By Cathy Petit
Many seniors wish to “age in place” and remain in their own homes; not all are able due to health or memory issues. A senior living community is often a better alternative, offering ranges in levels of care: independent, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing.
As a nurse and hospital caseworker by training and a Geriatric Care Specialist (GCS), many times I have witnessed this challenging decision that is often left to the adult children. Weeding through the vast number of options for senior living can be overwhelming and further complicated if relocation to another city is involved.
The first step in making this task more manageable is to consult an expert. Geriatric Care Specialists exist throughout the country and can be located through senior service centers, elder care attorneys, or hospital case management departments.
Steps to prepare for the process include:
Gather information from your observation or physician notes relating to your loved one’s ability to perform activities of daily living including bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating. The GCS will need to know about mobility and transfer ability and the use of any ambulation equipment.
Describe potential signs of memory impairment. An excellent resource comes from the Alzheimer’s Association: 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The more detailed the information that is provided, the better. Your GCS will use this information to ascertain the most appropriate level of care.
Schedule a primary care physician’s visit. The GCS will provide a state-required form to be completed during this visit.
Gather all financial documents including monthly income, assets, veteran status and insurance policies to determine a budget and potential funding sources.
Trust the GCS to narrow the search to a few best matches. Ask the GCS to provide photos and/or virtual tours of the communities to aid in decision making. The GCS can assist further by recommending move management companies.
An example of how a GCS can facilitate a complicated move across the country is Rosemarie “Rose” Mace, who lived with her daughter, Kathy, in California. Kathy and her husband, Jack, realized they needed some guidance when Rose began having difficulty with her memory, requiring increased supervision, so they reached out to Senior Care Authority. Rose’s son Rick lived in Greensboro. A comparison of prices showed that the cost of assisted living facilities in Greensboro was about a third of the cost in California. By relocating Rose to Greensboro, her income would stretch further and better cover her expenses and care. I was able to assist the family by recommending two communities that would best suit Rose’s needs and sending photos to Kathy to share with Rose. After touring these two communities with Rick, the family realized Friends Homes in Greensboro was the best choice for Rose. This choice far exceeded our expectations as evidenced by excerpts from this email forwarded from the Activity Director, Mil Hendrix, of Friends Homes. It read:
Kathy and Rick, your mom had a blast at Ronnie’s music activity this afternoon. She came enthusiastically, sat in the front row and sang along and clapped her hands with a big smile on her face. While Ronnie is singing, I go around and take residents’ hands to the beat of the music and when I came to her, she immediately jumped up and began dancing with me! She danced the entire song. What a great dancer!
Going through the challenge of finding the right community to suit a loved one and moving them, especially across the state or the country, is stressful. There is help available, and it is free for seniors and families.
Cathy Petit is the owner of Senior Care Authority of Winston-Salem. For more information, call 336-486-1431 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.