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Researching Senior Living Options Early Can Help Avoid An Emotional And Financial Crisis

Many of my clients have asked me if they are making a mistake by “preparing too soon,” for a senior loved one’s life changes. My response is you can avoid an emotional and financial crisis by educating yourself with regard to the options for your loved one. Please read the following “Real Life Story” to learn what one of my clients experienced when they were forced into a “rush” decision.

Real Life Story
My clients are a woman and her elderly parents. There is a large age difference between the parents. One is in his/her mid-nineties, while the other is in his/her early eighties. The older of the two parents is totally independent and functioning very well. Unfortunately, the younger parent has dementia, can walk without any assistive devices, and recently began wandering. When a person with dementia wanders once, they will do it again. The parent had held a very prestigious job and was able to talk to me about past responsibilities.

During a recent incident, the parent with dementia wandered onto a busy street and suffered a fall. The senior was taken to a local emergency room where the usual tests were performed. Rather than take the parent home, the child (acting on a recommendation given by a friend) took the parent to the closest assisted living community that specializes in the care of residents with dementia. The parent was admitted. However, the Admissions Director neglected to ask if the parent wandered. The parent was admitted to a room in an area of the building that was not secured. The daughter ended up spending an extremely rough first night with the parent, but left once the senior had fallen asleep. A few hours later, she received a phone call that upon waking, the parent had tried to leave the building. This sort of behavior is not uncommon with dementia patients, as they will often try to find their way home when they awake to unfamiliar surroundings.

As a senior living advisor, It truthfully behooves me that a community that specializes in assisted living for residents with memory concerns would not inquire if the potential resident has issues with wandering. However, the bottom line was that after the wandering incident occurred, the daughter was informed that there was not a room available in the secured unit. If the parent was to stay, s/he would have to spend the day in the secured unit. In addition, a night nurse would have to be hired to watch the parent while they slept in the non-secured area. The additional cost of this option was $160 per day! With this arrangement, the parent had no private room to retreat to during the day. In addition, the daughter complained that the staff was indifferent toward the residents and the activities weren’t geared toward residents with dementia. (She reported that the residents were given very difficult crossward puzzles to work). She also told me that her parent’s dose of antipsychotic drugs had been increased and he appeared more agitated.

After these incidents had occurred, the family hired me to find a secured community to fit their loved one’s needs. I was able to narrow the options to three communities that had openings and subsequently took the daughter and the other parent on tours. They chose one of them, and a nurse from one of the communities came out to assess the parent. The nurse expressed concern over the fact that the parent was so depressed and very agitated.

In the meantime, a room opened up in the secured unit of the current community. However, the secured unit primarily housed residents that were in the latter stages of dementia. The daughter was concerned that the parent would only be “warehoused,” and become more depressed. I advised her that further changes might trigger more serious behaviors, and to keep the situation with the night nurse in place until we have his housing issues resolved.
In the meantime, several days have passed and the parent has been assessed by three communities I chose. All three have a compassionate staff, activities geared toward the appropriate level of my client’s dementia, and secured units with secured outdoor areas where the residents can walk about freely. Now, the choice is in the family’s hands, and I am prepared to discuss a strategy for my client’s move with the staff of the new home. .

For all of you senior living needs, please contact Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advsiors