Chat @ Care-giving: The Post I didn’t Get to Write

Can it be just weeks ago that I told you about A Place for Mom and had hopes of moving my mom into an assisted living facility? Yes, it can.

When I started the process, hospice wasn’t even in the picture.  Mom sent me on my assisted living search with very strict guidelines concerning geography and high standards concerning lifestyle.  That made the list very, very short.

In fact, there were only two facilities that made the cut and one of those was just outside Mom’s geographical boundaries.  First I have to tell you about the geographically undesirable one, because geography isn’t so important to me and it’s where I’d want to go if I had to be in assisted living.

The first thing I liked about Parson’s House was that it didn’t look like an assisted living facility.  I had the address in my GPS, but when I arrived I didn’t realize I was there.  It looked like a large private home with extra parking out front.  When you walked inside the illusion continued.  Yes there was an office off to one side, but it was easy to ignore.  The feeling of home overpowered everything else.  Maybe it was because I could smell the evidence of lunch being cooked, but whatever it was, I liked it.

The dining room wasn’t the largest or the grandest or the most beautifully furnished, but something about it, maybe the style of furniture said this was a good place to be.  Over to the side was a grouping of sofas and chairs.  They looked comfortable and showed signs that they were actually used.  That was something unique.

See, most of the other places I visited were pristine.  They had the very latest in furnishings and the best word I can think of to describe them is opulent.  But I’m not opulent.  The chic furniture groupings looked like they belonged in a furniture showroom, not someone’s home – and that’s what assisted living is, someone’s home.

Don’t get me wrong.  Parson’s House is very clean and their furnishing are top quality. Things just didn’t seem so opulent.  I didn’t feel as if I would be upsetting the balance of the world if I actually sat down on the sofa and read the paper.  There was evidence that someone had done just that not too long before.  I liked that.

But what I liked best was that residents were outside on a large patio, having a resident meeting.  They were planning their activities for the next month.  What a concept!  All the other facilities gave me a list of the activities an activities director had planned for the residents.  At Parson’s House, the residents got together and decided what they wanted to do and it looked like they were having fun doing it.  A variety of dogs were helping with the meeting and one of them was a Shih Tzu named Precious, just like my Shih Tzu.

And get this, instead of a professionally maintained landscape masterpiece, they had a vegetable garden maintained by the residents.  The patio was decorated with hanging baskets, each the proud responsibility of an individual who lived there.  I don’t even like gardening, but it gave everything a much stronger feel of home than any other facility.  I was hooked, but the tour wasn’t over.

They had a little of everything needed at Parson’s House, exercise, crafts and like, but a feeling of participation, rather than mere availability, pervaded.  The hoops used for one class were leaning against a wall.  Nothing was messy or cluttered, it just looked natural and normal, instead of pristine.  Pristine can be very cold.

On the other end of the facility from the exercise and crafts was the media room, but it looked more like my den.  They may have actually had the latest in technology, but what was more important to me was that someone was actually sitting there reading a book.  People lived here.  They weren’t locked away in their apartment waiting for the next meal.

As they showed me an apartment, I couldn’t help but be dismayed.  I just couldn’t imagine Mom living happily in one room.  Where would she put all her clothes?  That’s when “we can do that” showed up.  Everywhere else I’d been, they told me how my mom would live. At Parson’s House, as I explained what I thought would best suit Mom, I was told, “we can do that.”  Sure, they could put a door between two units and they offered other possibilities.  I liked that.  Would the alterations cost me money?  Sure they would, but how do you put a value on happiness and comfort for someone you love.

OK, I was sold.  I knew it was outside Mom’s geographical zone.  I doubted that I could convince her to move there, but I’m telling you, it’s where I’d want to be.   In a couple of days, I’ll tell you what I picked out for Mom.

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