What is assisted care, and are you qualified to provide it?
As I was camping out this morning over at the veggiewitch campground, I found a little piece of paper about Denise (the veggiewitch) needing to find an assisted care facility for her mom. Here is the comment I left her:
When my wise old grandmother got to the point that she needed assisted care, I wanted her to come live with me. I was outvoted 3-1 so she went to an assisted care facility. Best thing we ever did for her. In hind sight I know that I was not qualified to care for her. By being with other people her age and interests, she regained her memory, her zest for life, her laughter…………….
My wise old grandmother (MWOG) adopted me as an 11-year-old juvenile delinquent, one of the greatest in Utah’s history. She gave me love and discipline (instead of an iPod and iPad), and also taught me love and discipline. That was in 1965. Her three living sons (my dad, the oldest, was dead) were not pleased, and they pretty much let me know it all the way up to the present. In fact, when MWOG died in 2003, I was disinvited to the funeral. Stupid, naive me had no idea that funerals were by invitation only. In 2004, I went to court to legally change my name, dropping my last name — their last name, too! — and taking my middle name as my last name.
In 1988, though, I was at least given a vote as to whether or not downsizing from her big house — built by granddad in 1937 — into an assisted care facility would be best for her. We decided no, but we did downsize her from the house into an apartment that was just a few miles from the son who lived the closest.
MWOG sat in that apartment day and night…….never went out unless one of us went to take her out………was crying every time I ever stopped by, which was not often since I lived 400 miles away. She was lonely, unhappy, sad, depressed………no one loved her enough to stop by, she thought. That wasn’t it at all. It was that everyone had their own lives and families. They had jobs that paid the bills……..
She lost her memory, mixing up stories from the past and even getting the mixtures wrong. She missed making cinnamon rolls, pumpkin pie, King Ranch casserole, hugging the kids and grandkids regularly, gardening (everything I learned about gardening I learned from her), watching the back yard owls………
Finally, when she no longer even recognized us, we voted to put her in an assisted care facility. I was outvoted 3-1; I wanted her to come live with me. In retrospect, it would have been very bad because I was at the height of my working career and could not have done any better for her than what was already happening…….
We put her in an assisted care facility in Kingsville, Texas, her hometown of 51 years. It was the best thing we ever did. When I went to visit her for the first time, she recognized me…. she hugged me…. she kissed me…. she asked me about my life and told me stories about hers, stories that I knew were not all mixed up…. she got her memory back….
I credit everything to an elderly woman being with a hundred other elderly people, all having elderly problems, elderly stories, elderly love, elderly interests……. Eventually I learned that I should not stop by on Wednesday evenings because that’s when she got her hair and nails done…….. I should not stop by on Friday evenings because that was movie night…….. I should not stop by on Saturday afternoons because that was game time (she was the champion dominoes player, straight or 42)…… I should not stop by on Sunday afternoons because that was Bingo time……..
All of a sudden she had a life again, with people who weren’t working and whom she could be with 24/7. The people who were working, i.e., the assisted care staff, were the kindest, most helpful people in the world. They were interested in the people under their care, sometimes knowing more about the families than I thought was possible unless they were part of the family……….
It’s hard to take loved ones away from their lives and introduce them to new lives, new people, but I’m here to tell you that it’s probably in their best interests. Find the best one you can and go with it. They won’t forget you, and if you find a good facility that keeps them and their minds occupied, they’ll create a new family with the same interests.
Assisted care is much more than simply a place to live where a qualified staff cares for them. Sure, that’s sometimes necessary when physical problems prevent them from moving around or interacting, but it’s much more than that for most elderly. As for the cost, it was not cheap, but Medicare paid for so much of it that my share was only $100 a month. For my wise old grandmother, that $100 a month was the best $100 a month I ever spent.
Change is difficult, which probably is why Republicans don’t like it, but as times and technology change, and age catches up with us, it’s quite often necessary. Don’t let the sun go down on your loved one’s life without giving assisted care a chance. I think you’ll be pleased.
That’s my experience, and if my experience can help just one person reading this, then my job is done.
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