Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 5, 2013

What’s in the attic?: Time for a change? Part III

Linda Hamer Kennett
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — There was a time, not so long ago, that people lived independently as long as possible and then they either moved to a nursing home or in with their adult children.

The options were limited and the solutions were not always desirable. But all of that changed in the late 1980’s as the concept of “assisted living” became available in the U.S.

“Assisted living”, is simply an adult community for those who need help with some of the activities of daily living. It is not intended for those who need round-the-clock care, but rather for those who have come to find housework, meal preparation, shopping, and transport to appointments a little more than they can handle. It does not come cheap and not all facilities are identical, so be prepared to shop.

Prices range from $1,000 for those on SSI {Supplemental Security Income} to upwards of $5,000 a month for those who have to pay out-of-pocket. In the central Indiana area, the average cost for a couple is in the $2,000 to $2,500 range per month for basic service. Before you start, ask yourself, 1) ”Why is the current living situation undesirable?” and 2} “What daily activities does the person in question need assistance with?” Once you have answered these questions, it’s time to visit a variety of assisted living facilities.

Before you start, prepare a check list. Is the facility licensed? How do they handle medical emergencies? Is there food service set up to allow for special diets? What is the visitation policy? How is the building secured? Is cooking allowed in the apartments? Do they allow pets? Do they allow you to bring your car? There is no “wrong” question to ask. If it is of concern to you it should be of concern to them; and if it isn’t, it’s time to move on to the next place on your list.

All facilities offer a basic package which normally includes rent, utilities, meals, housekeeping, medic alert systems, medical assistance (of varying degrees) on site, and transportation for doctor appointments, shopping, banking and running errands.

It is also common for them to have a program to gradually add to these services as the level of care increases for their residents. The facility that I chose for my parents raised them to a level 2 when it became difficult for them to go to the dinning room for meals. This higher level was an additional $200 a month and covered the cost of menu selection, special diet for my mother’s diabetes and meals delivered to the room. It was a blessing and truly worth the extra money.

It is a good idea to monitor additional services to make certain you are getting what you pay for.

When I helped my aunt find an assisted living facility, we thought it a good idea to add assistance with bathing and dressing to her basic package. One evening I dropped by to see how it was going. Promptly at 9 p.m., a staff member knocked on the door and called out, “bath time, Sweetie,” and then she was gone.

Aunt Helen got up, gathered her night clothes, laid out an outfit for the next day and proceeded in to take a shower. “Isn’t anyone helping her?” I asked my uncle. “Oh yeah, they come back in a little bit and wash her back and hand her a towel,” he replied. That was what she got for $200 a month! Needless to say, I took over bath assistance.

There are so many practical points to consider with assisted living that it is easy to overlook the social aspects. Most assisted living facilities offer church services, bingo, card games, arts and crafts, organized field trips, and a variety of special programs.

During your visit, ask for a schedule of their daily activities. Meal times in the dining room offer yet another opportunity to socialize.

Miss Sharon, the director at my parents’ assisted living, arranged for them to be seated at a table with a couple who shared many of their interests. In a matter of weeks I was hearing about “Bob and Mary” as if they had been friends of Mom and Dad’s for years. Encourage your parents to meet and mingle. Having a friend can go a long way in making this step in life easier.

Once the decision is made and the move is completed, remember to visit. Take the grandkids for an afternoon, drop in for lunch, or join your parents for an evening bingo game. There is nothing that can help to turn an assisted living apartment into a home like the presence of family.

Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-429-7887 or lkennett@indy.rr.com.