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my mother emily part seven

My Mother Emily Part Seven: Advice on Family Care Homes

Tim continues his blog series “My Mother Emily” with Part Seven. Emily moves from LiveWell Care Home to Waltonwood. Tim gives advice to families considering the senior care option of a family care home.

To read the last part in this blog series: Part Six

my mother emily

It’s been awhile since I last blogged about my Mom’s journey as she settled in at LiveWell Family Care Home in Cary on November 7th. It was quite an experience and and ultimately not the best environment for her.

My Mother Emily: Part Seven – Advice to Families on Family Care Homes

After researching larger assisted living facilities, we were fortunate to move Mom to the assisted living community of Waltonwood Cary. What was our experience at LiveWell? What did we learn?

It’s very important to understand the goals of the Family Care Home

Mom was the very first resident. Mom has mild dementia but for the most part Mom is with it and likes to engage in conversation and do things (i.e. activities).  She enjoys meeting people and making friends. When Mom was coming to the house, I emphasized to LiveWell that they should have at least two residents, preferably female, on or above Mom’s cognitive level.

Why? For Mom to make friends and do things with her friends.

Unfortunately, this did not happen. The short term residents came to live in the home temporarily.  These residents (both male) had cognitive challenges and required a lot of attention from the new staff.

This had several negative impacts on Mom.

  • She was lonely. The two residents did not have the capabilities to socialize let alone have a conversation
  • The attention required by these residents was significant and often times Mom was on her own
  • One of the residents occasionally would get angry and yell
  • This resident also sometimes wondered into Mom’s room unannounced

A solution proposed by LiveWell was to put a sign on the door saying do not enter and a lock.

I don’t think I need to say anything about this.

When Gina and I came to the home and saw this, we took it down. This was the major factor in moving Mom out of LiveWell.  Mom felt isolated and alone and at times threatened.

Key Point to Consider

If it’s a new residential home like this one, get a commitment from the management team about the goals of the house. Will the 5-7 residents have the cognitive and mobile capabilities that foster socialization and activities? Or will the goal of the house be to help residents with severe cognitive issues? I don’t think it’s a realistic scenario of mix and match.

Make sure the house is of Universal Design

I moved Mom in knowing the house still needed modifications to support residents with disabilities. One of the bedrooms with bathroom was totally inadequate to support a resident in a wheelchair.

Mom was offered the largest bedroom with its own bathroom due to an issue with one of the residents (the wanderer), which was great.

The problem was, she couldn’t use the bathroom (no walk-in shower and the door was too narrow for a wheelchair). She had to go out and use the hallway bathroom. To be fair, this was a new facility and I’m sure a little planning could resolve this issue.

Key Point to Consider

Make sure the house meets the code for Family Care Home and is of universal design. If you have issues, get it in writing when they will be addressed and when.

Setting up and managing activities for family care homes is not easy

First, it’s very difficult to have a cohesive activities schedule for a small home when you have a mix of residents that are at different cognitive levels. A couple of weeks into Mom’s stay, we were introduced to an activities coordinator.

This person was contracted by LiveWell to put together an activities program for the house. I thought this was pretty innovative and was encouraged when we met her. She even made time to visit my Mom at adult day care to meet her before she started.

A couple of weeks later this person mysteriously vanished with no explanation.

Again, it’s difficult to put together a cohesive activity schedule with residents at different cognitive levels. So, I can’t say I was surprised. However, I was surprised that LiveWell never explained the sudden absence of the contractor.

Key point:

Family care homes should invest time into managing activities for residents. It’s so important the residents have things to look forward to and engage. This includes activities outside the home like going to the senior center, shopping, etc.

A Service Regulation License to operate an Adult Care Home must be prominently displayed at the home

These services must be licensed to provide for managing and administering medications.

I think you know what’s coming.

Turns out LiveWell did not have a license to operate an adult home. I didn’t find this fact out until I moved Mom out of the house.

Key point

Obtain verification the home has a current license. Contact your local Division of Health Service Regulations to check on any violations. In fact, if you can, find a wonderful Geriatric Care Manager or advocate. Researching such a thing is part of their job description.

Know your family care home agreement inside and out

I know I’ve been guilty on occasion for rocketing through these long care agreements for assisted living. In fact, I’ve thought about forming a POA support group for all the sons and daughters like myself filling out what feels like an unending stream of paperwork. At times, it felt insurmountable.

Key point

If at some point we reconsider a Family Care Home, I’d discuss some out clauses in the agreement. For example, if the Family Care Home doesn’t meet or fails to meet its commitments, the community fee is refunded.

In our case with this new house, I would have asked for a commitment or statement to the intended cognitive levels of the residents. If the house needs modifications to be more Universal Design and is not, obtain commitments on certain modifications and when they will be completed.

‘How did you miss all this?”  

Well, sometimes you have difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. Or it’s harder to be rational when it’s your own mother. Hindsight is always 20-20.

I hope what I wrote is helpful and I encourage you all not to go this alone. There are great professionals in our community that can help you evaluate the best places for Mom and Dad to live. It will save you a lot of time. More importantly, it will reduce the stress. Find and work with a reputable geriatric care manager or geriatric advocate.

Deciding on Waltonwood Cary

My Mom made the choice. She formed an opinion of all of the communities. Mom liked the elegance of Waltonwood and enjoyed meeting some of the residents. We were so fortunate that Waltonwood understood the urgency I was feeling and went the extra mile to find Mom a great apartment.

I moved Mom into Waltonwood in March 2016. We were lucky to get a nice corner apartment. The challenge was that we were short of furniture and the room needed to be decorated. One of the best things we did for Mom in Glens Falls New York when we sold her home last fall was hire a professional senior move manager.

Yes, there is a certification nationally for move managers. In New York, I worked with Neil Bindleglass, the owner of Saratoga Senior Move Managers. I’ll never forget his name because he was a savior. He expertly helped us hold an estate sale, which included staging Mom’s NY home for sale.

At the same time, he took note of Mom’s personal style/decor preferences. He used that knowledge to completely decorate a small studio apartment to her liking in an assisted living facility in Glens Falls. When Mom moved in, everything was set. Her pictures were hung, furniture arranged, and even a nice bouquet of flowers was added as a welcome. She commented how nice that was. Neil is a rock star.

With this move to Waltonwood, I called Jennie Alwood of Here2Home. Jennie was my Neil here in NC.  Mom’s apartment was bare and needed to be personalized.

Jennie expertly built a schematic model of the room and designed the furnishing and decorations of the room. She showed Mom and using pieces of paper hung them around the room until we could replace them with the real thing.

The before and after picture are impressive (scroll down to see them). In the end, Mom had a place she felt was hers.

Once she did, it was her home.

Key point

Find a great relocation expert senior move manager to help if you are moving Mom and Dad from a big spacious house to a small apartment. Just do it.

How are things going with My Mother?

It’s such a blessing to know a lot of people professionally and personally that know my Mom’s story. I admire her spirit and she’s battling. She’s honest.  She tells me she’s lonely at times and I understand. I advise Mom to give it some time and she nods.

I hope this the My Mother Emily blog series has been helpful to professionals in our field. But, more importantly, I hope it is helpful to the families that are on similar paths as we are.

There is help in our community. Amazing help. Seek help when you need it.  It’s a sign of strength.

Best,

Tim
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