Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Move to Assisted Living May Be Much More Than Just Deciding

The following is from My Senior Portal and I found it interesting as my wife and her brother are faced with helping her mother make a decision to move into assisted living and we know we will be facing some of these same issues. 

 No matter how obvious it is that frail, elderly parents need to move to an assisted living community, we are living the frustrating, dangerous day-to-day situation of watching parents grapple with the inevitable crisis of NOT dealing with reality.

Lifetime friends in their mid-90's manage to “exist” (I cannot say, live) on their own with limited assistance far longer than was safe for them.

When presented with the idea of moving to a senior community several months ago, they balked.

“We’re not ready for that,” they insisted even  though she requires daily help to dress and shower. He struggles with sever hearing loss, hip pain that created an obvious imbalance as he wobbles when he walks. No, they could manage. He was still driving as family members held their collective breath.

It was obvious to us that their situation was a disaster waiting to happen. Yet, we were helpless to convince them to move despite the fact that we  repeatedly told them we would do the physical moving.

We had managed to  convince them to visit senior living facilities over the past few months. They  found fault with all of them. One was too expensive, another had apartments that were too small.

As could have been easily anticipated, a crisis arose. He landed in the hospital, she was alone and disorientated.

After the second hospital visit in two weeks, they finally agreed to move. They accepted the fact that they needed assisted living. Meanwhile they hired an home aide to stay round the clock.

Now we needed to move quickly. We never anticipated what happened next:

Every assisted living community we considered was full. Independent living does not provide the help they need. Moving to such a community would require outside nursing care, more expense and little improvement over staying in their own apartment.

Finally we found an assisted living community that was available and acceptable.

Now we learned that making the decision is only the beginning of the process.

There is endless application paperwork to be completed, doctor forms to be submitted. One doctor refused to fill it out until he saw the husband. Maybe in a few days, he would feel better he said refusing to go. Meanwhile the doctor refused to speak to my husband about the urgency of the situation. HIPAA laws, you know.

The process of getting into a chosen community is long and frustrating, we discovered.

The one we were dealing with insisted on having the paper work completed before it would schedule interviews with a staff nurse, social worker and admitting director. We waited nervously until the interview day only to now discover there was a physical problem with one of them that prevented them from being accepted unless a doctor put in writing that the problem was under proper care. Now there was more waiting, more doctor visits and then more waiting to get the report to the facility.

In the end, the assisted living community offered a 30 day trial period. This would have required a full-time aide being present, moving furniture in, and possibly out. The prospect of physically moving in, with the prospect of moving out in 30 days, was impossible to consider. Now their only real option is to continue living on their own with full-time care.

The folks were devastated. We were furious. Had the interview been first, we could have avoided the disappointment and terrible frustration.

Obviously we are now clearly aware there is a way to prevent the trauma and potential disasters we are all experiencing.

Any health and or financial professional will urge families to plan for such a move as readily as they create wills, trusts and other financial instruments. It is imperative to make sure that the initial interview to qualify the seniors is performed before all the paper work is filled out and doctors are consulted.In reality we knew that. After we are in the business of aging. Knowing and doing are often distant relatives.

The other day they acknowledged to us they should have made these arrangements when they were healthy in their 80s. They did not.

Back then they were still strong active people who put their financial health in order but never considered physical health planning. We all know it is was a mistake that is likely going to be replayed more often as people live longer and are healthier as they age. Not making such arrangements is not fair to the elderly or their families.

We know we have to do our own planning now. We’ve learned the hard way it is one thing to read about senior living options, it is entirely different to be faced with crisis decision making because planning is not in place.

We also recognize it is far better to select an independent living community while we are still healthy. One that offers continuing care from independent to assisted to nursing is preferable to being forced into any situation because there is no other choice.

The following are facts and figures about Assisted living (in the United States):

More than half of all residents are age 85 or older, and nearly 40 percent of residents require assistance with three or more activities of daily living. The median stay in assisted living is 22 months, and an overwhelming majority of residents are female.

Amenities in assisted living typically include:
  • Three meals a day served in a common dining area
  • Housekeeping services
  • Transportation
  • 24-hour security
  • Exercise and wellness programs
  • Personal laundry services
  • Social and recreational activities
Personal care in assisted living typically includes:
  • Staff available to respond to both scheduled and unscheduled needs
  • Assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and walking
  • Access to health and medical services, such as physical therapy and hospice
  • Emergency call systems for each resident’s apartment
  • Medication management
  • Care for residents with cognitive impairments

According to the National Investment Center Investment Guide 2010, the median rate for a monthly rental rates in an assisted living community is $3,326 per month.

Assisted living is regulated in all 50 states.  State regulations generally address the mandatory services a senior living residence must provide. All settings offer 24-hour care and supervision for those who need assistance. Care is provided with dignity and respect.

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