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Making Friends at an Assisted Living

“Making Friends at an Assisted Living” is a new column written by Rick Weisberg   in the Jewish Journal.  The series addresses the needs of seniors and their families. Take a look:

Senior Solutions

by Rick Weisberg

Special to the Journal 

Q: My mom is considering moving to an assisted living in the Boston area, but I am worried that she will be lonely. She doesn’t play cards and is not one for participating in group activities. How will she make friends? The thought of leaving her there alone is making me anxious.

A: Moving one’s parent into an assisted living can be a traumatic experience for the entire family. Grown-up children often compare it to the first day of school – only this is a reverse scenario! Remember that feeling when you left your child alone at school or day care for the first time? It’s emotional and nerve-wracking, to say the least.

There are, however, strategies you can employ that will help seniors acclimate to a new living environment. First, enlist the help of the Executive Director, Marketing Director and Wellness Director in introducing your parent to other residents. They know all the residents well and can put your mom or dad together with other residents who share similar interests and backgrounds.

Meal times, of course, are key to making friends at an assisted living.  The  staff will place your parent at a table the very first day. If, after a few days, your mom or dad is not happy, do not hesitate to ask – even insist – upon changing tables. Meals are an important part of the socialization process and finding the right table mates is crucial. Sometimes it just takes a few weeks to get the right mix of individuals.

Making friends at an assisted living
Staff and resident relationships are an integral part of the assisted living experience

Staff and resident relationships are an integral part of the assisted living experience. Often, these are the relationships that come first and mean so much to the elders and their families. Keep in mind that staff members visit with residents throughout the day, alleviating loneliness and fostering communications. They are also a terrific resource for the family. Most facilities encourage family members to call or email staff members so they can check-in on how one’s parent is adjusting to the transition.

Recreational planned activities are obviously a great way to make friends. Some people resist scheduled events and that is absolutely fine. But who doesn’t enjoy weekly spa and salon appointments? These routine events inevitably lead to friendships among both the staff and the residents themselves. Encourage your parent to go to the café for a light snack, read in the library or just sit outside on the patio. There are always people out and about.

All assisted livings host family days with special events for the residents and their families. This is a wonderful way to meet new people. Talking with other families who are going through the same situation can be extremely helpful.

Like any new situation, the transition to an assisted living is complicated. But you’ll be amazed how quickly seniors adapt to new surroundings, especially when they are relieved of cooking, cleaning and housekeeping responsibilities. Give it three months and I suspect one day you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see your mom or dad are introducing new friends. In fact, he or she may even cancel plans with you because of a busy social calendar. Now, wouldn’t that make you feel good?

Send questions about senior issues to rick@assistedlivingnationwide.com, call 617-513-7067 or mail to Senior Solutions, 27 Congress Street, Suite 501, Salem, MA 01970. Rick Weisberg is president of Assisted Living Nationwide, a firm that helps seniors and their families find the most appropriate assisted living facility, based on the family’s criteria. There are no fees for his services. Rick is also a realtor and is affiliated Benoit Mizner Simon & Co.

Many Different Models of Assisted Living

Senior Solutions

By Rick Weisberg

Published April 14, 2016

Q: Recently our family started researching assisted living facilities (ALF) for my parents, who are in their mid-eighties. The process seems a little overwhelming! Can you explain the different models of assisted living?

A: Basically, there are four models of assisted living facilities. Let’s start with independent living. Individuals and couples who live in these residences do not need any help with activities of daily living (eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring and continence). As a result, they do not require any extra time from the staff over and above the basic 45 minutes to one hour provided by most assisted living facilities. Apartments are equipped with full kitchens; there are on-site staff members who provide minimal supervision and there usually are many social and recreational activities. A choice of restaurants and meal plans are often offered at an additional charge.

Traditional assisted living facilities are yet another option and currently are the most popular model in the US. Apartments range from studios to one to two bedrooms; both individuals and couples occupy these apartments, although couples will need to pay a higher fee. Meals are included, as well as a wide range of activities. Typically, residents require extra time from the staff because they need help with some or all activities of daily living. The facilities perform a medical assessment by an RN to determine how much daily support is necessary. Additional help would cost anywhere from $350 to $2000 per month over and above the base monthly rental.

For individuals with memory issues, a memory unit within a traditional ALF would be appropriate. This third model of care is the most common in this country for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Generally, individuals live in private or shared rooms in a separate area that is safe and secure. Activities thought to help memory issues such as music and art therapy are offered as well as 24-hour supervised care. Memory housing is more costly than other assisted living scenarios due to the amount of specialized care required by these individuals. Overall, the cost would be approximately $2,000 a month more than the base room charge.

Lastly, let’s explore stand-alone memory only assisted living. This model is a fairly new type of ALF, but one that is becoming more prevalent throughout the country, especially in Massachusetts. All residents are memory impaired and all activities are geared towards this population. The monthly rental cost would be at the highest level due to the amount of services provided to these residents.

All of the above models of assisted living assume the apartment will be a monthly rental. In most ALF’s today, rentals are the accepted manner of payment for the apartment. However, some ALF’s still require an up-front buy-in fee and charge a smaller monthly community fee.

As you can see, there are numerous choices in finding the right assisted living facility. The key is to first determine the level of care required for the elder and then explore the options within that category.

Send questions about senior issues to editor@jewishjournal.org or mail to Senior Solutions, 27 Congress Street, Suite 501, Salem, MA 01970. Rick Weisberg is president of Assisted Living Nationwide, a firm that helps seniors and their families find the most appropriate assisted living facility, based on the family’s criteria. There are no fees for his services. Rick is also a realtor and is affiliated with Benoit Mizner Simon & Co. Contact Rick at rick@assistedlivingnationwide.com or call 617-513-7067.

Senior Solutions: When Parents Can No Longer Live Alone

JJ

 

 

by Rick Weisberg

Special to the Journal

Published February 18, 2016, issue of February 18, 2016.

“Senior Solutions” addresses what to do when parents can no longer live alone? The phrase “it’s complicated” probably sums it up best. Emotions can run high even in the most well-adjusted families when discussing senior living options, support services, health and financial issues.  In this column, we’ll address frequently asked questions by seniors and their families.

Q: We recently moved my mom into an assisted living facility close to my sister and me. She seems happy, but steadfastly refuses to participate in any of the activities. Should we continue to encourage her – or just let her be?

A: Activities do play an important role in an assisted living, but keep in mind they are only one component of the day-to-day routine. In fact, meals times are probably the most social activity and a great way to create friendships. (Reviews of the food are always a lively topic of conversation!) Talk to the Executive Director and/or Wellness Director and ask their opinion as to how your mom is adjusting to her new environment.

Q: What is the difference between a nursing home and an assisted living facility? Also, how do I know if my father meets the criteria to live in assisted living?

A: Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, provide 24-hour, round the clock nursing care. Residents live in one room, often shared – as opposed to apartments. Assisted living facilities offer studios, one bedroom or, in some cases, two bedroom apartments with a support staff such as a Wellness Director (RN) and aides to help residents with the activities of daily living. In terms of eligibility, all assisted living facilities will conduct a medical assessment to determine if an individual qualifies to live in an assisted living.

Q: My mother and father are both in their early eighties. What should our family do now to plan for their future?

A: The first step is to organize a family meeting with your parents and discuss where they envision themselves living as they get older. It’s best not to wait until a crisis such as a fall or illness occurs and you are literally forced to make a decision within days. Of course, this is easier said than done. None of us really want to think about the time when our parents can no longer live alone.

Q: My husband passed away 10 years ago and I moved into a two bedroom condo. I am 85, live alone – and love it! The problem is that both my children live out-of-state and have been pressuring me to move into an assisted living. I know they worry about me, but I treasure my privacy. Are there steps I can take to reassure them while remaining in my home?

A: You sound like you are enjoying your life. Certainly there’s no reason to make a change if you’re able to live independently, but there are steps you can take to ensure your safety, and allow your children to worry less. For example, make sure your home is equipped with medical alert buttons, safety devices in the bathroom and activity sensors. Many families work out a schedule where family member(s) will call in the morning, at lunchtime and again in the evening. It’s important to check in often. Plus, hearing a loved one’s voice – even for a few minutes – can create a special bond for both the senior and the family member.

Rick Weisberg is president of Assisted Living Nationwide, a firm that helps seniors and their families find the most appropriate assisted living facility, based on the family’s criteria, free of charge. “Senior Solutions” appears monthly in the Jewish Journal. Contact Rick at rick@assistedlivingnationwide.com.

 

Stay At Home or Move to An Assisted Living?

One of the biggest decisions facing a family is whether a senior should stay at home or move into an assisted living facility. There are many factors involved with this decision and, as always the case, there is usually no clear-cut answer.

Staying at Home

The most comfortable – and easiest decision – is to stay at home. Typically, this is the residence where the senior has resided for a very long time. If the senior needs help with activities of daily living, services from a Home Health agency can be added. Of course, there is a cost involved with these services, depending on how many hours per week are needed. The family is often involved when the senior stays at home. There are calls at all hours of the day and your attention is needed. This may disrupt your daily routine as the needs of the senior become a family priority. Additionally, there are social implications of staying home. Basically the senior is alone except for the Home Health aide and any family visits. Clearly there are logistical questions that need to be decided: who takes the senior to the doctor and makes sure they are eating properly? Who visits on a regular basis? And who steps up in a medical emergency?

Moving to an Assisted Living Facility

Assisted living can often be the right choice, although a whole new set of factors would have to be examined before making this decision. What is the cost of the assisted living facility versus staying at home? The cost would include the basic rental charge which is determined by the size of the apartment. An added cost is the care charges, based on how many hours a week care is needed from the staff. Also, families need to factor in is the Community Fee, a onetime charge, which is nonrefundable. Three meals a day are provided and that cost savings needs to be factored into the decision. Socialization is now completely changed as there are many other seniors, in similar condition, living at the assisted living facility. One important advantage: doctors are brought into the facility from doctor services and/or there is transportation available to take the senior to medical appointments. Keep in mind that seniors seem to thrive in this environment, but there are many cases where the senior goes downhill after the traumatic ordeal of moving from their home.

Decision Time

As you can see, it’s an extremely difficult hard decision. Assisted Living Nationwide can help find you the appropriate facility. The service is free of charge and we work with facilities all over the country. Let our expertise help guide you to make the right decision. It’s too important to you, your family and your loved one

Choosing an Assisted Living Location

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Today there are more options than ever before in choosing an assisted living facility (ALF). There are, in fact, thousands of ALF’s across the country. How does a couple or individual decide which geographic location would be best? Most likely, there will be an assisted living in whichever location you decide to live.

Here, from Assisted Living Nationwide, are some guidelines on how to choose the right assisted living location:

Live Near Your Children

As you age, family is so important, for many reasons, including socialization and health care decisions. Residing in an assisted living close to one or more family members is a plus for both the elder and the family. Make it as easy as possible for families to visit the ALF.

Choose Your Setting

Decide upon a suburban or city setting. Maybe you are one who likes the outdoors with walking trails, gardens and many acres to explore. Or maybe, you like the city with access to theatre, movies, museums, restaurants etc. Do consider the interests, hobbies and lifestyle of the senior before touring an ALF.

Weathering On

As you age, those long winters are quite depressing. There is a reason why there are so many assisted living facilities in such states as Florida, Arizona and California. This is definitely the plus-side to living in a warm climate in your later years. All other factors being equal, this can be a very pleasant environment for an assisted living.

 Move Back to the City Where You were Born

Not surprisingly, many people move back to the area where they grew up. There are memories, connections and familiarity. Your childhood friends my still live in the area or even be residents at the ALF of your choice.

The good news is that today people have more options than ever before in choosing an assisted living facility. Think of this next step as an exciting life choice. It may very well turn out to be the best decision for you you — and yout entire family.

What Is a CCRC?

These days, everything has an abbreviation. CCRC is short for a Continuing Care Retirement Community. These properties consist of an Independent Living Residence, Assisted Living Facility (ALF) and a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). The prevailing theory of a CCRC: seniors could have access to a continuum of care as they age – and their needs change over time. It’s an appealing concept on many levels, but let’s delve into these communities a bit more.

First of all, you need a good size parcel of land for three buildings. In addition, you need a large staff to care for all the residents. Sate licenses are also required for the ALF’s and SNF’s. Moreover, research has shown that many residents of the independent living facilities do not like the idea of ALF and SNF’s on the same campus. Instead, many seniors are choosing independent-only properties. As a result, there are not many CCRC being built today.

In terms of cost, the original CCRC’s utilized the “buy- in” model, not rentals. A large deposit was required (up to $250,000. which was 90% refundable when the apartment was resold) plus a monthly fee. The buy-in model is not used very often these days; most CCRC’s have changed to a monthly rental format.

CCRC’s were built for individuals and couples who wanted to move into a residence while they were still independent and would never have to leave the community. On paper, it is an attractive model. The reality, however, is that the overall expense and logistics have limited the number of CCRC’s in the country. Assisted Living Nationwide maintains a list of all the CCRC’s throughout the United States. This model of care is definitely an alternative to assisted living facilities and could very well be the best choice for some seniors.

 

Making the Transition to Assisted Living

The first time you leave your mom or dad (or both) at an assisted living is similar to leaving your child at pre-school or daycare. It’s frightening. Even though you know in your heart that it’s the right thing to do, you feel anxious, indecisive and – in all probability – a bit guilty. Certainly, that’s a typical reaction, but there are things you can do to make those first days and weeks as seamless as possible. Below, from Assisted Living Nationwide, are a few tips to consider:

Visit the assisted living for lunch or dinner a few days prior to the move-in

Ask the staff to introduce your mom or dad to a few residents and other staff members. This allows you both to become familiar with the dining room and the residents. Plan your visit for a week day, when most residents are on-site.

 

Establish lines of communication with the Executive Director and Director of Resident Care

They will have first-hand knowledge of your family member and can address any concerns or monitor the transition. Determine whether email or phone calls are the best option; feel free to ask as many questions as need be.

 

Personalize the apartment so it’s warm and inviting

It’s important to mix prized possession s like photos, artworks and memorabilia with new accent pieces and decorative touches. Photo collages are the perfect wall décor, adding color and familiarity.

 

Check in with your mom or dad — within reason

Calling every few minutes or even hours will not help the residents during the transition. Set a schedule that works for both of your schedules during the first few weeks.

 

Don’t ask about the food!

You will hear about it no matter what. Food is the most popular topic on a daily basis.

Assisted Living Nationwide