Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Small Rooms = Good Care in Assisted Living = Storage Problem

Facilities with a high level of care tend to have tiny apartments so staff can get to everyone easier. I understand the concept, but residents often move from large homes and have to get rid of most of what they own to move into them. It makes the transition incredibly hard. We need solutions and fast. Here are some of my ideas.
  1. Storage Units:

    Keep units small and in the same area of the building, but sell small storage units for personal belongings. For my mom, it isn't the same if I store her stuff for her. Parkinson's Medicine can cause impulse control, so when she wants her things it is hard for her to wait even an hour let alone a couple of days for them to be delivered.
  2. Better Layout:

    Several assisted living buildings have awkward layouts, for instance one my mom stayed in had long halls (with large units) that didn't connect. If a staff member had to get from the end of one hall to the end of the other, then it was a five minute walk. Her current building has smaller rooms all arranged in a circle. Someone could run halfway around the circle in a minute.
  3. More Staff:

    No matter what the layout, with enough staff you can get to call buttons within minutes no excuses. Most assisted livings are for profit organizations that worry about the bottom line more than increasing the quality of life for your loved one. However, if doing so will bring in more money, then they do it. The concern from management is more often insincere and leads to staffing issues.
  4. Change The Law:

    The current laws are not protecting the elderly sufficiently. Facilities should be staffed enough so that residents can expect help within 5 minutes of using their call buttons and receive medicine within 15 minutes of the physician assigned time. Currently, the law allows a two hour window for medicine. For Parkinson's patients reliant on their medications that sentences them to a more expensive skilled nursing unit that they may not otherwise need. 
  5. Enforce Laws:

    Even the current meager laws are not enforced. When facilities are reported the fee to keep their accreditation should be hefty enough for them to consider hiring another staff member as cheaper.
Why can't people just get rid of stuff? For those without dementia, they need hobbies to keep themselves busy. My mom has several bookcases full of books, several storage bins of letters and pictures she wants to sort through, bins of fabrics, a sewing machine, an ironing board and iron necessary for sewing, yarn, knitting equipment, painting supplies, and more. Self directed hobbies are much more meaningful, then attending a group activity.

Introduction -- My Story

My mom was diagnosed over 20 years ago with Parkinson's Disease. For many years she lived independently with no problem. When she had her DBS or deep brain stimulation unit implanted things started to change. She had to quit her job or risk getting fired. She had a few car accidents and because many are not Parkinson's aware was accused of being under the influence. She stopped driving. When I visited her for the holidays, her house always needed cleaned. She was struggling, but even then I didn't know how badly. She had several brain surgeries and a friend from church came and stayed with her. Mom thought all her problems would be solved if she just had a roommate, so I after the friend left I found one for her.

She still needed help and I called around and got an emergency service to come in. They provided several services including a caregiver three days a week. The caregivers took advantage of her situation. My mom needed more help. Luckily, she contacted a real estate agent who specialized in situations like her own and she suggested my mom move out and have the house repainted before selling.

Without any family, only with the help of church members, my mom was able to get rid of a good 3/4 of her belongings. A moving company sent her belongings to me in Omaha, where I had already bought and prepared a townhouse for her. I intended to have everything unpacked before she arrived a week later with my aunt, who was escorting her to Omaha, but she had so much STUFF that it was impossible. Plus, most everything was grimy and had to be cleaned. When she got here, I realized her condition was far more advanced than I originally thought. It was true I had skipped a Christmas and hadn't seen her for over a year, but she also was good at hiding how things really were for her. Most of her clothing was stained and needed washed. Time went on and it was more and more apparent that she needed 24/7 care.