It has been over a year since Sorelei, Craig Feldman’s eighty-two-year-old mother, moved into an Assisted Living community in Plano, TX. Below, he shares his family’s experience and discusses her ongoing needs, additional services, and other information relatives of family members in Assisted Living communities should know.
Supplies and Necessities
Early on, Craig and his family members realized that Sorelei would no longer have the capability to go out and purchase certain necessities. “When we moved my mother into the community, we sold her vehicle because it became unsafe for her to drive due to her medical conditions.” He and his siblings went out and bought her all of the supplies they could think of when they moved her in, but did not initially consider that they would need to continue those purchases. “About six months in, I visited her and realized she was still wearing her summer clothes even though it was below freezing outside.” It turns out Sorelei did not have any warmer clothes because she could not fit into any of her old outfits due to weight loss from an illness earlier that year. “My sister and I quickly went out to buy her new clothes, and realized that we needed wardrobe items that were conducive to her new environment.” He knew that the clothes needed to be comfortable, easy to wear, and promote independence in dressing. At that point, she was still dressing herself, so we made sure to buy clothes that she could get on and off easily.” They also figured out that she would need toiletry items, hygiene supplies, and other items not supplied by the community. “We created a list of supplies and a calendar, so my family members and I could rotate purchases every couple of months.”
Craig and his family members recognized that they would need to visit Sorelei often after she moved. “We knew that frequent visits were important in helping my mom experience a positive transition to the community. We decorated her room for Halloween last year, went to the Christmas party, and threw her a birthday celebration complete with pizza and cake in January.” However, after the beginning of the year, Craig began to notice that the family visits declined. When questioned, his family members expressed that Sorelei no longer seemed interested in their company and that the kids were bored. “It was not like my mom to be indifferent to family since she used to light up every time we walked into the room.” He soon learned that Sorelei was suffering from periods of memory loss, which made her depressed and listless. Craig discussed this with his family and explained that visits were now more vital than ever. “I said that we needed to visit even more now to help keep our memories alive in her mind. We also brought in more family photos, decorations, and other familiar items from home to help keep the room bright and stimulating.”
Advanced Medical Care
The family knew the community would take good care of Sorelei, but that they did not provide around-the-clock medical services. Therefore, when she became ill with an infection that progressed into her blood stream, they had to admit her to a hospital. “A nurse from the community called to tell me Sorelei was running a high fever, but they were unable to identify the cause.” Craig picked her up and took her to the hospital, where the doctors discovered the infection and decided to admit her. “Sorelei was in the hospital for over three weeks then. When she finally recovered from the infection, she was so weak she could hardly move.” After that, she had to check into an intensive, outpatient rehabilitation program for another two weeks to get her strength back before going back to the community. Craig says that “though her community offers rehabilitation therapy, her condition was too complicated, so she had to recover in a more advanced facility. Since she moved back in, however, they have been wonderful about continuing to work with her to promote further healing.”
Sorelei originally only required assistance with medication management, but after her recent illness, they had to add additional services. “When my mom came out of the hospital, she could no longer get around as well as she once could. We had to add mobility assistance where a staff member escorts her in a wheelchair to daily meals and activities.” Over the last couple of months, Sorelei also began suffering from dysphagia, an issue that prevents the throat and esophagus from working properly. “The staff notified us that my mother was rarely eating and seemed to have difficulty with swallowing.” Craig inquired about therapy programs at her community and discovered that they offered speech and language rehabilitative services. “We did not wish to have to uproot mom again for treatment, so the fact that the community provided speech and language pathologists on site was a welcome relief.” The added service provides Sorelei with appropriate diet recommendations, along with oral muscle strength conditioning required for speaking and swallowing.
Though every family’s story is unique and each individual has different needs, it is important to know what to expect after a loved one’s initial move to an Assisted Living community.