Downsizing our lives
Boomers need help dealing with their parents’ ‘stuff’ | Business & Technology | The Seattle Times. The attached article by Sacramento Bee reporter, Claudia Buck, provides sage and practical advice for those who are downsizing a parent’s belongings when said parents move into a senior housing environment, and for those who are dispersing the parental belongings after their death. Please read Ms. Buck’s article; it contains extremely useful information.
The following list gleaned from the article provides a few suggestions worth your consideration:
- When you set out to eliminate stuff from a residence, don’t get rid of the memories in the process. Once you’ve dispensed with the goods, you’ll never get them back again. My mother died in her sleep – no one in the family expected it or prepared for it. After the funeral event had passed and my brother and sister had returned to Washington and California, I remained to help my father with a massive downsize of his house. There were obvious sentimental items that were boxed up for later, but for the most part, we stuffed large Hefty bags with items and placed them into two piles: donation-worthy, and garbage. Not a bad idea, actually, but we didn’t pause long enough to properly discern what should have been kept. With both parents now deceased, us three adult kids have far too few tactile sentimental items in our possession.
- Creating a shadowbox of the most precious mementos. Having read the attached article, I’ve decided to create a shadowbox of the few items remaining from my parents’ lives so I can reminisce at the sight of them. One thing is for certain: containers full of sentimental nick nacks stacked in a closet do not honor a memory.
- If you absolutely know that some of the nicer items will not be enjoyed by your household, give them away or donate them so others can. Look at it this way, your and your parents’ legacies will live on in the lives of others. Not a bad consolation if I do say so myself.
If at all possible, prior to any parent’s death, document the items that are meaningful to each family member. You’ll be glad you did. Within three months of my mother’s death, my father moved into an independent living senior community taking with him the bare necessities of furniture and kitchen items, as well as the aforementioned sentimental items that he and I had boxed up earlier. As he aged, he wisely decided that the next time each of us kids visited him, we would designate which items we would most like to inherit at his passing. Dad documented our wishes, and when he died all I had to do was retrieve the list from his files and distribute that which us three kids were interested in. Sure, conflicts can arise, but a little give and take go a long way towards preserving the value of each memory.
- Speaking of taking steps in advance, what about you? Do you have clothing you haven’t worn in more than a year and probably won’t wear in the years to come? How about household items for which you have duplicates? Is there any chance whatsoever that over the years you’ve acquired items that could be re-purposed, donated, or tossed?
I’d say with 100% confidence that you have belongings that you no longer use or need.
Donating to charity is very commendable because it’s always a good thing to provide for those who don’t have the means.
And just think of all the room you’ll gain in your closets once you’ve successfully downsized your life by adding to the lives of others.
Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 6
In yesterday’s post, a Seattle Police Detective defined elder abuse as:
- sexual abuse
- physical abuse
- financial exploitation
In Part 6 of Seniors for Sale: Placement perils and successes, Michael Berens, Seattle Times reporter, delves into the senior housing placement industry, focusing on one placement company that placed a client in a Tacoma-area Adult Family Home (AFH) with a history of safety and health violations – elder abuse – even a fatal event, but because the placement company had not done its research, it was not aware of the home’s previous infractions and kept placing unknowing vulnerable adults in the home’s care.
Many of these placement service companies operate state-wide and/or nation-wide, and believe that there is no way that they can help as many people as they do if they are required to visit each and every home/assisted living option available to the public that they are trying to assist. These companies are oftentimes characterized as Bed Brokers – an industry that is growing exponentially without much scrutiny or State controls.
CAVEAT: Just as in every assisted living situation – there are good senior housing options and there are bad senior housing options – so too there exist reputable senior placement companies, and not-so-reputable placement companies.
I personally think that these companies can be helpful to those looking for a senior housing option that suits their, or their loved one’s, needs. I caution those using these agencies, however, to understand that not every option out there is listed with placement companies. If a senior housing company does not choose to be listed with a placement service company, that option will not be offered, even if that particular housing option might be the very best choice for some families: cost-wise, location-wise, and even service-wise.
In a news update, Michael Berens’ article, State gets tough on referrals for elder care, we see that attention is now being directed at these placement referral companies in the hopes that those they serve – vulnerable adults in need of some sort of daily care – are protected from those companies who are simply aiming to make a profit at the most vulnerable time in an elder’s life.
As I mentioned in previous articles found in my blog category, Senior Housing, there are numerous resources available for those looking for senior housing for themselves or a family member. Please go to that category and type in a search term in the space located on the right-hand side of the page to find the topic that interests you most.
Adjustment disorder: a long-term care facility side-effect.
Think of a moving/relocating experience you’ve had with all of its inherent tasks of purging of items, packing what remains, and leaving all that is familiar as you move into uncharted territory. In your new neighborhood you’re starting all over again to find: new friends; a new supermarket with the best deals; perhaps the best school(s) for your children; a new church; and new ties to the community. Not exactly an enjoyable experience. It took you some time to adjust to your new community and feel that you fit in, didn’t it?
Now imagine doing the same thing as someone who is at least 70 years old with failing health, no family nearby, and perhaps with a compromised cognition level. Vulnerable adults move into a long-term care (LTC) housing environment because of a condition, or combination of conditions, that make living independently no longer an option. Because of this disruptive move, another disorder – adjustment disorder – makes their move a perilous one.
A loss of context in a new environment. In my work as an advocate for vulnerable adults, I had the privilege of hearing a wonderful speaker, George Dicks. At the time, Mr. Dicks supervised the Geriatric Psychiatry Service clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA. He was also a contracted instructor for the University of Washington, teaching courses on Gerontology, Psychiatric Consultation, and Mental Health. He emphasized that residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities struggle to look for context within their new environment. For example, context is hard to come by when your daily bath occurs at 2:00 in the afternoon instead of in the morning or evening as was the case prior to the move. And forget about finding comfort in routine because the demands on LTC staff are such that caring for numerous residents on their shift can’t possibly assure a routine on which the residents can rely.
Just providing care doesn’t mean that a staff person is caring. Everyone who moves into a long-term care facility will have difficulties, but those who are cognitively impaired face an especially arduous adjustment. As I previously mentioned, staff are hard pressed to provide individual care to their residents, and oftentimes are poorly prepared to handle the disorders that walk through the door. Just getting through their daily shift is troublesome so trying to learn the habits and routines that are so vital for quality of life of the resident with dementia is a very time-consuming task.
Quite frequently, the only contact a staff person has with a resident is when they are making demands of that resident: “time to take your medicines Mrs. Jones;” “let’s get that soiled clothing changed Mr. Smith;” “open your mouth Mrs. Clark so I can feed you.” Providing for basic needs is not providing care. Why? Because the staff are requiring something of the resident. There is no connection. When a staff person interacts with a resident, absent a provision of care, that’s a better definition of care.
How to lessen the effects of adjustment disorder. Those living in a long-term care housing situation oftentimes feel as though they left all their power, and all of their basic human rights, at the door. They are constantly surrounded with reminders of their condition – all those other residents who look as lost and helpless as they do – and it seems that the only time anyone pays attention to them is when someone is demanding something of them in the form of providing some sort of assistance with their care needs. If every staff person spent just five minutes of non-task-oriented time with each resident during their shift, those residents just might start feeling better about themselves.
- Walk with a resident for a few minutes by simply accompanying them in the hallway and reassuring them along the way.
- Play music the residents like in the common areas and in their rooms – and don’t assume that you know what they like to hear. Take the time to find out what gets their feet tapping.
- When you walk past a resident, greet them, smile at them, just as you would if you were in a social environment instead of a clinical environment. Again, do so even when you’re not providing a care service. Your friendly, heart-felt greeting may just make their day.
- Start a dialogue with residents that allows them to open up to you about who they are; what their lives were like prior to arriving at the facility. If you need to jot down some of their stories so you’ll remember them later, do so and continue the dialogue the next time you see them. Wouldn’t it be a pleasant surprise to a resident when you asked them, “Tell me more about your grandson Charlie. He seems like a real character!” Wow – you were actually listening, and it shows. Now you’re connecting with the resident.
If you are a staff person in a long-term care facility, can you put your grandma or grandpa’s face on your patients/residents faces thereby having a greater incentive to connect with those receiving your care? Or if that doesn’t work for you, do what you must in order to add an element of care to those you serve. Just because you’re helping the resident perform a task, doesn’t mean that you’re providing the care that they really need.
Avoiding the pitfalls of selecting Senior Housing.
You’re patting yourself on the back, congratulating yourself for:
- finally deciding that it’s time to move into Senior Housing; and
- deciding which type of long-term care (LTC) option suits your needs.
Now what? You’re scared to death because of the abhorrent negative press you’ve read regarding certain types of Senior Housing. Good for you – you should be! There are ways to make your selection a more trustworthy one. What follows will hopefully weed out the bad eggs, but there is absolutely NO guarantee the decision you make is 100% sure.
WORD OF MOUTH
Chances are that those similar to you in age – your friends, work associates, neighbors – have looked into or are currently looking into Senior housing options and they can be a very worthwhile resource. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share their experiences with you and you’ll certainly do the same with others as their needs become known to you. Better yet – if you know of someone who already lives in a LTC facility, visit them to discern what they think about their own choice.
HOUSING SEARCH RESOURCES
- Check out your state’s Aging & Disability Services Administration department (linked here is Washington State’s ADSA.) You really can’t go wrong checking out your State’s services for the Senior population. These resources usually have links to long-term care facility research tools, such as the Assisted Living section of my local state’s ADSA. No doubt your State’s Aging & Disability department will have similar links. If you’re looking for retirement communities that involve totally independent living, or a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), an all-care type of residential model mentioned in my previous blog “Selecting a Senior Housing Community”, your search will be less informational because most States do not license retirement communities.
- STATE INSPECTION SURVEY. All licensed facilities in the United States are inspected/surveyed every 12 – 18 months. This survey is quite thorough and covers absolutely EVERY aspect of a facility’s operations. When you tour a facility, always ask to look at a copy of that building’s latest State Survey. By law they must make it available to anyone who asks. I don’t think I would ever consider a Senior housing option without reading the building’s State Survey. You’ll find minor or major citations which will be very telling as to how the building is run and how the Administration or Owner of the building responds to such citations.
LONG-TERM CARE OMBUDSMAN PROGRAM (LTCOP)
Every state must have a long-term care ombudsman program in place. These programs are mandated by the Federal Older Americans Act and are intended to improve the quality of life for people who live in long-term care facilities. A call to the LTCOP intake line in your state is a call worth making. Let’s say you’ve narrowed down your housing search to a few options. You ask the LTC Ombudsman’s office about the types of complaints that have been filed against those facilities and this office will provide worthwhile information to help you make your housing decisions. The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Center will help you locate your local LTC Ombudsman program.
SENIOR HOUSING LOCATORS
You’ll notice that I’ve placed this type of resource at the bottom of my list. There are numerous housing “finders” out there and they can certainly be helpful. You tell them what you’re looking for; what area of town you prefer; what type of care you need; and what you’re willing to pay; and they’ll come up with some options for you. Please keep in mind, however, that these senior housing finders have an inventory of housing clients that may or may not be representative of all that is out there. They may come up with some very good options for you but their list will most likely not be an exhaustive one.
Regardless of what/who you use to locate a LTC facility, I hope you’ll go through the previous options I’ve listed above to discern the appropriateness of any facility you’re considering. Perhaps a Senior Housing Locator has provided what appear to be some great options for you and you’ve even toured them and feel comfortable with what is offered. Prior to making your final selection, at the very least go through your State’s Long Term Care Ombudsman to discern whether or not any recent actions or citations have been placed against that facility. And when touring any housing location, be certain to ask for the facility’s latest State Inspection Survey so you can see what the State thinks about that facility.