The Benefit of a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

lovehateIn the past year, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the retirement community my parents selected.

At first, when I learned how much they paid to enter and then were paying monthly to live in an apartment with just meal and cleaning services (its referred to as Independent Living), I wondered why my parents selected this choice.  The numbers were big and they never explained what it meant to buy into this community.

My mom always told me I would never have to worry about them, but as you may have noticed by reading this blog … I’ve spent many years worried for my parents safety and well-being.

As my parents started to exhibit odd public behavior, the retirement community staff noticed. They would visit my parents but did not share that information with us. They were interested in respecting my parents privacy. At one point they suggested I petition the courts for guardianship and conservatorship. My siblings and I weren’t interested in heading down this painful, expensive and very public path.

Eventually, when things got bad enough, the retirement community terminated my parents Independent Living contract and moved them into Assisted Living. It was horrible and difficult but the staff worked with us to manage the transition and now my parents are the happiest I have seen them in years.

As my parents are aging, I am thankful they made this choice. My siblings and I will still be involved and vigilant, but the fact that I could leave for a week and not worry about my parents safety or well-being makes me realize the true value of the CCRC. Appreciated.

AARP’s Summary of a CCRC

Let’s put my frame chopper in the guest bedroom

framemaster-cutting-machine-250x250On the day we communicated that  the town house transferred ownership, my brother and I arrive at my parent’s apartment together. My mom is too aggressive and confrontational to send any one in alone.

We show up and immediately run to the jigsaw puzzle set up in the living room. We started a 1000-piece puzzle a few days ago as an activity we could all do together. While neither of my parents would start a puzzle now, we used to do them when we were younger and it gives us a neutral activity

My mom paces around the room like a caged tiger. She is ready for activity. My dad is happy sitting alongside us and will accept direction. He seems to find a safe harbor from my mom’s agitation.

My mom will come in the room and demand to know where the items from the town house are. We tell her we moved it all into storage and have it labeled. We can arrange to go get anything from storage — what does she want?

“I want my frame chopper. I just got permission to put it into the apartment yesterday and want to move it in here.”

If you haven’t seen one, it’s a pretty large piece of equipment and it belongs in a workshop, not a bedroom. However, this isn’t going to be a reasonable conversation, so we just agree to act on her request. We tell her we will call to have it arranged to be delivered. She demands that we drive her to the storage facility and load it in the back of the car.

We suggest we start measuring to figure out where it will go and where to place it. My mom get’s her yardstick and we talk through the project. We discuss which pieces of furniture that would need to be moved. We offer to move the bureau and put the pictures into the storage unit but my mom does not want help, she just wants to know when the chopper will be moved into the guest bedroom.

We patiently take turns working alongside or repeating the conversation to keep her busy. It is the only topic and activity that seems to bring her peace now. Practiced.

Preface: The forced transition into Assisted Living

timebombSo many things have happened since I got the call that my parents were being terminated from the retirement community. I wanted to write, but was afraid of putting out a series of Tarantino-esque blog posts that did not convey what was happening, make sense or share what we have been learning from this experience.

Before I got the call from the retirement community Executive Director(ED) notifying me that they were going to require that my parents move into Assisted Living, many warning shots were fired. Two months prior the ED and Manager of the Independent Living community requested a meeting with my parents. I also attended. They provided my parents with a list of concerns and suggested that they consider hiring a personal assistant to help them – particularly in the afternoons and early evenings. My parents refused.

After this meeting, enough events had happened that the retirement community made a report to Adult Protective Services (APS).  APS visited several times and did follow-up calls with both myself and brother. APS closed the case since they did not see an immediate danger to my parents or others.

We chose not to pursue guardianship. We were not willing to initiate this court proceeding of which our parents would understand we were declaring them incompetent only to move them into Assisted Living.

There were several events where my parents were disruptive or a concern was raised that they could harm others. My parent’s behavior was getting bizarre in late afternoon. The Independent Living community was not the right fit for my parents any longer.

Their dinner companions, their life-long friends, the retirement community staff and several doctors have all suggested my parents consider getting an aide or moving into Assisted Living. My parents refused or were unable to accept the need to make changes.

The retirement community invoked their right to move my parents into the next level of care. Over the next few weeks, I hope to share what we went through and what we learned. Explained.  

Add the Retirement Community to the List of Concerned Parties

chairWhen my brothers were in town two months ago we met with the staff at the retirement community. We were surprised to learn that their impression is that my dad is in more need of support than my mom.

After my brothers spent several days with my parents, they understand why. My dad has no short-term memory and no real interest in doing anything. They offered to take him to play racquetball and he wasn’t interested. One brother commented that every time they entered a room he would seek out a chair and immediately sit down.

When my dad broke his hip several years ago, he made an amazing recovery because he was in such good physical shape. Within three months, he was back on the racquetball court at the age of 79. He loved to play racquetball but now has no interest in playing.

In our meeting with the retirement community, we are told the concern for our parents is a dignity issue. My dad has been getting very agitated in public and yelling at my mom. We know that on several evenings he has had to be escorted back to their apartment.

We believe my parents need to transition to assisted living, or consider getting a companion, but our parents will not consider any changes to their current set-up.

Independent living is no longer the solution for my parents. They need someone who can help them adapt to the retirement community and to a new schedule so they can make the most of their days. Hoping we can figure out how to make this happen. Challenged.