Monday, December 27, 2010

Is a Continuing Care Retirement Community Right for Your Parent?

CCRC is short for Continuing Care Retirement Community. That's a buzzword for a type of community which works well for many aging parents. Perhaps yours.

In a CCRC, healthy, active seniors typically move into independent apartments. They pay an entrance fee, ranging from less than $100,000 to more than $1,000,000. The entrance fee reduces their monthly rent over what they'd pay in a comparable rental community. When a resident leaves the CCRC, part or all of the entrance fee often is returned to them or to their estate.

As in other communities, residents in a CCRC no longer worry about shopping, preparing meals and doing the dishes. Ditto for housekeeping and home maintenance. With the extra time, they can enjoy fun activities and fellowship with peers. If they give up driving, transportation is available.

A big difference: When independent residents of a CCRC need help with such things as bathing, dressing or medication management, they can move to on-site assisted living. And if they need either long or short-term nursing care, they can receive it in the on-campus health care center. As seniors travel through the system, they'll know the staff and the residents. For many, that brings security.

A CCRC works particularly for several groups of seniors (assuming the entrance fee is within their budget.) See if your aging parent falls into one of these categories:

1. Your parents are both living, but worry how the survivor (usually Mom) will do when the other passes. Typically when a couple moves into a CCRC, they begin developing friendships with neighbors. When a spouse dies, the survivor has support from others who've traveled the same road. Widows or widowers go out to dinner or to movies together. And sometimes, romance strikes the widowed, and marriage follows.
2. One of your parents cares for her spouse, who suffers from a chronic illness. A CCRC offers the healthy spouse help with the domestic duties so she can focus on caregiving. He or she can easily take a break by attending activities and support groups on campus. If the ill spouse needs assisted living or nursing care, it's an easy walk from the healthy spouse's apartment.
3. If you are advocating for an aunt or uncle without children, a CCRC can be extremely helpful. When your relative needs more care, the staff in a CCRC will bend over backward to make the transition as easy as possible.
4. Your mother or dad is alone and needs companionship. All types of retirement communities can help brighten someone's outlook. When I talk to senior clients and their families, I often say, "Retirement living is a little like living in a dorm, sorority or fraternity. There's a difference, though. No wild parties."

Do you have any experience with CCRCs you'd like to share?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Before Using a Senior-Care Referral Agency, Ask These Questions...

If you're thinking about employing a senior-care referral agency, you'll need some education. For starters, read "Senior Care Placement Companies Scramble to Cash In," Michael Behrens' report published in The Seattle Times, Dec. 11.

The principle behind this rapidly growing industry is simple. Private agencies "match" seniors who need care with facilities that have openings. The receiving community pays a fee. The family pays nothing.

Behrens' article points out huge problems. Over the last three years 143 individuals in Washington were victimized after companies placed them in facilities that had documented serious violations.

How do you find a credible senior-care referral agency? (Yes, they're out there.) Ask these questions:

1. What are your credentials?

Many senior-care referral agencies are run by nurses, social workers, former assisted living administrators. Find out how long they've been operating and what experience they have working in long-term care.

2. Where do you receive most of your clients?

Some work exlusively on the Internet. Others find their clients from referral sources through networking, through referrals from satisfied customers, plus advertising and the Internet.

3. Do you check facilities often to make sure they have no violations with the state?
Behrens' article notes that one on-line agency, A Place for Mom, placed seniors in facilities with past records of substandard care.

4. How well do you know the facilities that contract with you?

Reputable agencies will have a profile on each contracted facility. They visit them periodically and look for potential problems.

5. How much time will you spend with me?
Internet-based agencies tend to do their business online and by phone. Other agencies will conduct a face-to-face interview with you, schedule tours and accompany you, to help you make your decision.

Do you have experiences with senior-care referral agencies? Tell us about it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eldercare Placement Companies: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Panic. Stress. Our parent breaks a hip, suffers a stroke or other malady and can no longer live at home. We search online and find senior-care placement companies making alluring promises. They'll move heaven and hell to help us find the right fit--assisted living, adult family homes or home care. For free.

Not so fast. Last week, the Seattle Times published Michael Behrens'report, "Senior care placement companies scramble to cash in," the most recent in a series "Seniors for Sale." Behrens contends that while some companies do an excellent job in linking seniors with needed care, others have referred families to facilities with documented histories of substandard care.

Analyzing records of the Department of Social and Health Services over the past three years, the Times staff found 143 cases of seniors victimized after companies placed them in a care setting. Mentally ill adults were drugged into submission to control their behavior. Mentally ill adults were locked in rooms to prevent wandering. Bedbound seniors were left without assistance up to 16 hours.

The key problems:

1. Washington and many other states have no licensing, education or training requirements to open a placement agency. (This is a fairly new industry nationwide.)

2. Some companies don't screen for past violations. So a senior can end up in an abusive setting.

3. The largest company, A Place for Mom, sited in the Times report, works exclusively online and by phone. There is no face to face connection between the senior care adviser and the client.

As a marketing and admissions professional for 16 years in various care settings, I've worked with some great eldercare advisors, and a few who have driven me crazy. I've also worked with angry families who completed an online profile "just for the future," only to receive unwanted phone calls and emails from 7 to 8 different care organizations which had received the profile from the broker company, with the strong suggestion that this family wanted immediate placement.

Have you had experience with senior placement companies? My next step will give you questions to ask placement companies before you place the future of your loved one in their hands.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ways to Simplify the Holidays, For You and Your Aging Parent

Keep it simple. I've found that an excellent admonition for celebrating the holidays with an aging parent.

To capture the "good old times" your parent may remember, try one or more of these simplified traditions.

If your parent enjoyed attending the Nutcracker, the Messiah or other live musical performances, listen to CDs or DVD's of these favorites together.

If your parent hosted family and friends during the holidays, give him or her a guest book and a tin of cookies or other treats for guests.

If she sang in a church choir, hold a carol sing-along, even if there are only a few of you.

If he faithfully chopped down and decorated the family Christmas tree, take a drive through a lighted neighborhood, stopping for cocoa afterward.

If she filled your Christmas stockings to the max, provide some wrapped candies she can give to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

If she baked traditional breads and holiday cookies, hold a family baking session, using her recipes and encouraging her to help if possible.

Can you think of other simplified versions of holiday favorite traditions?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

For You and Your Aging Parent, Simplicity is Key to Holiday Joy

Simplify. Simplify. Those words of Henry David Thoreau echo in my mind during the holidays, especially when I think about our aging parents.

If I have one piece of advice I've gleaned over the years, it's this: Don't let your parents' medical conditions steal your family's holiday joy.

First, you may want to start a conversation. Ask your parent, "What is most important to you during the holidays?" Just having the discussion honors your parent and may enlighten you as he or she shares memories of long ago.

Together, narrow the list to a few favorite activities that can be done with help from you and your family.

My father, a retired pastor, loved writing family Christmas letters. When he moved to a nursing home, he wanted to continue his favorite tradition. Parkinson's had robbed him of his ability to write. Fortunately, my younger brother Jim pitched in to help compose the letter. Jim's wife and children were enlisted to type, photocopy and address envelopes.

Your parent's list of favorite things will be unique. In the retirement community where I worked until recently, several residents make Christmas cookies every year. Their kids provide ingredients and support. Others in the community attended "The Nutcracker" as a group. Still others enjoy Christmas caroling.

Even if your parent is homebound, he or she may enjoy decorations, holiday music, movies and family recipes.

In my next post, I'll list more specific tips for bringing simple joy to the holidays.

Do you have any ideas you'd like to share for making the holidays special for your aging parent?
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