Making The Transition to Senior Living: One Family’s Story
Transitioning a loved one to senior living can be one of the most emotional and difficult situations a family can go through. A Place for Mom is happy to help families on a daily basis, and one of the wonderful families we had the pleasure of working with was nice enough to share their senior living story.
Sometimes things go right. They just do. Despite the fact there’s a difficult situation, uncertainty and, oh yeah—the trials, emotions and tribulations that go along with transitioning a loved one into senior living. People are not aware of how difficult caring for aging loved ones can be until their family is confronted with the fact that mom or dad can no longer take care of themselves—or just need to be moved into a more fitting care environment. Often times, people are blindsided by what’s involved as roles reverse and the parent becomes the child. It’s in these types of situations when A Place for Mom can help families navigate the uncertain waters of finding and financing appropriate senior care for their loved ones.
The Help of a Senior Living Advisor
Our expert Senior Living Advisors help families every day throughout the United States with these sorts of situations. One such advisor, Jenny Colditz, helped Ann Phillip’s family find a personal care home, Eva and Erma’s House—an ideal match, according to all parties involved—for their mom/grandma, Miss Sarah Seilheimer, age 90.
Read Ann Phillip’s story below to gain insight into how her family confronted the tough realization that it was time to find a new ‘place for mom.’
One Family’s Venture of Finding the Right Place for Mom
by guest author: Ann Phillips
I tried desperately to keep my Mom at her apartment at Christian City (a wonderful place, by the way) because she kept telling me how happy she was and enjoyed the company of her cat. I had senior helpers coming in 4 hours a day to aid her and make sure she got her meals, had regular baths, and got appropriate care. However, it was evident that she was starting to slide; her appetite was dwindling to almost nothing and she fell a couple of times. She would have periods of total ‘out-of-her-head’ experiences at times, which were also tell-tale.
Her last trip to the doctor was the ball that got things rolling. The family doctor really insisted that Mom needed ’round the clock attention,’ and it was time I admitted that to myself. Still, I felt Mom would be totally unhappy if I did, so I hesitated to act or react at that time. Shortly after that visit, however, Mom had a really bad episode involving another fall and irrational actions. I decided to stay with her a few days at this point.
My youngest daughter started researching senior living options on the Internet as she knew how very upset I was with the whole situation. It was she who found a site she decided to try called “A Place for Mom” and completed an application online to see if they could help. In less that 24 hours I received a call from Jenny, and her understanding, compassion, and know-how started us on the path to Eva and Erma’s House.
Jenny was amazing. She knew my Mom’s needs, my needs and our financial abilities. Within hours, she had e-mailed me four possibilities for assisted living homes within miles of my house, which was important for me as I wanted mom to be close. I now realize that Jenny knew my needs at the time better than I did.
Deciding What to Do…
At first I tried to solve the problem by changing the Senior Helper schedule around. Mom’s cat was my biggest concern. However, Jenny had made an appointment for me to visit Jill Cremens, owner at Eva and Erma’s house, and I decided to keep it. Honestly, when I pulled up and saw the house I couldn’t believe it—I was expecting an institution, you know the type—parking lot, people sitting in wheel chairs on the porch, and a shiny sign in the front telling you that you were at an assisted living home.
Instead I pulled up to a 70′s ranch home, no sign, and no wheel chairs anywhere. Jill was charming, enthusiastic and helpful. We sat down and went over how I could make this happen financially, and what the house would do for Mom. She explained the in-house care the residents would receive and gave us a tour through the darling kitchen and lovely home. Truthfully, I was initially very unsure about the transition, but after my talk with Jill, meeting the in-house care giver, and seeing the room where she would live, I realized this was the “perfect” place for mom. So without ever visiting another facility I made the decision that indeed this move was the right decision for all involved. Jill also gave me the fabulous news that the house was pet friendly senior living and that Mom could bring her darling companion, Sugar. All problems solved.
Arranging the Finances…
The next step was to try to arrange the finances. Again, our advisor Jill came to the rescue! She could not have been more helpful in putting in the application to the VA for survivor benefits or working with me to enable me to make the necessary steps for Mom. She even set me up with a lawyer she worked with to do a will, health care directive, and power of attorney. My total cost for Mom having 24/7 care plus 3 meals a day is not much more than I was paying for rent, food and senior helpers at Christian City. I cannot say the move has not put me in financial hardship as Mom only receives social security and a small insurance payment per month, but once the VA benefits are approved, that will all be resolved. The point is, that hardship would exist no matter what, and to see my Mom today is worth any inconvenience I might have had as she is so happy in her new home.
Making the Transition…
I waited until packing day started to tell Mom about the move. I didn’t want to disrupt her routine any more than necessary. She took the news very well, but of course couldn’t remember the details once the conversation had ended. My daughter and I packed, with her watching for 4 days before the trucks came to carry her belongings to Eva and Erma’s. My daughters and I worked together on the move. One took the cat for shots while the loading was going on, then came back to the old apartment to pick up Mom so they would make the trip to their new home together. The other daughter positioned at Eva and Erma’s so she could direct the movers as to where to put the furniture we had chosen for her beautiful room, then took them to my house (now 2 minutes away from Mom’s new home) to store the rest. Then, we all returned to Eva and Erma’s and while Mom sat in her lift chair in the middle of the room, we set up the TV, hung pictures, and filled her drawers with her belongings. Mom was confused, but everything around her was her own, so she wasn’t upset.
For a few days mom asked when I was taking her back home. However, it was clear how much she enjoyed the constant attention of the care givers, and the company of the other ladies that live at Eva and Erma’s. She was used to being alone in her apartment, with her cat by her side, senior helpers for 4 hours, and 20 hours a day of living alone. So at first she stayed in her room with her cat, except for meals watching TV. Very soon however, she started choosing a seat in the living room with the company of the other residents and becoming more social.
Mom loves having company and is spoiled with the constant care. As Mimi says, (mom’s in-house care giver), “Your Mom goes to bed happy and gets up happy in the morning.” When I can’t visit for a couple of days, Jill will write me on Mom’s activities and send me pictures, just to keep me updated. Mom is smiling in every one of them!
Reflecting on the Experience…
I must add at this point, the last time I visited my Mom at her old apartment, and saw how little she was eating, I cried all the way home knowing that this was the beginning of the end. Now, just a month and a half later, I watch with untold joy as Mom gobbles down every bite on her plate, and in between meal snacks. She looks great, acts happy and is now living her own life.
I think that many of us—the children and loved ones of those in Mom’s situation—forget that even though memories and the ability to get around are greatly diminished with age, it’s still important for them to lead their own life. The feeling that we are not doing enough to repay our loved ones for the life they gave us, drives many of us to make decisions that truly may not be the best one for our loved ones or ourselves.
I really feel that by deciding to move Mom to Eva and Erma’s House, her life will be happier, longer and healthier… And so will mine. I hope that by reading my story it will help some of you when making these all important decisions.
Daughter of Sarah Seilheimer, Age 90
Learn more about Eva and Erma’s House by watching this video:
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About the Author
Dana Larsen is a senior living writer at A Place for Mom, the nation’s largest senior care referral service. A Place for Mom helps more than 200,000 families each year find the best assisted living and memory care facilities for their needs and budget across the United States.
Dana is mother to two bright-eyed, zealous children, and is caregiver to a vivacious and quirky 88-year-old grandmother. Her passions include dancing, yoga, traveling, good food and the arts. She graduated with honors from University of Washington with a degree in English and Communications and achieved Technical Communications Certification from Bellevue College. View Dana’s Google Profile.
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