Searching for Senior Care: Two Caregivers Share Their Stories

 

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Meet Judith Henry, former family caregiver and author of The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving.

When both of Judith Henry’s parents became ill in 2007, even her reputation as a pragmatist, planner, and dutiful daughter (her father’s term) couldn’t prepare her for what lay ahead — a long list of concerns that included navigating an unfamiliar healthcare system, addressing financial and legal issues, dealing with stress and family dynamics, choosing a rehab center, and ultimately, making hospice arrangements. Her book is based on those experiences.

We asked Judith to share some of her insights on the process of searching for senior care and housing. Here are her top 5 tips:

  • Start with recommendations from people you know — both friends and co-workers. Healthcare personnel can be another resource.
  • Find out if the company or facility can address your friend or family member’s particular needs, such as physical therapy, or memory care.
  • Ask about staff experience and turnover. Are they knowledgeable about working with an older population? How long have they worked for the organization?
  • If at all possible, don’t make any decision without a personal meeting or walkthrough by you or someone you trust.
  • Even with all your due-diligence, understand and accept that there is rarely a perfect option.

We also asked Judith what she believes most people misunderstand about the search process. Here’s her take:

“Finding appropriate senior care or housing takes time. Waiting until a critical event occurs to begin the process can result in a serious mismatch for your friend or family member’s level of need and care.”  


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Meet Amie McGraham, an only child who cared for her mother long-distance for several years before recently moving her from her childhood home in Maine to a small memory care community in Arizona.

Listen as Amie shares her perspective as a long-distance caregiver turned full-time senior care searcher and cross-country-move coordinator:

Four years ago, when I shifted careers from corporate executive to full-time family caregiver, I vowed I would never move my mother from her home of fifty years. Recently, I was faced with the harsh reality of Alzheimer’s: she needed more care than I could give.

Being a planner, I had a Plan B. And C, D, and E, each of which included detailed budgeting and logistics. A memory care facility was the last on the list, aptly designated “Plan F.” To me, it stood for failure. But neither I — nor any of the other options — could resolve the relentless, rapid progression of Alzheimer’s. Wandering. Sundowning. Depression. Anxiety. Every manifestation of the disease moved me further away from the ability to be a loving daughter and wife.

I toured a dozen care homes from Maine to Arizona, checklist and Kleenex box in hand. I put the facilities in a spreadsheet, comparing costs, care, activities, and amenities. And I sought advice from other caregiver friends who’d been in my shoes. After six months of searching, the right decision came from the heart, not an elegant dining room or elaborate “person-based” care model. As scary as it was for both of us, I moved my mother across the country to a memory care home five minutes from the house where my husband and I have lived for the past fifteen years. And now I visit her every day in her new “home,” a cozy suite with a living room, bedroom and her first-ever walk-in closet.

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Stay tuned for more tips and insights at Open Conversations

Want to share a comment or ask a question: openconversations@benchmarkquality.com

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