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Senior living checklist: Understanding your options

This article is Sponsored by LifeStream Complete Senior Living

Care Options for Senior Living

JAYME: I’m Jayme West from Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR. We’re going to go a little deeper into our conversation about Senior Care for Mom and Dad.

Donna Taylor from Lifestream Complete Senior Living is here, and in Part 1 we were talking about how to start that conversation…but now what? How do I know what type of care my parents need? It seems like there’s so many options I don’t know where to start.

Staying independent

DONNA:  Well, remembering that we’re always going to start from the place of, “What does Mom or Dad want?” I will acknowledge that our industry of Senior Living can be a complicated and confusion one so I think it would be helpful to talk about some of the “terms” briefly.

So, if Mom says, “I want to stay in our home,” Home Care is something we would talk about. Home Care is this world where caregivers can come in and provide support and services to help Mom or Dad age in place. It could be a long-term sustainable or for a short period of time.

Let’s say now that a retirement home is an option that we’d like to pursue. So, we think about things like Independent Living. You’ll hear a lot of us talk about Independent Living in the world of retirement communities and it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s independent. It could be an apartment, a garden home, or even a single-family home, but it’s in a retirement community that also brings with it other supportive services like transportation, dining services, perhaps some engagement activities that bring more meaning to Mom and Dad’s life.

JAYME: So there’s the answer to that question of “how do I get to church or the doctor’s appointments,” right?

DONNA: Absolutely. Like we talked about [in Part 1], if transportation is going to go away, if driving is going to go away, then transportation [solutions] are important.

Assisted Living | when it’s time for a little extra help

The next area that we would talk about in retirement communities is Assisted Living. It is, in Arizona, a very broad topic/service that can bring lots of good assistance to Mom and Dad. So with things like medication management or assistance with hygiene, or meeting the need for three meals a day. And for somebody to be there 24 hours a day to at least keep an eye on things, that is considered Assisted Living.

JAYME: Would they actually live with them in their apartment or room? Or it would be somebody that’s onsite?

DONNA: Great question, Jayme. Assisted Living is typically going to be in an apartment or it might be a suite in a building. There are lots of different styles out there. But the idea is that it’s still Mom or Dad’s own space. But there is a caregiver-or probably multiple caregivers-and nursing staff that is lending support and taking care of medical needs. That would also include, perhaps, cognitive support.

So that’s where we steer off into a subset of Assisted Living called Memory Support or Memory Care. It’s sort of a newer thing coming into our marketplace. Lifestream has been doing it for 30-some years, but there’s a lot of conversations now around memory support—largely because the numbers around those being diagnosed with dementia are so shocking and it’s continuing to be on the rise. Every 66 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Memory Care | beyond the basics with skilled support

JAYME: I remember how difficult it was when we were trying to find care for my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. It was only 25 years ago, but we were trying to find a place that could provide care for her because my grandfather couldn’t do it. Anybody who’s ever had somebody in their family or knows somebody with Alzheimer’s will understand how difficult it could be for the spouse to be the caregiver in that situation. It was surprising how few places were available that gave that kind of care.

DONNA: That is, thankfully, not true today. There are lots of options out there for memory care now. They are designed to offer the least restrictive environment while still supporting those things that are related to a cognitive decline. Sometimes cognitive comes in-line with a physical decline so you’re dealing with both sides of it. Sometimes it’s just cognitive, I think that’s sometimes harder because you’re dealing with somebody who looks like they’re healthy and well, but unfortunately, they have some cognitive deficiencies now and that requires some support.  In our industry, in the world of Senior Living, we’re going to call that Memory Support or Memory Care.

From there, we head to the next level of care, which is in skilled nursing centers. There are two arms of care that happen in a skilled nursing center. There’s long term care–which we would think of as more of custodial care. That can be for cognitive things, it could be the physical things, or it could be a combination of both. These are folks who require more robust nursing support, 24 hours a day. They are medically complex, or their cognitive decline has continued down the pathway where they need more support. [All of that] happens in a skilled nursing center.

There’s also this other subset in skilled nursing centers called Short-Term Rehab. That is where somebody goes in-patient to receive physical, speech, or occupational therapy following something like a stroke or a hip surgery.

JAYME: Alright, so we’re talk to Donna Taylor from Lifestream Compete Senior Living. So many options out there. How do you choose which one is the best one for your parent? Who helps you figure out where they would fit best?

You know your options…but how do you choose?

DONNA: At Lifestream, we have a team of advisors who can help you think through what those options are. We also offer resources that can at least help you start thinking about “are they able to still function in Independent Living?” A lot of people, that’s where they start. Oftentimes, what people tell me after they moved into Independent Living, is they wish they hasn’t waited quite so long to leave their home to come into Independent Living.

JAYME: I guess it does offer a lot of the freedoms—when you’re talking about transportation being provided, you don’t have to worry about keeping a vehicle and all of the maintenance that goes with that. They have transportation that is provided, you’ve got housekeeping services, you’ve got activities where you are socializing with other people…I can understand why people would say that to you.

DONNA: I think they just find that maintenance-free lifestyle as probably something they hadn’t thought about. [For them] It’s like, “I don’t have to worry about the sprinklers in my backyard or the roof on my house. I’m living in a community that is now taking care of that for me.”

JAYME: Wait, what’s the minimum age for one of those communities? That sounds really good!

DONNA: [laughs] It’s 55+.

JAYME: Alright well finding a pace for Mom and Dad is wonderful, but how are we going to pay for this?  This is one of the questions I’m going to asking Donna in Part 3 of the Senior Living Checklist…when we talk about the decision time, and which is the right one.

About the Organization:
LifeStream Complete Senior Living has a 40-year legacy of serving Seniors. As a faith-based, nonprofit organization, they offer a complete spectrum of accommodations and services for the Senior adult community in the greater Phoenix area. LifeStream has four unique communities across the valley, with a variety of living arrangements and services including Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Long-term Skilled Nursing and Short-term Rehabilitation.