Cindy White

I have to share on this topic as it's very close to my heart. My mother passed away in January after having spent 3+ years in Assisted Living and nursing facilities. The plan had always been for her to live with us, but I had my kids later in life and they are still young. She came to stay for a few weeks and cried when she got home because she didn't want to live with us....we are too rowdy, hectic, and a fly by the seat of our pants kind of family.

So my sister and I tried to keep her at home alone. She had Meals on Wheels, a housekeeper and someone to care for the lawn. My sister lived nearby and would go over daily. The kids and I were there for several days every 2-3 weeks and do her doctor visits, etc. She started falling, once out her garage door landing on her face. She was hospitalized for a week this time. We kept talking to her doctors about the changes she was experiencing, but they just wrote it all off to aging (she was 74 at the time). Eventually she was falling without injury at least once a day, but couldn't get up without help. She had one of those buttons around her neck to call for help. Two years after the fact we discovered that she had had a stroke in her cerebellum which affects balance.

So, we began looking for something else. We finally chose a really nice assisted living facility that was halfway between my sister and myself so we could be with her often. It was very nice. She brought her own furniture and each resident had a individually tailored amount of care provided by a nurse. We chose to let the nurse give her meds since we didn't think she remembered to take them correctly. They also helped her when she bathed, but mostly to just be there so she wouldn't fall. She went to the dining room for each meal where she chose from a menu and was served restaurant style.

It was a lovely place, the people who worked there seemed to really love their work. They had weekly fun events in the main area of the facility like dance lessons by Fred Astaire dance studios. Wine and cheese. Movies. You could bring your pet if you were still able to care for it yourself. They had a small container garden for those who loved to garden. They had porches and rocking chairs, a rec room with a kitchen so they ladies could bake. They had knitting clubs and card playing clubs. It was great.

Unfortunately she fell badly enough to require hospitalization again. Then she was sent to a nursing facility for rehab. The rehab didn't work, she didn't get better, and her doctors decided she couldn't go back to assisted living. She, at this point, required daily care. We thought about bringing her to my house even though it was not what she wanted. But at that time my kids were 5 1/2 and 8. I would not be able to leave her indoors alone while we went outside to play, so I certainly would not be able to go to the library or grocery, etc. The doctors said either full time nursing at my house or nursing home. Not much choice.

This facility was constantly understaffed although they made a heroic effort to do things right. But because of the nature of the beast I knew that the more I, or my sister, was there, the better care she would get. I feel so sorry for those residents who don't have any family looking after them. At the end she was unable to move at all, could barely swallow, could not even kick her covers off if she was hot. She got an infection and we chose to let her go. There were many caregivers in the facility who cried at losing her. We could not have done it without them.

No, it was not where I wanted my Mama. Yes, it was the only thing under the circumstances that was right for everyone, including her. Yes, I had to stay behind things to make sure everything stayed good for her. I never had to yell, or threaten to have them investigated. I simply made sure I knew the people who cared for her. Not just their names, I tried to know them personally. I tried to share with them who Mama when she was still Mama so they could relate more appropriately to her and her needs. The only time it was difficult was when they had folks filling in from temp agencies.

I agree, do your homework before deciding on a facility. Take your mother with you if possible to help choose. But make sure you stay involved. The people who work there just want to be appreciated for all the thankless stuff they do every day. I think if you visit several places and check them out with the local licensing agencies you can find one that if not great, is not bad either. Especially if it's assisted living vs. nursing facility. I wish Mama could have spent a longer amount of time in the assisted living facility rather than nursing but....

Sorry I got so long. Good luck.
Cindy in VA

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