Chat @ Care-giving: A La Carte Assistance

When I began my search for a retirement center for my parents there was a lot I didn’t know. I had the general idea of it, but I wasn’t familiar with all the lingo.

I knew there was something better than the nursing homes of old, but I didn’t realize how much assistance you could before you had to sign up for assisted living.

One of my mom’s greatest fears was the specter of assisted living, where she’d be assigned a spot in a dining room populated with the near dead and the mentally challenged.  She wanted some help, but didn’t want to pay that price.  By the same token, independent living sounded like an apartment for the elderly, where she’d be just as isolated as she is in her own home, trying to take care of my dad all by herself.

In my shopping around I learned that the abyss between assisted living and independent living is a thing of the past.  Each property has its own level of care – a different number of meals, more or less frequent laundry and housekeeping and different policies concerning transportation are just a few examples.  You’ll really need to go to the properties, take a tour and ask questions to find out exactly what they mean when they designate something as independent living, enhanced independent living or assisted living.  Sometimes the same words are used to describe vastly different levels of service.  However, most properties offer something in-between independent living and assisted living:  on-site home health care.

Our family has utilized home health care – from physical rehabilitation after a fall, to the bathing of an uncle in a wheelchair.  In addition to the scheduling challenges and personality conflicts, there’s the added expense of travel expenses.  Within a short time, the assistance provided in the home caused almost more problems than it alleviated.  But what if home healthcare were just an add-on service which was as easily accessible as the books in a property’s library.  That would make things much more manageable and that’s exactly what is now offered.

One of the challenges my parents face is that my father is seven years older than my mother and requires a lot more help than she does.  How does she live the enhanced independent life-style she wants, while he gets help bathing?  On-site home health care is the answer – and instead of having to handle all the details of locating, hiring and managing your home health care, the property’s management takes care of it all for you.

And things just keep getting better.  When this service was first offered, it came by the hour, much like it does when you have someone come into your private home.  The cost of travel was taken out of the equation, but still you had to need an hour’s worth of help for it to make sense.  Maybe you just needed a little help organizing your medications once a week or maybe all you needed was a shot or the bandaging of a wound.  Forking over an hour’s price for a few minutes of help didn’t make good fiscal sense.  A growing number of properties are now offering assistance in fifteen minute intervals and I believe this will become the norm over time.

This aspect of retirement living is just one of the ones I have learned in this process.  What did you learn as you went through this process?


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