The Road to Assisted Living

The other day a friend of mine called to ping me for a favor. She asked if I would speak to a friend of hers, who had recently come to the realization her elderly mother could no longer live alone. Would I mind having a chat with her and share some of my experiences? Without hesitation, I responded “Absolutely!”

Like many of us facing the myriad of challenges as our parents age and can no longer live alone, her story was pretty darn typical. And took me back to the time when I started my journey on the road to assisted living with my mother.

Her mother is in overall good health, with some medical conditions that are getting progressively worse, making it difficult for her to live independently. Her mental abilities are beginning to fail, making communication increasingly difficult. Her emotions are running the gamut from super-highs to super-lows, making it almost impossible to maintain a balance.

Sound familiar? Well, I will let you in on a little secret: there is no magic button to push. No magic potion to drink. No magic answer which will fit everyone’s needs. All we can do is evaluate our situation and find a solution which covers most of our bases. And that is exactly what I told my friend’s friend.

For some folks, home care is the best option, be it in their elder’s home or their own. For others, a facility is the best option for the best care. Either way, the choice is not an easy one to make. For my mother and I, assisted living was our answer. Yet making that decision was only the first step.

Finding good quality care, whether it be in-home or at-facility, sure ain’t easy. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes fortitude. You need to make the calls and drive the miles. But it is worth it.

Since my friend’s friend lives hundreds of miles away, I was unable to give her the benefit of the research I had done in the area where I live. But I was able to share the process. How I contacted my local Department of Aging to get a list of facilities and organizations who provide care. I asked my family doctor. I asked my hair stylist, who was born and raised in the area and had just gone through the process with her elderly father. I pinged friends, and friends of family, and friends of friends of friends.

And when I found what I thought was a quality facility, only to learn they were out of budget, I asked them if they could make any recommendations. And not just what they thought was a good facility, but what places I should avoid. Knowing where not to go is as important as knowing where to go.

In the end, I researched just shy of 200 facilities, in four counties, within a 60 mile radius of my home. Because it was more important to me that I find a facility that would provide my mother with quality affordable care than it was to make it convenient for me to visit her. And after all that research, and all those visits to all those facilities which made my “A” list, I found only two that met all the criteria. Yup…just two. I swear, I swear, I swear.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? But you know what? It was worth it. Not only for my mother…and at the risk of sounding selfish…but for me. Because on that first night of the day I took my mother to her new home in the assisted living facility, I laid my head on my pillow without a nagging fear whispering in my heart. Without fear my mother had fallen going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and lay on the floor unable to move. Without fear she had forgotten if she had taken her medication and instead, double-dosed herself before she went to bed. Without fear she had forgotten to turn the burner off on the stovetop when she made her evening meal and had burned her hand.

And yes, my duties have changed since my mother has moved into assisted living. They have not necessarily lessened, just changed, which is a story for another day. I know she has someone to help her if she does fall. And I know she is receiving her medications. And I know she is getting her three-squares a day.

Most importantly, I know she is around people she enjoys spending time with and I know her quality of life has improved. And that is all I could have wished for her. And for me.

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