Dad experienced several major life changes in less than a year. First he moved into his first assisted living facility (ALF) at the Gardens with mom. Then after just 4 months there, mom passed away. Suddenly he lost his spouse of 71 years! He remained in that apartment for the next 4 months. I stayed temporarily in an independent unit nearby so that dad wouldn’t be completely alone. In the spring, I brought him to live near me.
He had never lived before in the community where I live. However, there was a nice assisted living facility near my home and he felt comfortable about that. The day after we arrived, dad had an appointment to meet the manager and nurse at his new assisted living facility. In effect, they had to interview and approve before he could move in. I had already completed paperwork over the phone and by mail so they knew dad’s medical and personal history. His doctor had filled out forms and they had spoken by telephone with the head nurse at his last assisted living facility.
I was nervous about the interview and maybe dad was too, but he didn’t say. We brought his suitcase and went in. I had met previously with both the manager and nurse when I toured the facility the summer before. At that time, I expected to bring both my parents to my city, but we had arranged everything by telephone so they knew it would be just dad and that he was newly bereaved.
The interview went fine and I took dad to his new room. His furniture and clothing had not yet arrived (and wouldn’t for another week), but I had shipped a box of clothing ahead so we put that in his bureau drawers. The room was furnished. He could bring in his own furniture if he wished and they would remove what he didn’t need. He started with a bed, bureau and nightstand in the bedroom. He had 2 non-reclining chairs in the living room and a small table between them with a lamp on it.
Dad sat in one of the chairs and I sat in the other. He pushed against his chair, trying to make it recline. It didn’t. He asked if it reclined and I said no, but his reclining chair would be there next week. Each time I visited, we replayed this conversation about every 20 minutes the whole week before his furniture arrived.
He had a small kitchen and I brought in a few dishes, cups, a small microwave, a small television, and some drinks to put in the small refrigerator that was there. Dad didn’t have a kitchen in his last ALF but quickly got dependent on this one. He liked to have Pepsi or even beer in his refrigerator and drink them whenever he wanted. (The nurse was OK with the beer only after I assured her he wouldn’t drink a lot.)
He took more than a week to go through a six-pack so they needn’t have worried about that. He asked for his favorite cheese and some other snacks. He particularly likes me to bring in cheese, Pepsi, and chocolate candy.
I had brought his medications from the previous assisted living facility, so he had those right away. I liked the fact that at this much smaller ALF, he didn’t need to remember to go to the nurses’ station for his medications. They brought him his medications in the morning and at supper time. I also loved the fact that there was no elevator to wait for and he could just walk down the hall, around the corner and he was at the dining area. We had spent a lot of time waiting for the elevators at his previous large ALF.
The dining room in this facility is smaller than the one at the Gardens, but here also residents have assigned seats. Meals are scheduled more tightly than at the Gardens. Breakfast is available between 8 and 10, but lunch is at 12 and supper is at 5 though they seem to let the residents in about 10 minutes early at lunch and supper. Previously, at the Gardens, dad could have lunch anytime between 11:30 and 1:30 and supper ran from 4:30 to 6:30. Dad is still always hungry early and has to wait until it is time to eat.
I brought in a picture of dad and mom together and taped that on his door. This would remind him that it was his room when he got to it. I also brought in more pictures from home and put them on his bureau and night stand.
There is only one nurse at this ALF, which was much smaller than the Gardens. She works weekdays only. There are aides that work in the wellness center evenings and weekends. In an emergency they call 911. A geriatric physician comes to the facility about once a month. A foot doctor comes periodically also. There is a beauty shop on site that is open one day a week for haircuts for men and women.
Dad adjusted fairly quickly to his new ALF, especially once his furniture arrived and he got his La-Z-Boy recliner back. Soon it seemed like he totally forgot his first ALF. He missed mom terribly and still does, almost a year later. He is somewhat confused about how he ended up in this city. He asks sometimes: “How did I end up here in this city?” I remind him that I brought him here to live near me. It is only a few miles to my house. It is also only a few miles for my son and grandson to visit him. Other family members also live within driving distance.
I am glad that I chose this smaller ALF for dad for many reasons. In some ways, the advantages of a smaller facility made it easier for him to learn his way around, to get to know the staff and for the staff to get to know him. There are far fewer activities for resident at this ALF. However, dad rarely participated in the activities at the Gardens, so this doesn’t affect him much. He does enjoy the social hour which is at 4 every day (with drinks – and he likes to have Scotch), whereas it was only once a week at The Gardens.
The disadvantage of a smaller facility to me might also be a consideration in making a decision. The biggest disadvantage that I have seen is that there are so few medical staff. At the Gardens there was a 24 hour nursing staff with multiple nurses available all the time. This might have allowed dad to stay at his ALF rather than having to go to a nursing home when he had his recent illness. I will post more about that in a future post. Similarly I believe the nursing staff at the Gardens was better able to follow up with dad’s physicians after diagnostic and blood tests than this small facility is.
Ultimately, I think the only way to choose an ALF is to take a tour of several facilities. Ask a lot of questions and keep in mind your own parent’s needs in terms of activities, nursing staff, dining hours and food quality, etc. So far I have found advantages for both large and small facilities, so there is no obvious choice for everyone.