I see it frequently
- facilities that proudly tout their services that seem to provide
just about anything and everything a resident could want or
need. Facilities commonly pitch their 'homes' to be exactly
that - homelike. I often see services such as "Chef prepared
meals three times
a day" and "Transportation to and from shopping and
medical appointments" to "Homelike Furnishings and
Atmosphere." All of these are fine and good, but when we
are talking about each individual resident, with widely varying
tastes, preferences and backgrounds - does this really qualify
as making the facility homelike?
Let me try to
elaborate by using one of the most wonderfully quirky people
I have ever known - my mother-in-law.
Unfortunately and sadly,
'mom' passed away this year after a relatively short illness.
Although she never made it into assisted living, she did land
in a skilled nursing facility where she died on May 5th of this
year. She was abruptly moved into this facility after she was
barely able to move, and manage her daily life due to her illness,
and weakness resulting from it.
Leading up to this move,
mom was defiant that she would remain at home as long as possible.
We tried to convince her to move into assisted living, but she
would have none of it. I think that she was afraid of relinquishing
all of those things that made her happy - truly happy, and for
that I completely understand.
Those 'things' weren't
anything monumental. They were simple, unique pleasures that
she looked forward to every day. Things that she believed that
an assisted living environment could not provide within their
generalized set of services and amenities.
Mom loved coffee. She
didn't love just **any** coffee. It had to be coffee from her
local coffee shop on Main street in the town that she lived
in for over 50 years. I've been to this shop, which I think
has been there since the dawn of time, serving what I judged
as being some of the best coffee I had ever had. They roast
their own in a shop that is reminiscent of a 50's ice cream
parlor. The furniture is all antique, and
there is no pretense. They know what they serve is good. Mom
rarely had coffee at this actual shop. Taking it home with her
was just fine, and preferable so she could keep busy and get
on with her day. Occasionally, she'd buy some of their many
chocolate concoctions and send them to family members and grandkids.
Her favorite were the chocolate-covered potato chips. Yes, you
Mom was a professional
list maker. She always had about 3 lists going of all of the
random things she needed to get from various places around town.
Special blueberries from such-and-such store, or her favorite
B-vitamins from the local health food store, to perhaps the
newest inspirational book about how to manage money like a Zen-warrior.
I thought it was funny that every time she got home with her
bounty of the day, she'd immediately start making a list for
the next day.
So, I could understand
her hesitation of giving up her daily routine, and her scavenger
hunt for all of her favorite, familiar pleasures. Items that
really, on an individual level, made her home 'homelike' and
her identity uniquely hers. Would an assisted living or managed
facility be able to provide her all of these treasures? Probably
However, there are alternatives
that should be considered that may be close to the real thing
- if the facility is willing to allow it, and to help.
I do think that half
of the thrill for mom with all of her favorite sundries and
personal items was the 'hunt' itself. Of course, 20 years ago,
this would have been difficult if not impossible to be able
to maintain such an inventory. However, we are now blessed with
being in an age of online possibilities through digital shopping,
and most brick-and-mortar stores have an online presence to
sell their stuff. After doing a quick check of several of mom's
top favorite stores, each one has a website. Even the coffee
shop has one, and although the coffee can't be ordered online,
you can do it by phone. Introducing mom or dad to larger sites
like Amazon or Ebay will likely open up whole new world of hunting
and gathering for personal items, and may also offer a form
of entertainment, and a sense of purpose.
Questions to ask a potential facility:
Can you help mom or dad to shop for their 'special items,' whether
it is in the form of transportation to and from their favorite
shops, or by helping them to find the items online?
Can your chef help to prepare those special items, such as coffee,
snacks or meals?
your facility have a common computer that residents can use
to do their online shopping?
Is there a staff member who can assist mom when she wants to
log in to a site, and to help her type if she has difficulty
Can each resident have their own computer, laptop or tablet
for personal use?
Is there WiFi in the facility, and is there an extra charge
Can you help to monitor mom's internet activity, especially
if she has a memory disorder, or dementia (i.e. make sure she
stays within an allotted budget, or stays on certain sites?)
bring in special, or meaningful items from home, such as a favorite
piece of furniture, or perhaps her beloved Yoga Ball?
Hindsight is 20/20 (cliche, I know), but I wonder how things
might have turned out if we had done more research, and found
a facility that was willing, and enthusiastic about making sure
mom's quirky, unique needs were met. Would she have been more
open to moving before she 'had to?' My biggest regret about
our experience is that since she held out for so long on making
a decision about moving, that when the time came, she had no
choices, and no control over where she would end up. She was
too frail to move once she landed in the skilled nursing facility,
which was not a place that seemed to care much about making
residents 'feel at home.'
For mom, making that
happen would have been pretty easy. A good cup of coffee from
her favorite shop, some good, organic blueberries when they
are in season, and a regular supply of books from her favorite
authors. That's about it. I wish we could have made that happen.
- by David
Besnette - Founder/Editor for Assisted Living Directory