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Pacing Yourself

I have started the process of researching memory care centers for my 92-year-old mother.

As you might imagine, not fun.

Ironically, I have begun the process not because she is not doing reasonably well in her current home care situation, but because I am working to conserve her funds to be able to support her for perhaps quite a few more years. (It is becoming increasingly clear that longevity runs in our family!)

So, yes, it’s about the money. (Another rant for another day!)

Anyway, here’s a rundown on how it’s been going.

  • I have probably visited about 10 or so centers. The drill is pretty much the same.

  • I show up (unannounced – because the “experts” say to do this so you see how things “really” are).

  • The receptionist has me take a seat and then makes the call to the person who is going to be my tour guide (usually a marketing-type person).

  • I take a seat in a sitting area that almost without exception looks like grandmother’s living room, circa 1975 (think dark wood, pastoral framed oil paintings, dried flower arrangements – this is not an exaggeration).

  • I take “the tour” and ask questions.

The tour, of course, is the purpose of the visit. Once you get past the lobby, the fountain, the aquarium, the comfy chairs, you get to the center itself. And that is all pretty typical. A reasonably sized “bedroom” with an orthopedic-looking bathroom, a window, and an individually thermostat-controlled heating/ac unit. A nurses’ station. A dining section where everyone eats. A kitchen. Sometimes a hair salon, a garden, a separate activity area.

Then my tour guide and I retreat to his or her office for the marketing brochure hand-off, an explanation of the pricing structure, and an assurance to call anytime with questions. That’s it!

Not quite.

  • I leave, get in my car, and floor it to the nearest Starbucks for a well-deserved extra-hot chai tea latte!

What happens next? There have been the occasional follow-up calls from almost all the centers and a series of pesky email and voicemail messages from one care center in particular urging me to take advantage of their “4th-month free rent offer before it expires.” (That center was immediately taken off the list!)

So now I am stuck in that deciding stage. Yes, I have checked out the state compliance reports. Yes, I have sought out recommendations. Yes, I have made follow-up phone calls. Yes, I have considered placement services (those “free” services that know all about “places for mom” and get paid through the center that they successfully refer).

Bottom line? There is no easy answer. But then, you probably already knew that.

Believe it or not, this post is not about how to research a care facility for your elderly loved one – although I hope you maybe find it just a little helpful – or at least enlightening!

The point of this post is that, although a significant stage in the caregiving journey, this is still just one stop on what is for most people a very long road. I know that even after this decision is made, there will still be many more decisions, many more stops along the way.

Whether you’re already overseeing the care of your elderly loved one, or just contemplating helping out a parent or grandparent, remember this: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Pace yourself accordingly.

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