Chat @ Care-giving: A Vote for Continuing Care Facilities

A few years ago, when I began the search for a retirement facility for my parents, I had a preference for continuing care.  No one else did. So we struck the criteria from the must-have list.

Eventually, we found a great independent living facility and even though Mom moaned and groaned about giving up her home, Whiterock Court proved to be a good place for them – for awhile.

Fast forward a year.  Dad fell and after a month-long hospital battle, he passed away.  Suddenly, Mom’s complaints about “giving up her home” turned into gratitude.  My primary reason for getting them out of the house had been the realization that I could lose either of them at any time.  They were barely getting along in the house together and I knew if I lost either of them, neither of them could stay at home by themselves.  I wanted to avoid having either of them adjust to concurrent lifestyle changes – losing both their life partner and their home at the same time.

For exactly six months I had the luxury of hearing I’d been right to get them out of the house.  Mom realized just how lonely that house would have been without Dad.  She ate meals with her friends, joined a travel club and enjoyed playing bean bag baseball and chickenfoot dominoes.

Then she fell and broke her arm.  A few weeks later, she had congestive heart failure.  For three months our lives were a circus of emergency rooms, hospitals, rehab and skilled nursing.  Now she’s back in her apartment juggling home health care and I’m remembering when I agreed to take continuing care off the must have list.

See, Mom’s not quite ready to give it up and move to assisted living, but she’s not exactly up to independent living either, and the parade of home health care providers marching through her apartment is about to drive her crazy.  Were she in a continuing care facility, the trauma of moving between independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehab would be much reduced.  The services she needed would already be right there.  Home health care is great, but it’s not the same as walking into a fully equipped rehab facility.

When I moved Mom and Dad out of their house, I knew I did the right thing, but I wish I’d stuck to my guns when it came to continuing care.  Mom needs to be monitored more closely than home health care can provide, but the mention of assisted living sends her into fits.  I know her emotional stability is as important, if not more important, that her physical condition.  I can’t bring myself to upset her apple cart anymore than it’s already been jostled.

It’s just a matter of time now.  Congestive heart disease is an enemy you can fight, but you can’t win, unless you’re young enough to have the necessary surgery.  Someday, probably sooner rather than later, I’m going to have to disrupt my mother’s life again.  I have to rip her out of a place she’s learned to call home and take her someplace else.  I’ll be disrupting the lives of other people, also.  Fourteen of her friends have moved to Whiterock Court because Mom is there.  It would be so much easier if I could just move her to another part of the facility and know that, if she did improve, we could move her back.  It would be nice if her fourteen friends could walk across a courtyard to see her or have a meal with her.  Instead, they’ll promise to come visit her, but the enormity of the task will keep them away.  They’ll feel guilty and Mom will feel forsaken.

There are drawbacks to continuing care facilities, one of them being a large financial investment.  Most of the money is returned to the family after the resident passes away, but letting go of the money was the hurdle my family members could not tolerate.  Now they stand ready to support me in any decision I make.  I wish they’d felt that way three years ago.

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