doc daughter imageYou know it’s important to build your support network when you’re caring for aging parents. But, did you realize that over the years, you will have to re-engage, rebuild and continually nurture that network?  That fact hit home in a big way for me over the past few months.

My mother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer a year ago.  After surgery, radiation and ongoing chemo, she declared that she would “fight ‘it’ to the end.”  We were thrown into a world of new specialists.  We often found ourselves on what seemed to be a medical rollercoaster.  Despite each new challenge, I still thought I had a great support network in place.  I was so wrong.  And it all came to a head in January.  I hope my “lessons learned” will help you in your caregiving journey. [click to continue…]

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mother and 2 daughtersI’ve been off the grid for 6 months as I served as Executive Director (ED)/Administrator for a brand new Memory Care Assisted Living facility in Indiana.  We opened on Feb 8th and 4 weeks later, I found myself back in Maryland caring for my mother who is struggling with cancer. 

As I reflected on my role as ED/Administrator and as ‘caregiver daughter’ to my mother, I thought of several key tips that would help families as they contemplate a move to Assisted Living.  Know that there is an increasing need for Assisted Living these day, and you will likely find many new facilities popping up in your area.  It is critical that you do your due diligence before making the selection for your loved one.

The following are truly insider tips I hope they help you and your family.

As you are visiting Assisted Living facilities, ask if the facility is licensed by the State.  Unlike nursing homes, ‘private pay’ assisted living facilities are regulated by the state in which they are located.  Regulations vary widely by state, but know that “licensed” is a minimum of what you are looking for.  Licensed means that on a regular basis, an objective surveyor team from the State will come into the facility and ensure regulations are being met.

Ask to see the state license for the Assisted Living community and verify that it is active.  Then I suggest you call your State Ombudsman and ask what kinds of inquiries or concerns other families have reported to them.

NOTE:  If you intend to use long term care insurance, the facility must be licensed.  Do not make the mistake of moving your relative in before a facility is licensed.  The insurance will not pay and you will be responsible for all costs during the unlicensed period!!!

Ask to see the list of those serving on the Board of Directors.  Some states do not require a Board of Directors.  A BIG red flag should go up if there is no Board of Directors.  You will have to carefully question and determine who holds the power and who makes the decisions.  Do not assume it is the licensed administrator (ED.)

Ask to see the nursing schedule (at least for the past, current and upcoming months.)  Do not simply ask what the caregiver ratio is.  You may be told what the goal ratio is … but you need to know what the actual staffing is.  Ensure there is a nurse (LPN/RN) on duty at all times.

Absolutely visit the facility during all shifts.  Come and have breakfast and observe the early morning routines.  Come during late afternoon and see how the residents are cared for when they are tired and hungry.  And, finally, ask if you can come at midnight to speak with the night nurse and observe for an hour.  The answer should be, “certainly you may visit then.”

Remember you are “the customer”, and you have the right and responsibility to find the best fit for your loved one.  If you have other tips to share with families, please visit my Facebook page (“Transition Aging Parents”) and post there for all to see.   Thank you!!!

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The Red Suitcase: “a mother-daughter movie about new beginnings”

November 24, 2013

How many of us have been transformed by an indelible experience with our aging parent? Filmmaker Dana White brings her road-trip story to life. Her film is a “tribute to her mother for being an inspiration and for having the strength to know it is never too late to start again.”

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Traveling with Alzheimer’s disease

November 3, 2013

Thomas Stern’s grandmother, Nati, taught him a lot about the ins and outs of “dementia-travel.” In this guest post, Thomas shares some ‘lessons learned’. Don’t let dementia prevent your loved one from experiencing the joy of travel and enhancing their quality of life.

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Aging in a Compassionate Community

September 22, 2013

Can you remember the last time you were the recipient of compassionate caring? What did it look like? How did it feel?
It’s exciting to know a group of professionals, members of The Michiana Gerontology Institute of Holy Cross College, plan to focus on compassion in a daylong conference on October 23 2013 at Holy Cross College, Notre Dame, Indiana. Professionals as well as the general public are invited to register for the conference.

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A Simple but Lasting Gift for your Aging Parent

September 2, 2013

It seems that most of us, caring for an aging parent, are dealing with some form of chronic disease. Thanks to a dear friend, I found the key to regaining choice and control … when for the past 9 months, my mother and I were controlled by cancer. It has nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with what is most important to my mother.

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Aging parent? Not All ‘Cancer Centers’ Are Created Equal!

August 27, 2013

I’ve been a caregiver for over 5 years now, and I still get things wrong. I falsely assumed that any medical facility that had the name “Cancer Center” (and was associated with a leading hospital) would provide integrated, holistic care to its cancer patients. Wrong!!!! Hopefully, you can learn from my mistake!

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Honoring Elders on first-ever ‘National Second Wind Dreams Day’ – September 7, 2013

August 18, 2013

People from all walks of life will soon celebrate the journey of aging and honor those who prove every day that AGING ROCKS! when they visit an eldercare community on the first-ever National Second Wind Dreams Day. September 7, 2013.

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Aging Parents? How to Research and Compare Nursing Homes

June 23, 2013

70 percent of Americans will need a form of long-term care at some point in their lives. Given that the cost of and demand for nursing home care is rising, it’s a good idea for seniors and caregivers to think ahead. Here are 4 major criteria to consider in your selection process. Your decision-making can make all the difference in quality of care for your loved one!

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Explosive Growth of Gerontology Consortium of Michiana Demands Creation of New Institute

May 9, 2013

The Gerontology Consortium of Michiana (Notre Dame, Indiana) has grown to include over 100 organizations and individuals whose focus is on the local senior community. The growth has enabled the consortium to partner with and become an institute of Holy Cross College: Michiana Gerontology Institute (MGI). You’re invited to attend our Ribbon-Cutting.

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