Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chapter 3: Assisted Living

The room is small.  Much smaller than we had anticipated when we loaded up the bed, the sofa, the dresser, the bookshelf, the TV, and several paintings taken down from various walls in various rooms.  How difficult it must have been for her to choose such a small part of her life in her home.  A 2200 square foot house – reduced to a bed, a sofa, a dresser, a bookshelf, and a TV.

It wasn’t what I expected.  Both of the assisted living centers I had visited previously – visiting parents of friends that had already made this heart-wrenching decision – were much larger.  In these centers, each resident had an apartment – not merely a bedroom.   One even had a full kitchen and a washer and dryer.  Not that the residents would ever need to use them, but just in case they wanted to.   Hmmm, perhaps this is why the assisted living center the family chose was less expensive than in-home care. 
Turns out I was correct.  Most assisted living centers start with a base price which includes living space and meals (the larger the space, the higher the base rate) and then add charges for specific care needed.  Help with administering medicine?  There’s a charge for that.  Help with bathing and dressing?  There’s a charge for that.  As the loved one becomes less independent, the living center staff is there to provide the additional care – at an additional charge. 

We arrived early with her furniture, with the intent that we would have the room all set up and ready for her when she arrived.  We arranged the furniture twice and resigned ourselves to the fact that the bookshelf just didn’t fit.  We had hoped to use it for her to display family photographs.  When we left, the photos were still in the box.  We’ll find a place to display them later.
The owners of the facility stressed to us how important it was that the residents had their own belonging in their room.  The bare walls were full of nail holes, evidence that they truly practiced this philosophy.  Her walls now look like an art gallery.  We brought only original art – paintings that her father, her sister, and her daughter had given her over the years.  They are beautiful.  

As planned, she arrived to find her room completely furnished and mostly decorated.  She sat on her sofa and looked around.  “This is a nice room,” she said.
That was five weeks ago.  We knew she was getting better when, about a week into the transition, she started to complain about the food.  “Nobody here knows how to poach an egg,” she grumbled when we visited the second week.

                “Why don’t you teach them?”
A week later, nearly every member of the small staff had tried poaching an egg. 

About three weeks into her stay there, she was front and center helping a new resident feel at home.  Last week, when we brought her to a family gathering, she gave us permission to list the house.  “I’m sad to lose my house, but I like having people around me so much better.”
We made the right decision. 

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