask what happens if you run out of funds to pay for your care.
Walk through and evaluate several care facilities or senior communities that seem suitable. Reviewing facility comparison checklists can help you determine which type of environment fits the senior resident’s requirements and preferences. Seek guidance from professionals who are experts in senior housing issues, such as medical social workers, case managers or geriatric care managers. They can help with all phases of this process: identifying goals and values, assessing needs, determining what is affordable and suggesting appropriate facilities.
Looking for and choosing a senior living community for your potential future stages of life can be very emotional. Try to look at it as a new chapter in your life, not a curtain call. Take charge and enjoy the journey — it may not be as bumpy as you think.
Help support the movement to find an end to Alzheimer’s disease on the North Olympic Peninsula. Join the 2012 NOP “Walk To End Alzheimer’s” on Saturday, Sept. 29, in Sequim. There are many opportunities for to help: Be a sponsor; volunteer; rent a vendor table at the event; form a team; make a donation; support fundraising activities; come out and cheer as we walk. Visit our booth at the Open Aire Market on Saturdays to learn more about Alzheimer’s and the “Walk.” Give generously when you see our purple donation cans at businesses throughout the NOP. Eat at Applebee’s during our “Dine To Donate” fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 14 — Applebee’s will generously donate 15 percent of your food tab to the “Walk.” Get your free coupon for Applebee’s at the Open Aire Market and Discovery Memory Care. We also can e-mail or mail you coupons. Go “Casual For a Cause” in the workplace.
For more information on the NOP “Walk To End Alzheimer’s,” call 360-461-3402, e-mail email@example.com, or go online to http://act.alz.org/nop. Like us on Facebook – Alzheimer’s Walk of NOP.
For more information and resource assistance, e-mail Pam Scott at www.discovery-mc.com or call 683-7047. Scott is the community relations director for Discovery Memory Care in Sequim.
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