Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Visit to A.L. Facility #1

Dad's official diagnosis of Alzheimer's included a recommendation for assisted living.  Dad does pretty well where he is but here's what haunts me on a daily basis:  there is no warning system that tells me in advance that Dad will suddenly forget where he is, or that he'll fall, or some other issue.  We did receive notice that Dad qualifies for a program called Family Care that will help pay the incredibly high costs of assisted living (typically between 4000 and 8000 a month!).

First things first...I don't want to do this.  I want Dad to stay where he is or come live with me but I'm not sure those are the BEST options for him.  I need to step out of what I want and keep focusing on Dad's needs - his safety, his health, his qualify of life, his sense of belonging and self-worth.  I need to focus on giving Dad as many opportunities to find a place in this world.  Until March 1 of this year Dad was a husband.  Now that identity no longer applies to him.  After 50 years that has to be an amazingly difficult transition to make.  He has been a strong father but in recent years his ability to remain strong for his kids is limited due to this disease.  There are many things about Dad that have not changed and the strongest of those is his heart and his love for his family.  THAT is what I need to focus on while helping Dad to cross the bridge to this next path along his life journey.

Yesterday I had a wonderful visit with Judi from The Lighthouse of Mequon, an assisted living for Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients.  The first thing that impressed me occurred when I walked in the door.  Most of the 16 or so residents were in the community area being social.  The smell of homemade food was in the air and the place was amazingly clean.  The first question that came to my mind was, “did they prepare for my arrival?”

We talked in depth about Dad, sharing his life story with her and another staff member before we toured.  She shared with me the philosophy of the home and I was impressed to say the least.  They focus on making sure each resident maintains a purpose.  That’s the first time I've heard that statement and I liked it. Here is an excerpt from their Foundational Belief Statement:

All seniors deserve attentive, personalized respectful care that enables them to live with purpose and age with dignity.

...we believe all of our residents really want from us:

  • To Understand Me
  • To Protect Me
  • To Include Me
  • To Surprise Me
  • To Inspire Me
These ideas have, in turn, become our company Values:Hospitality, Integrity, Security, Passion and Fun.

Then we had the tour.  An beautiful open-air atrium, an open-concept home with living, dining and kitchen areas exposed to one another.  It really felt like someone’s home.  A walk down the few corridors and we saw rooms.  Some have a private bath and others do not.  He would have his own room and would not have to share it with anyone.  We can paint the walls whatever we want and bring as much of his own furniture as we can shove in there.  They can provide a single bed, dresser and chair.  The only thing they would have to provide for Dad is a bed and maybe the dresser but it would be up to him.

Then came the finances.  Dad is qualified for county assistance called Family Care.  Basically, Dad would need to pay a rental fee and then all other expenses would be covered.  However, in this particular facility they require two years of private pay first.  That would come to a total of about $124,000.  Yep, 124K  That’s a lot of money and out of the realm of possibility right now.
I liked the place but my heart is heavy about ‘putting’ Dad somewhere.  The ultimate decision is his and right now he says he would probably enjoy something like that.  But when I think of the first couple of nights, walking out the door and he in a single bed after sharing one with Mom for 50 years – and a new place, new sounds, new smells, etc.  I cried a bit last night just thinking about it.
One of the options I’m considering is having Dad move in with me. There is funding available that will help with expenses which would be necessary.  But that would mean I need to either find a large, 3-bedroom home to rent or position myself to buy a home in the next 6 months which is not a possibility.
Very discouraging and I wish like crazy that Mom was here to help with the decision.  She trusted me. She told me before she died that she knew I would never leave Dad and that all my decisions would be in his best interest.  That doesn't make it any easier though.

I was invited to come back at any time, with no advance call.  Dad and I were invited to call ahead one day and let them know we would like to come for lunch or dinner at just $5 a person.  I was also given a short list of things to look for in other facilities and then to let them know my comparisons, whether good or bad.  

My first impression is overall wonderful.  The people, the facility, the energy and spirit in that place seems to suit Dad pretty well.  I would feel confident that he would fit in and find a place and purpose.  It is on the 'if we could afford the first 2 years list' but regretfully, unless I can find other financial resources, it's not going to happen.  All is not lost yet as this company has other properties in this area (just not this county) that accepts Family Care immediately.  I will speak with our county advocate on Monday about this option.

I have my second facility to visit this week.  We will have much to compare and many more notes, I’m sure.

If you would like to visit the website and check out where I went you can find it here:

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