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      Helpful Guidance on Understanding Senior Living Options


      When I got into the healthcare industry years ago I began my career at Brookdale Place retirement community. I had no idea how very traumatic and overwhelming the decision to place a family member into an assisted-living or memory care or even independent living could actually be. A Large number of the calls I would receive from sons and daughters inquiring about apartments for their loved ones would generally start out with: "Tim I really have no idea what memory care is but I think that's what mom may need. Can you explain that to me?"Or I would get a call where someone would say "Can you please help me? I was given your name as someone who can help me with this and I'm so overwhelmed I don't really know anything about retirement communities."I have heard"My dad is being discharged from rehab in five days and they told me he may need assisted living. If you can help me I think I need to go see some facilities and I need to know if any rooms are available."

      It was always so sad to me how troubled they felt and what a loss they were for how to proceed. Quite often people I would speak with would become very emotional and some would start to cry over the thought of placing their mom or dad in a retirement community even though it was a very nice one. I learned early on that this decision for a family is most important and life-changing... especially for the parent or grandparent who would be moving in.

      Two of the most common life events or "triggers" as we would say in the industry that would cause families to consider this move are falls and the death of a spouse. Most of the couples in the generation we're discussing that would be making this move have generally been married to each other between 45 to 70 years. The bond of lifelong love that has been developed is very strong and very real and takes a massive mental and physical toll on the surviving spouse. Quite often depression will set in but most of these great seniors seem to just want to "internalize" their feelings and just try and deal with things as best they can.

      However, if the family can be proactive in getting with Mom or Dad, or the surviving grandparent, and discuss the idea of moving into a retirement community early, the positives generally always outweigh the negatives. If for example, independent living or assisted living is the option… two meals a day are generally provided in independent living and three in assisted living. Housekeepers come in weekly and clean the room. There are plenty of social activities daily, along with transportation provided to the grocery store, doctor visits, and church....depending of course on the distance. In assisted living, medications will be given to the resident by an LPN or RN and there will also be staff in the building that can be called on to help in any type of emergency situation.

      If the trigger to move is a fall or falls, the same amenities await, but generally a stay in a rehab is best for a while to get better before actually moving into the retirement community. Once the rehab is complete, Birmingham is home to many great retirement communities that can provide independent living, assisted living, and memory care, and may also provide skilled nursing also known as nursing home care.

      The care manager in conjunction with the medical staff at the rehab will be able to give some direction as to which "level of care" they feel would be most appropriate. For example, they could help advise the benefits of assisted living versus memory care. Once a level of care direction has been established, retirement communities that provide those services or "care levels" can be contacted for tours.

      Even if you get resistance or pushback from your parents or grandparents, who would potentially be moving in, always remember, in most cases if either a fall or falls occur,  or death of a spouse, the retirement community offers a very solid and positive option for families who find themselves facing these circumstances.

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