Monday, December 29, 2014

Daily Life in an Assisted Living Retirement Community

What is living in an assisted living community like on a daily basis? Author Caitin Burm gives insights and impressions gleaned from A Look Into Life in Assisted Living,  by Carol Netzer.

Scroll down to read snippets from Netzer's book, which is available on Amazon Kindle.  For those who don't own a Kindle device the website offers a free reader for mobiles, smart phones  or computers.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Medical Emergency Victims and End-of-Life Discussions

The thought of people collapsing around you and then being taken to a hospital Emergency Room could be enough to curb your enthusiasm about assisted living communities. You may feel you don't want to live surrounded by only old, infirm people.

Put aside those fears! Assisted living community residents include a healthy percentage of men and women whose needs are minimal, however you can expect senior citizens in vary stages of dementia, Alzheimer's, and stoke survivors. Walkers and wheelchairs and canes are common. Nevertheless, there are often some residents who simply want a safer, comfortable place to live that also offers a range of activities geared to their generation.

Whatever the mix of the population where you live, in an ALC or any place else, one vital topic should be addressed ~ end of life decisions.

Unfortunately, those decisions have not been addressed in far too many cases because so many questions need answers it's hard to know where to begin.

Care Givers [Caregivers Blog: Senior Care Support] provides invaluable information on many subjects. Scroll down the page to the following link which can give you a springboard to initiate discussions that will lead to appropriate action:

Are End-of-Life Discussions Covered by Your Medical Insurance? Martha Stettinius, the author of the October 14, 2014 article, provides answers to many questions, as well as offering good advice.

Stettinius is the author of the critically-acclaimed book "Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter's Memoir." You can read more about her here.

Back to what I started to write about, before I got sidetracked: What might actually happen after an ambulance has taken a ALC resident to a hospital Emergency Room? I don't believe my experience is unique so here's the scoop ~

I was the "victim", as medics refer to the person whose 9-1-1 call brings them to the "scene" [my apartment]. Due to prompt, appropriate medical care I was able to return home within 24 hours.

I'd had similar experiences before, so I wasn't surprised. I also know the majority of "victims" do return home, although admittedly the percentage drops among the elderly vs the general population.

What surprised me ~ made me teary-eyed and flooded my heart with that warm fuzzy feeling ~ was being greeted by several cards wishing me well! People who've known me less than two months cared! As soon as others saw me they offered encouragement, and help should I need it.

I suspect ALC residents have a decided advantage in such cases, vs the general population--no matter where they abide. And when the inevitable happens and death calls, shared memories of the good times spent with their ALC neighbors and friends comfort the bereaved family.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Finding Acceptance in an Assisted Living Community

Finding your niche in an assisted living community takes a bit of time, and it also depends on the staff and other residents. To be employed here at Broadway Court Estates, each staff member, including the hard working waiters who serve evening meals ~ most of whom are young folks in high school or college ~ are required to master recognizing each resident by face and name. They have only five days to do so, but it's good a system that draws each of them into the "family" network.

While Ross, one of the maintenance men, was installing our new television and a sound bar, he said,
"My first impression was this assisted living community seemed like a luxury hotel except it has apartments instead of rooms and suites."

That was the description I related to family and friends:
"Visitors sign in and are greeted at the front desk. The richly patterned maroon carpeting in the foyer also mutes sound on the broad curved staircase ascending to the second floor. Its carved banister glistens from ornate chandeliers; a perfect backdrop to cozy armchairs and a sofa flanking a fireplace. Think of a luxury hotel that invites strangers to share intimate conversations."
Within the first month we learned the truth of what Ross had said next:
"But this place felt different. And it is. The residents and staff are like one big extended family. Everyone becomes special in their own way."
We had expected to make friends; we'd always played games ~dice, board and card games. We'd noted with pleasure the jigsaw puzzles in the game room, plus shuffle board and billiards. Wii bowling, which we have yet to play, was offered, too. Two rooms with exercise equipment, an indoor pool, sit and be fit, and other physical fitness programs, mall walking, and scheduled outings bring residents together.

 Nevertheless, we had no concept of what it would be like to be greeted by name whenever we left our apartment. We were unprepared emotionally, and hadn't anticipated feeling like part of a family before the first month passed.

However, it didn't take long to notice the sincerity of Ross' words. It's impossible to remain a stranger for long here. Even the most shy and reticent are enfolded in a quiet, unobtrusive way.

How does it happen? In uncountable ways.

One morning, at the self-service breakfast which takes place from 6 a.m. - 11 a.m. in the 50s café in this ALC, the lady seated next to me said, "I stopped to say hello to a woman sitting by the fireplace in the foyer yesterday and when I asked how long she'd been here she replied, "Two days, And I hate it!"

"Oh, dear, that's awful," I told her. "Come along, dear. Let's just go into the Cafe and have a cup of tea or coffee and you tell me all about it." The two stayed in the Cafe through lunch hour, and by the time they parted the newcomer felt much better.
"It got me to thinking," my breakfast companion said, "Maybe I should always say hello to a stranger. Maybe they need a cheery word. Maybe they're as frightened and worried as I was when I first came here to live."
Her words were a testament to how residents in an assisted living community can come to feel like a big, extended family; each member as uniquely special as those in a large clan.

As the anniversary of our second month approached, we felt close bonds with those around us. When we share a table at a Pub Night, an afternoon event where each week a different musician entertains while staff members serve drinks and snacks, sharing the experience spins webs that link each attendant.

October featured the annual Bazaar where those who do crafts raise funds for the good of the residents and the community, and at the rousing good-fun Halloween party this year the largest number of residents so far was costumed.

November hosted a Veterans Memorial program to honor the more than two dozen men and women veterans among the residents.

The most recent social and "give back to the community" event that brought nearly everyone together was the annual "Tom's Turkey Drive."

Tom Sherry, a local TV weatherman and celebrity noted for his efforts to bring together businesses and area residents to provide quality ingredients to families in need for their Thanksgiving Dinner each year. His 2014 goal was meeting the needs of 11,000 families.

The ALC owners, staff and residents helped meet that goal. It was not only a gala event, in addition to residents purchasing Thanksgiving meals for needy families in the region, a check for $1,000 was presented. Thanksgiving Day the residents of this ALC gave special thanks for the privilege of helping others.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Do People Who Can Afford an ALC Need Helpful Hints? The Answer is "Yes!"

Shortly after she read my introductory post I received the following email from my best friend, Marylyn, whom I've known and corresponded with since we met the winter of 1969. We took a creative writing class in Sandpoint, Idaho that year. I lived in Montana, and she lived in Priest River, Idaho:
"I forgot to comment on your blog intro. I found it interesting and well written. I have an idea, which may be wrong, that people who can afford assisted living probably don't need helpful hints about how to enjoy their retirement and their luxurious new digs. What is it you plan to put in this blog?"
Marylyn and I often disagree. We both achieved our dreams of becoming professional writers, and although we get together now and then, it's not real often. Nevertheless, we love and respect each other enough that we agree to disagree. This is one of those times.
Being financially comfortable doesn't necessarily enable people to know how to get the best out of their retirement years. Irrespective of monetary worth, there is a need for helpful information about choosing and living in an ALC. My previous post talked about choosing. 

Emotional and psychological factors also come into play. Like most of the newer residents here, Art and I are experiencing them. We are lucky to be in a community where so many of the residents, and the staff without exception, always greet us with a smile, a friendly word, and/or ask about our day.

I can't tell you how helpful that is, especially on days when we're feeling apprehensive and need encouragement.

Those who joke and tease lift everyone's spirits, and like everyone else, we look forward to seeing them. And because so many of the jolliest appear healthy and are spritely, during the first weeks we wondered, 'Why are they here?'

Because we're outgoing and friendly, we soon discovered they, too, have serious physical limitations ~ just not obvious ones like noticeable memory loss, or having to use a walker or a motorized scooter. For example, one has untreatable macular degeneration and is going blind, another has terminal cancer.

Often, feelings of loneliness and isolation lead to serious consequences for seniors' health. Here, as in most ALCs, residents are encouraged to participate on a frequent basis in one or more of the social activities offered.
Arvy and Richard Monaghan, who joined Broadway Court Estates ALC in May 2014 do that. They shared their story in a Thanksgiving blessing and tenant testimonial, published in Issue 154 of the ALC community's monthly newsletter, TOP HAT & TALES. It shows another point of view, and illustrates the benefits of participating in social activities.

Richard & Arvy Monahan at their ALC,
Broadway Court Estates in Spokane
Valley, Washington.

 "We are living life again!"
"Truly it's "Hats Off" to BCE! We married in March of 1952 and were blessed with 6 children. Our cup runneth over with grandchildren and great grandchildren. Rich was employed by Nabisco for 38 1/2 years. Arvy was employed by doctors of Chiropractic for 19 years. We loved and enjoyed our family and RV'ing for 10 years off and on.
"Unfortunately, Rich developed health problems which in turned caused his activities to decrease. We felt it was time to make a major change in our lives and change we did!
"We moved to Broadway Court Estates.
"The change was traumatic but it was just what was needed. And to our surprise, the decision gave us both a much better and healthier life!!
"Rich has joined the Wii bowling team offered here and in November he will excitedly play in his 2nds Wii bowling tournament. Wow! What a marvelous change!
"BCE has given us a whole new life and it's really because they care and give freely to all their tenants.
"Thank you Broadway Court Estates," Rich and Arvy Monaghan.
The BCE Wii bowling team brought back their 3rd Place trophy along with a traveling trophy from their latest tournament, November 9, 2014 ~ a symbol of achievement that all residents can feel good about.
As long as the trophies are displayed in the foyer, expect residents to stop and admire them, chat about team members, and maybe consider joining the team as bowlers, cheerleaders, or spectators. It provides an opportunity for new residents to get acquainted, and for everyone to share camaraderie.
Achieving happiness whenever a lifestyle changes unexpectedly is challenging, as Rich and Arvy  attest, and it's a topic I plan to explore more in future articles.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Basic Services of Assisted Living Communities

My husband and I had never been renters. Nevertheless, our daughter-in-law and I started out intending to tour the five ALCs recommended by our A Place For Mom personal contact. However, instead of scheduling a tour for each one on a separate day ~ as we should have ~ we crammed them into that day.

By the time Vickie parked at the last one just before dinner time, I was shaky from exhaustion. We stayed only long enough to be shown the one available apartment, which I declined.
I shared my enthusiasm about the first ALC with our family:
  • Dad can rent a garage to use for his woodworking projects. It's convenient to him using his Jazzy wheelchair.
  • Meals options, housekeeping, an assigned parking spot, and a garden plot are included.
  • A heated indoor pool, therapy, entertainment and activities. Transportation provided.
  • There are rentable accommodations for guests and a cabana on the landscaped grounds for private parties.
A few days later, when Art and I toured the community together, it still seemed a perfect choice. I couldn't imagine him saying the wonderfully arranged two bedroom, two bath apartment, situated as it is in the building wouldn't be agreeable for this change in our lives. Elevators seemed well placed in the three-story complex, and suitably sized for his power scooter, plus spacious enough to also accommodate a resident using a walker, and one or two more people. 
During subsequent meetings with the sales manager we'd asked for and gotten everything we'd need. Even though our contact at A Place For Mom sent us the standard list of questions to ask, instead of heeding the advice, we ignored it, confident that we'd covered all the basics.

We were extremely lucky and didn't reap disastrous consequences. 
Mimi's kitten portrait. She's elderly now, like us.
Our pet was welcome, too! For a non-refundable fee of $375, Mimi, our precious cat could share the apartment and its private balcony with us.
The little plaque, "It belongs to the cat. We just pay the mortgage", would hang above the apartment door knocker, with Mimi's portrait below.
We did however learn we should have done more than casual inspections before signing the apartment rental agreement. During our tour, we'd focused mainly on the floor plan, which was adequate for Art's motorized scooter. We overlooked things we should have noticed. Fortunately, they were minor, easily resolved, maintenance issues. 
The apartment had remained vacant for two years after being renovated, when the first and only renter moved out. New appliances were installed in the laundry room and the kitchen, attested to by boxes still awaiting removal when the apartment was offered to us. New carpeting was freshly vacuumed. 
When the maintenance crew replaced washing machine hoses that had been 'borrowed', we all laughed when they said, "This apartment became 'the go to supply' when something was needed." 
As I said earlier, we were lucky. Nevertheless, don't count on getting lucky. Do your homework before deciding which ALC is right for you.
At A Place For Mom, here is where you can learn about the differences between the variety of assisted living accommodations available today, plus an explanation of the basic services. scroll to General at the bottom for a list of links to options.
It is particularly important to check out the type of license they have, level of care, and/ or services provided. Equally important is understanding the limitations of provided service, as well as what is not provided. Allow yourself plenty of time, and visit and inspect more than one assisted living community. 
Print a copy of the checklist, provided at A Place For Mom, of questions to ask. Make a copy to take along to  each ALC you visit.

Assisted Living Federation of America, ALFA, is an online website that can also help you avoid disappointments, and potentially very costly mistakes. Scroll to the end here where you'll find a link to print a .PDF copy of the website's checklist of things you can ask about. Take time to study it, and write out your list of questions.
Make a copy to take along to each ALC you tour and consider. is another excellent resource for people looking for assisted living information and options. You'll find five additional important questions, with expert answers, here

Sunday, November 2, 2014

About my Convictions ~ and When the Doldrums Get me Down

No matter the species, Art sees beauty in each length of
wood and, with phenomenal patience, turns it into an object to
treasure .... if he's successful in avoiding the pitfalls associated
with any new hobby.
Some days I need reliable old standbys when my spirits are low. So I sing aloud the song taught to me by my mother when I was a child:
"Count your blessings,
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings,
See what God hath done."

Today I'm baking three buttercup squash from plants Art seeded in our garden. Last spring he took time ~ from enjoying his [then] 4-month-old passion for turning marvels from wood on his Delta lathe ~ to plant them.

As he planted the seeds last spring, Art and I had no idea that our lives would change
drastically before harvest.

In early September neighbors picked the nine squash that had ripened on the sprawling plants, and carried them into our kitchen.

When we moved, we brought them to our apartment at Broadway Court Estates. Their fragrance brings nostalgia.

When my sister and her daughter come today to view our "new digs", we'll reminisce about gardening.

As you begin visiting this blog, the goal of which is to help and encourage those who never imagined they'd move to an Assisted Living Community, you'll no doubt want to know how I am learning to reconcile my feelings about this major life style change.

"Dear Lord,
I thank You for this day.
I thank You for my being able to see and hear this morning.
I'm blessed because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God.
You have done so much for me and You keep on blessing me.
Forgive me this day for everything I have done, said or thought that was not pleasing to You. I ask Your forgiveness.
Please keep me safe from all danger and harm. Help me start this day with a good attitude and plenty of gratitude.
Let me make the best of each and every day and clear my mind so that I can hear from You. Please broaden my mind and keep me from being prejudiced. Let me not whine and whimper over things I have no control over, or be my first response when I'm pushed beyond my limits.
I know that when I can't pray, You listen to my heart. Continue to use me to do Your will. Continue to bless me that I maybe be a blessing to others. Keep me strong that I may help the weak ... Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others.
I pray for those that are lost and can't find their way. I pray for those that misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don't know You intimately. I pray for those who don't believe. I thank You that I believe God changes people and God changes things.
I pray for all my sisters and brothers and for each and every family member in their households. I pray for peace, love and joy in their homes that they are out of debt and all their needs are met.
I pray that every person knows there is no problem, circumstance, or situation greater than God. Every battle is in Your hands for You to fight.
I pray that these words be received into the hearts of every person.
God I love You and I need You, come into my heart, please."
To that prayer ~ whose author I do not know ~ I add, "According to Thy will dear Lord."

I find that prayer particularly comforting when the doldrums get me down ~ a common occurrence for people in the first few weeks after moving into an assisted living facility.

Apparently, days when your spirits are low arrive no matter the reasons for moving into an ALC. Something feels amiss. Those who've experienced this say they felt unhappy ~ like they weren't where they belonged, but one way you can learn to cope is to reach outside yourself.

Take heart.
  • Ask those you meet what brought them here.
  • Listen with compassion.
You'll soon realize you have many blessings to count.
Participate in activities offered, even if only as a spectator. When you're among others, it helps you live through a day when the doldrums get you down.

A family member confided the following about her 92-year-old mom who moved to a senior apartment just over a year ago (and was widowed a week after moving in):
"The part that has helped her most is building friendships from acquaintances, and that didn't happen fast. Not so much of the doldrums now, thank goodness."
[Readers who want details of "our story" will find a link to it in the October 2014 archive at the left.]

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wecome to ALC ~ The 21st Century Old Folks Home

Three weeks after moving to an apartment in an Assisted Living Community [ALC] I stepped out onto the balcony in hopes that seeing trees in transition would bolster my hopes. My husband of 65 years and I were also in transition.
September's usual fall rains had been skimpy ~ which was a blessing for our unexpected move ~ but lack of moisture often caused tree leaves to end their lifecycle without the colorful demise that gladdened the hearts of those fortunate enough to witness the glorious reds, saffron, oranges and bright gold hues.
Several varieties of maple trees, already richly gaudy from treetops downward to where mature green leaves glistened on lower branches presented an array of beauty beneath a wild variety of grey clouds skidding across blue sky which heightened the colorful hues.
Our balcony's roof and railings framed the view, and I felt as though nature was pointing the way of our new life-phase.
If asked, I'd wager nine out of ten people in our generation would say emphatically, "No way! I'll never live in an old folks home!" Certainly it never entered our minds.
Oh, sure, gender, age, and statistics indicated I'd be widowed ~ eventually. Nevertheless, we felt prepared for it. Our home was large and I had no aversion to sharing it with other widows ~ when the time came.
Yet on this day in early October we were here ~ in an apartment in an Assisted Living Community ~ faced with this new experience.
Could we adapt
Would we be happy?
What did our future hold?
As I designed the layout for this blog and titled it I added, "The goal of this website is to help and encourage those who never imagined they'd move to an Assisted Living Community, but never-the-less are faced with the challenge. Please leave a comment to guide me as I take up this new challenge. If you have a story to share or want to suggest a topic to encourage others adventuring through this phase of life feel free to contact me."

[Readers who want details of "our story" can read it by clicking here.]

Mona ~ one month before the unthinkable happened,
An accident changed our lives,
Assisted Living Community lifestyle became our best option.