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

We have a meeting with the Executive Director at 11 a.m.

jerkToday is the day when my parents will be told that they are being transferred to Assisted Living. My mom knew she had this appointment with the Executive Director and has been asking me if I think it’s about moving the frame chopper into their apartment. When I arrive today my mom is anxious.

My parents didn’t ask me to accompany them, but the retirement community requires that I’m at this meeting since I hold my parents power-of-attorney. My parents are happy to see me and my mom wants to discuss all the reasons they should be allowed to move the frame chopper into their apartment. We spend some time walking through the measurements again.

I feel like a jerk. I know what’s coming. I sit down and we talk through how the chopper would fit in their guest bedroom. She shares that she’s worried they might be asked to give up the second half of their apartment. They took a 2 bedroom and connected it to a 1 bedroom.

I remind her that they moved into this retirement community because they wanted help managing through the retirement years. The apartment they created and decorated was featured on many of the open houses the community hosts for prospective residents. It is a nice, gracious apartment. She tells me I’m a good talker and I stated that so well, I need to speak on their behalf at the meeting today. Double Jerk!

We have been concerned for my parents safety and enough events have occurred that the retirement community is exercising their right to transition my parents to Assisted Living. My parents have resisted every change or suggestion of change. We knew this would be difficult, so my siblings and I worked with the Executive Director on how to best communicate and make this transition.

I tell my mom that the Executive Director called this meeting and we just need to show up to hear what she has to say. I know I played a role in orchestrating how this news would be communicated and while I know it’s the right decision, the process has made me uncomfortable. Shamefaced.

Your parents agreement with the retirement community is being terminated

telephoneAbout three weeks ago, I got a call that changed everything. The Executive Director from my parents retirement community called to tell me “Your parents agreement with the retirement community is being terminated.”

“What did they pay for when they moved in?” was all that came out.  The Executive Director clarified that they were going to require that my parents moved from Independent Living to Assisted Living — this was really a transfer, not a termination.

Someone mentioned this to me a few months ago. It didn’t register, but now I understand that if a resident is a danger to themselves or others in the community, the community will invoke it’s right to force a resident to make a change. My parents would not (and possibly could not) make the decision to accept live-in support in the Independent Living apartment, nor would they opt for this move on their own.

Enough events have occurred that the retirement community is going to force this transition. So much has happened and we are still moving through this process.

I have many things to share … and hope to be get back to writing.  Engulfed. 

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.

Enter Adult Protective Services … Really

VA APSSeveral weeks ago the retirement community scheduled a meeting with my parents. We all sat down and the staff  shared their concerns about some things they have seen in my parent’s behavior. My parents refute each claim and dismiss each fact. At one point, my dad turns to me and asks if I have seen the things they are saying. I tell him “Yes”.

My parents are living in the “independent” section of the retirement community. The staff asks them if  they plan on moving into the “assisted” section or getting some help if they want to stay in the “independent” section. My parents are appalled by this suggestion.

The meeting ends and the director of the retirement community asks me to stay for a brief conversation. They ask if we are going to pursue guardianship.

My siblings and I were just short of filing the papers when we realized that having the legal right won’t make our parents any more agreeable to the changes that will need to be made. We agreed we would try some other options first — pursing this legal option will be our last resort. My parents will understand what is going on and we hope to figure out other ways to achieve the same ends.

My mom in particular seems to remember things that have a negative emotion — the loss of the cars, where the man lived she did not like. I don’t want to spend the rest of my time with her in a defensive crouch.

The director of the community calls me later to confirm they will be calling Adult Protective Services (APS). Bring it. Readied.

Music and Dementia

Music soothes the savage beast. For my parents, it engages their minds and brings forth happy memories.

I stopped by to visit my parents and I couldn’t find them at their retirement community. When I went to ask if someone saw them get in a cab, I was told “No, they are at the OctoberFest celebration.”

They had forgotten I was going to come by for a visit and were sitting at a table watching the band play  traditional OctoberFest songs. Growing up, my parents didn’t listen to much music unless they were playing it together on a piano. I still can see my dad’s hand-written notes on the dashboard of both car’s restricting radio use if my mom was in the car.

Half-way through the concert, my mom starts clapping and is singing along with one of the tunes. She then starts to talk about when they lived in Germany. Music is reported to improved the memory of those with dementia. It was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

As I sat watching the band, I wondered what type of band would I be enjoying in my 80’s?  At 48, I still love electronic dance music and thanks to XM, it’s on in my car without fail. Humored.

Operation Safety Net: Day 4

My parents managed to stay put in their retirement apartment last night. My brothers called ahead to let them know they were arriving soon and all seemed well. Today they were all meeting with a home care and driving service to see if my parents had any interest or questions for the representative. The meeting went fine, but my brothers had most of the questions.

One of my brothers accompanied the home care representative down to the lobby.  Once they left, my mother immediately started asking my other brother why we were being so hard on them and pushing the driving issues. He reiterated that neither of them could legally drive, loss of insurance and need to be in their retirement community per the recommendations by three different doctor’s over the past six months.

We are still navigating the varied levels of care offered within the retirement community, but today, those choices have to be made or accepted by my parents.  While we have a medical power of attorney, our parents still have the final say.

We believe our parents feel the current turn of events will somehow all blow over and they are waiting us out and will go back to their independent and mobile lifestyle. They cannot recall any of the events leading up to this point, and why they need help so it is a constant daily, hourly, and sometimes a minute-by-minute struggle of irrational logic and sheer forgetfulness over-and-over-and-over. Our mother chooses moments to push back. Our father seems to get it, but stays silent most of the time. Studied.