Elder Care Conundrum

“This one smells like a litter box,” my dad says. “All these dang hospitals smell like a landfill with mangy cats swarming around the place.” (There may have been some expletives thrown in there. He’s also known to have a very colorful vocabulary).

All I know is, my exhausted brain was feeling the beginnings of a migraine, because this isn’t exactly how I envisioned these tours going. Although, I don’t know why I expected anything different.

“First of all, dad, it’s an assisted living facility, not a hospital. And if you want to see an alternative to this, I’ll take you to an actual nursing home where people are bed ridden and tube fed and would be more than appreciative not to have to call upon someone to help them clean up after releasing their bowels everywhere.”

Now, let me follow this by stating that I know not everyone in a nursing home is bed ridden. Or tube fed. Or furthermore, is at a constant state of releasing their bowels at any given time. But with my dad, I’ve learned over time that to even sound somewhat convincing, I sometimes need to be extraordinarily exaggerated. Just getting him to come tour the place was like pulling teeth. I tried to convince him beforehand that we were taking him to a place that was like Disneyland for the debilitated, and when we got there, he was quick to point out that it was more like a carnival for the crazies.

Hopefully not everyone’s visit to a facility will pan out this way, but knowing the differences of what type of housing options your loved one has will leave you better equipped to handle the cynical retort if life handed you a loved one who is also a snarky senior.

Nursing homes

I will preface this by stating that this type of facility wasn’t a good match for us. Dad may not have been capable of showering by himself, but he wasn’t to the point where we needed to call upon a care taker to cut his food or help him walk everywhere. He just wasn’t as agile as he once was and his balance was sometimes questionable at best. But during my visit I did absorb as much information as possible because there may come a time when this type of housing will become necessary.

Foremost, these facilities aren’t a morbid dumping ground for the long forgotten. But some individuals just require more care than an assisted living can provide regardless of how many a la carte options you tack on your room and board rate. Nursing homes employ skilled nurses that are capable of medical care that an assisted living facility can’t provide. For instance, catheter care and maintenance, wound care, pain management, and yes, the occasional feeding tube are some services provided. Nursing homes, typically are the most advanced type of care facilities, but it doesn’t mean that it’s just a place to waste away until your last day comes. There are just certain aspects of nursing homes that can only be performed by medical professionals.

Assisted Living

Moving on. Assisted living seemed, to mom and me at least, to be a considerable option. My dubious dad however…well, you can reference back to his grumbling in the beginning of this discussion.

The amenities that were offered and the laidback community life had both mom and me scrambling for a pen so we could sign up to move in ourselves. Beautiful grounds and manicured lawns flooded our view. It was like a blast of nostalgia from apartment living years except that the community yielded neighbors of a retired and slower moving variety, rather than the late-night hooligans whose agenda consisted of waking up the neighborhood with the rumble of a fast paced car to get on the road before rush hour.

The housing options were that of your typical apartment lifestyle which included studio efficiencies, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom options. Each option had a “mini kitchen” if you feel the desire to keep quick fixins’ like sandwiches or frozen entrées if you feel so inclined, but if you don’t want to bother, no worries. Meals are included so you don’t have to give another thought to making that perfect pancake without completely burning one side.

Exercise classes and live music were only some of the many happening attractions around the place. If you felt inclined, there were also arts and crafts for the creative and social hour before dinner for the gossipy sort.

For the individuals needing assistance in their basic daily care, most assisted living facilities have a tiered or a la carte option based on the amount of care. These prices are in addition to your monthly living rate. Unfortunately, the more help you require, the costlier it can become, so allow your loved one to take that into consideration when choosing the housing option that is best for them.

If your loved one is truly struggling with the beginnings of Alzheimer’s, these facilities often have a memory care wing dedicated just for those individuals so transitioning to them when ready will likely be a smooth process.

In-home care

This option was ultimately the best fit for dad, and can be manageable for those who can still maintain their home finances but need some assistance with tasks like showering, getting dressed, making meals, and any other necessities of life. Some care givers may even be allowed to provide transportation to appointments or small shopping trips.

Now, a lot like assisted living, in-home care is priced based on the services needed and usually at an hourly rate.  Some individuals may only need a couple of hours, three days a week, or some may even hire help eight hours every day. Even overnight care is offered for those who need constant care. The hourly rates range, depending on the expertise of the caregiver and some companies may charge more per hour if you don’t meet the minimum daily requirement. But expect to pay around $17-26 an hour.

Good news is though, with this type of option, your loved one never has to leave home. And good news for my dad is he gets to have someone help wash the parts of his back he hasn’t been able to reach in years, and in the comfort of his own shower.

Other options

If any of these options aren’t a fit, there are retired living communities for those who don’t really need assistance at all, but would just rather live in the comradery of other seniors. Additionally there are residential home care facilities that offer up a lot of the same services as assisted living but on a much smaller scale.

The choice is yours to make with your loved one, and just because you’ve chosen a certain type of facility now doesn’t mean that your decision can’t change later. That’s the beauty of allowing this to truly be a transition.