Jul 1, 2016 • Provision Living at West County • By: Katy Rice
As Provision Living began to contemplate launching a new kind of senior living community that focused on making memory care part of the overall community’s approach to assisted living service, we started hearing more and more stories that reinforced our sense of purpose and direction. For instance, as my own mom got older, I was slow to notice how helping her out had become such a big part of my life. Sometimes I would use my lunch break for a visit or to run an errand for her, and the weekend trips to her house were a chance for my kids to spend time with their grandmother. But as mom’s limitations accumulated, it got harder for me to be there every time she needed me.
Meanwhile, I was becoming more concerned about her being alone in her house. More than once she looked surprised to see me at her door even though I had told her when I’d be over, and there were times when she seemed to forget what we were talking about in the middle of a conversation. At some point I realized that visiting mom had become “checking on” her. She noticed the difference as well—we didn’t talk about it, but it hovered over every conversation we had.
For most people, the changes that come with advancing age drive the transition to a new living arrangement. It’s difficult to acknowledge that as an elder’s needs grow, the stress on the entire family builds. Elders are our parents and grandparents, so we aren’t just “willing” to do things to help make their lives more comfortable—we enjoy it. And even though we understand that physical and cognitive changes are inevitable, planning for them can seem like an admission of defeat. So we react instead of taking charge. We let the changes set the agenda and the timetable.
Home certainly is where the heart is, and it is generally the best place for your parent to be, but at some point it may not be feasible or desirable for your parent to stay in their home. They might not want to care for such a large house anymore. They may be isolated and lonely living alone. Their confusion or medical needs may be too extensive for independent living. It’s a major turning point for everyone involved. For your parent, it may feel like losing their independence and privacy. It may represent a final move, which can be sad. For you, it’s a time of doubt, worry, and guilt. Most people have more trouble talking about changing homes than anything else. So we avoid having the important discussion and wait for the crisis.
For our family, the turning point was last May, when mom asked about my vacation plans. I tried to be nonchalant when I told her we were going to skip the annual trip to the beach this year, but she knew exactly why we weren’t going. “This isn’t what I want,” she said.
And so we began exploring care options. Looking back, I regret that we waited so long to begin gathering information. Neither of us wanted to face this, so we hadn’t. I really wish we had started looking earlier, when mom’s memory was better—before my concern for her safety had turned to real fear.
Why do family members feel they have failed when an elder requires assistance beyond what they can provide? The realization can come after years of unselfishly giving time and energy to help, yet it still brings guilt and worry. Often, the feeling of failure is the result of confronting what the entire family had tried to avoid until the last possible moment: People have an idea of what assisted living is, and it scares them.
The first facility I toured had been around as long as I could remember. It was at the outer edge of our price range but had a good reputation. What I saw there was what I expected, for better or worse: clean, well-organized, with a friendly staff—but definitely more like a hospital than a home. The bedrooms were down a long hallway with a nurses’ station at one end and a large dining area at the other. The meal menu, the daily schedule, and the weekly activities were all posted on walls and printed on laminated sheets. I learned that the staff was educated on best practices for fall prevention, bathroom safety, medication administration, and so on. I guess I would describe it as a great place to get medical and physical needs met and to minimize safety concerns.
It shouldn’t surprise us that safety and activities of daily care are the primary considerations for traditional assisted living facilities. It’s usually the reason that elders and their families consider assisted living in the first place. But even when it becomes necessary to trade some of our independence for safety and care, we should drive a hard bargain.
Safety is the opposite of danger; it isn’t the opposite of autonomy, or spontaneity, or freedom. Challenges like physical decline and cognitive impairment can force us to re-examine what we can do on our own, but we shouldn’t give up a single activity or lifestyle choice that brings us happiness unless we honestly believe we have to.
After my tour I thought about how I was going to describe the place to mom. It wasn’t going to be easy. I didn’t have a specific complaint that would justify how unhappy I was with the thought of mom living there. It was exactly what I thought a good facility should be, but I knew if mom were to move in tomorrow, from that point forward her life would be nothing like what it had been before. A new routine, new food, new activities, and a new purpose: be safe. I couldn’t convince myself that she would be happy there, because I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I were in her place. Could mom adjust to it? Maybe—but what I wanted was a place that would adjust to her instead.
At Provision Living, this is exactly what we provide: an environment that adjusts and grows with each family we serve. We believe that everyone who joins us brings with them their dignity, their individuality, and a unique life story that we want to hear and be part of. Our primary focus is to provide an excellent quality of life and to minimize the safety risk as much as possible while supporting the elder’s choices. We’re building a community for the elders we serve today, but also for ourselves—the elders of tomorrow.
Our social model creates an environment where each elder can experience their unique personhood and maintain their life force. In our home, elders direct their daily lives.
The focus of the social model way of care is to create activity that is life engaging and meaningful in the moment. Everything that is done is geared toward relationship building between elders, families and team members. All attention is placed on each individual’s quality of life.
Our team members are educated to the needs of people living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia. Each neighborhood has their own team of dedicated support companions whose goal is to become intimately familiar with the elders. These dedicated support companions will ensure that the elders’ choices, needs and desires are met to the best of their ability.
Our associates are committed to supporting the choices, needs and desires of every resident, as well as those of our residents’ family members. We provide families with support coordinators who function as personal advisors and single points of contact. We will assist your family in choosing the right type of care and provide ongoing support and regular communication to ensure care levels are adjusted as needed, over time.
If you have noticed signs of memory impairment in a loved one and don’t know where to turn, Provision Living is here to help. Our trained experts can take the guesswork that families endure when an aging loved one’s capabilities begin to change.
Provision Living’s team of experienced, St. Louis-based elder care professionals will assess your family’s needs, connect you with local services and resources, and provide education and strategies to help your family develop the care plan that best fits the needs of your elder, while also caring for yourself.
Call Provision Living’s team today to schedule a confidential consultation: (314) 384-3654.
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