Chat @ Care-giving: What’s Behind Door Number One

Three months ago I wrote my first blog about finding a retirement property for my parents. If you’ve been following my blog you know it’s been a rocky road. Here’s what happened when I finally got them to visit the properties I selected as their best choices.

Behind Door Number One is an enhanced-living retirement center.  It falls on the assisted living end of the independent living spectrum.  Three meals a day are included in the price, the apartments have kitchenette’s rather than full kitchens and the weekly flat linen service is supplemented by washers and dryers on every floor, not hookups in the individual apartments.

Door Number One suffered from a case of familiarity.  Mom had been there before.  She’d attended a luncheon in their dining room once and the apartment of a friend’s relative at another time.  Who knows how long ago these visits actually occurred, but they were both long before she had ever considered living in a retirement property herself.  Plan A for my parents had been to always stay in their own home.  There was no Plan B.

When I visited the property with my husband, I saw it with fresh eyes.  For one thing it had been completely redecorated since either of Mom’s visits.  I visited a corner apartment surrounded by trees and felt like I was in a treehouse.  I understood that it was a property devoted to easing my parent’s not-so golden years.

When I picked up Mom and Dad to make their visit, Dad was in his “I’m doing the best I can” mode and Mom was closed for business.  I couldn’t get a read on her.  Once at Door Number One I suggested that Dad stay downstairs while Mom and I took the tour.  I was however overridden.  They were ready to put Dad in a wheelchair, but they weren’t going to let him be left behind.  I knew he didn’t want the wheelchair, but I knew he’d be worn out.  I still think I was right.  If their goal was to wear him out so he couldn’t visit the other properties we were considering, then they were successful.

Mom took it all in, but wasn’t showing her cards.  About the only thing I could tell was that she thought the apartment was way too small, but anyone moving from a house to an apartment is going to suffer square footage shock.  This wasn’t a deal breaker.

Finally, it was time for lunch – the acid test – and with no real kitchen in their apartment this test was more acid than any other.  The nice Door Number One Salesman had offered to seat us with someone who lived there, but Mom didn’t want to play.  Instead, she sat at the table and eagle-eyed the operation.

As we were seated, mom and dad were served coffee by one of the managers.  In moments, a server offered us salads.

“No one has taken our food order,” Mom fretted.   I reminded her that we were not familiar with their operation, so probably the ordering came later.

“But other places they take your order right away,” she pointed out.

“Well the only place we’re really familiar with is Aunt Edie’s place, so give these guys a chance,” I countered.  That seemed to work, for a few moments, but soon she was giving us a play by play of the salad servers and opining about the fact that we hadn’t been asked to order yet.

I picked up a program on the table and tried to engage them in the schedule of activities and menu choices available.  Then one of the managers came over and checked on us.  She smiled politely while he was there and as soon as he left, she hissed, “No one has taken our order, yet.”

Finally, someone took our order.  “See Mom, they go ahead and give you beverages and salad before they take the entree orders.  It all works out.”  But it hadn’t worked out for her.  She explained why her methodology was better.

Hoping for a more upbeat discussion, I asked Dad his opinion of the property.  The answer, “It’s better than I thought it would be,” was not exactly monosyllabic, but it didn’t engender sparkling conversation either.  I tried asking some other questions which were answered with shrugs.

Then Mom was ready to go.  We hadn’t had dessert and there was one more apartment to see, but her alarm clock had gone off.  See, she’d planned a few chores for me after the visit to the property and she was afraid if we stayed any longer, I wouldn’t get the tasks accomplished.  I kept her in her seat until after we’d had dessert, but she wasn’t going to go back up and look at the other floor plan.

I took Dad home, ran Mom’s errands and did a few things around their house.  I thought the property was a good fit for Mom and Dad, but they weren’t talking.  Then I went home to gird up my loins for the visit to the next property.  Join me next week for Door Number Two.

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