SERIES: Why Can't Caregiving be Simple? (Assisted Living)

CONTRIBUTED BY: GRETCHEN NAPIER - LIFELINKS CEO

This is a three part series.  This article specifically focuses on Assisted Living. It would be great if just moving dad into an assisted living community solved all the issues.  It would be great if you could just hire one good caregiver to move in with mom.  It would be great if the primary care doctor your husband loves could just prescribe the right combination of medications to solve his mood and behavior outbursts.  It’s just not that simple. Here are some examples of how each of those “simple” solutions have gone wrong for other families.

Why Just Moving to Assisted Living Doesn’t Always Work

For many families, Assisted Living eases enough of the burden to work perfectly.  Regular meals and housekeeping, scheduled transportation, medication reminders, planned activities and 24-hour staff are the main things some families need.  For other families, it’s not enough.  

Jim had chest pain and after waiting for the community nurse for over 15 minutes, ended up calling 911 himself.  It turns out the 24-hour nurse was only “available” not “on-site”. Outside regular working hours, she was on-call and would come into the community whenever needed.  But that was a surprise to Jim and his family who thought that having a 24-hour nurse available meant one would be in the building if he had chest pain or other problems that a nurse could address.  He could stay at home and call 911 himself for a lot less money, so that’s what he did!

Margaret, whose husband had dementia, found a beautiful assisted living community close to her home. At this community, she met a very smart and kind lady who had given Margaret a tour and answered all of her questions.  Margaret believed that moving her husband, Bill, would relieve her stress and anxiety and make him happier.  It seemed that nothing she did anymore made him happy and she was exhausted. Bill hadn’t wandered yet, but with a diagnosis of dementia, the community wouldn’t allow him to move to the regular assisted living but insisted on their memory care unit.  This was very upsetting to Margaret, because those other residents in memory care looked much worse than her husband, but she finally went along with it. She told herself, “The community professionals are the experts.  I guess they know better than I do and really, I am just so tired.”  After the exhausting days of packing and moving him and his things, Margaret settled into bed the first night feeling sad but hopeful the next day would be better after a good night’s sleep.  An hour later she was woken by a phone call from the community.  Her husband was being belligerent and they wanted her to come over to calm him down.  This continued for several weeks, even after meetings with the staff.  The nice lady she met with originally wasn’t involved in any of these meetings, it turned out she just helped people until they moved in.  Margaret didn’t understand how this could be such a problem if it is a normal part of dementia.  Isn’t that their specialty?  

Elizabeth, began to notice more memory problems for her mom after her dad passed away,  “He must have been handling a lot more than I thought.”  Elizabeth lived out of town and really worried about Mom’s safety at home.  Plus Mom had always been very social, so moving to assisted living would help with loneliness.  Two things prevented this from being a complete solution for this family.  1) At doctor’s appointments, Mom couldn’t remember all the things she needed to talk to the doctor about, nor could she remember what the doctor said.  Elizabeth tried phone calls and emails to the doctor’s office, but never felt like she got complete answers, so she started arranging her visits around appointments so she could be there in person.  2) Her mom didn’t like all of the people in assisted living.  So at first she got into altercations with others because, with no filter, she just told them what she thought.  Eventually, Mom started to spend more time alone in her apartment, isolating herself as much as when she was at home.  

Click here to read the LifeLinks Solution to each of these incomplete solutions. (how a LifeLinks Aging Life Care Specialist saves the family time and money by completing the solution.

Click here to read more about why just hiring one good caregiver doesn’t always work.

Click here to read more about why just getting the primary care doctor to prescribe the right medications doesn’t always work.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

GRETCHEN NAPIER - CEO
 

IMG_5720.JPG

Gretchen Napier joined the LifeLinks team to fulfill her passion for caring for aging adults, and affecting change for the geriatric care service industry. At a very young age, Gretchen volunteered by painting fingernails for the residents in a nursing home, where she witnessed firsthand the shortcomings and "one-size-fits-all" mentality of many organizations and individuals serving seniors. With many years of experience as an assisted living administrator and a publisher of a resource guide for seniors, Gretchen saw how easy it was for aging adults to fall through the cracks of the healthcare system.  Additionally, she saw how long-distance and broken family relationships make caring for an aging loved one an overwhelming task.  This inspired Gretchen to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families across America by growing LifeLinks. In addition to the community leadership roles listed below, Gretchen is raising a 13 year old son and carrying out her vision for LifeLinks every day.