Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Top Picks for Eldercare in Washington State

Given the many great eldercare options in Washington State, it's hard to choose the "Best of the Best."  So I won't try.  But I will give you three of my favorites, based on my 16-plus years in this field.

The following three rate an A-plus not because they're the most luxurious or have the best food or even the best location.  They're excellent because they succeed at their mission:  providing an abundant life for the seniors in their care, and encouraging their employees to do their best every day.

Warm Beach Senior Community, Stanwood--Started in 1967 as a ministry of the Free Methodist Church, this community has housing that ranges from very independent manufactured homes and cottages to smaller apartments, assisted living and skilled nursing. Besides the continuing care, a huge plus is the scenic setting, amidst cedars and Douglas firs, next door to Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center.  Eagles fly overhead, and deer scamper across the lawns. Residents are active here, and their volunteer efforts include running a thrift shop, hosting an annual bazaar, plus visiting the sick. I visited there on the community's 45th anniversary last month, and found many employees who had worked there for well over a decade. Best of all, residents were all smiles.

Foss Home and Village--Located in North Seattle, this Lutheran-sponsored nursing home and assisted living has weathered the test of time, in operation since 1929.  Foss is known for excellence and innovation. An example is Foss Home's Village, one of North Seattle's earliest assisted living programs which opened in the early 1990s.  Today the organization can be proud of a rehab program that is recognized by doctors, therapists and others as one of the best around, and a volunteer program and development efforts that enrich the lives of residents. During the time I worked at Foss in 2008, my best memories were of staff and management enjoying their work. Today of 370 employees, 100 have served a decade or more. There is a fun, upbeat atmosphere at Foss, and the residents see and hear it:  through jokes, smiles, and banter that make the day happier.

Providence Mount St. Vincent--West Seattle--The Sisters of Providence founded Providence Mount St. Vincent in 1924.  Through the years, it has been much more than a place to care for the aged, offering nursing home and assisted living care. Their health care center was one of the  first in Washington State to create smaller neighborhoods, where residents could forge friendships, celebrate birthdays and decorate the halls. Mount St. Vincent has also been at the forefront of programs including Person Directed Care, which looks at every area of nursing home life to ask, "Is this what the residents want?" Another plus about Providence Mount St. Vincent is its intergenerational program, allowing children and elders to enjoy each other every day.

Do you have experience with any of these eldercare facilities?  Or do you have another favorite, and if so, tell us why?

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Sister Drives Us Siblings Nuts! We Can't Agree About Dad's Care

Linda called me on the phone from Oregon.  "All of us siblings want the best care for Dad. We all agree on the right course. Except my one sister who refuses to listen."  I could hear her voice crackle as she continued.  "She drives Dad crazy, and he'll do anything to get her to go away, including agreeing to things he'd never say yes to otherwise. What do we do?"

Linda isn't alone.  Perhaps you have a sibling from Hades.  She is sure about the RIGHT way to care for your aging parent, be it home care, assisted living or other care. No one else in your family agrees with her plan; but that doesn't stop her from using anger to try to convince you. Whether it's mental illness, a major case of selfishness, greediness, or leftover sibling rivalry from long ago, something is keeping your sibling from rational thinking, from the give and take that brings solid solutions.

Over the years I've picked up these tips from adult children who make decisions about their parent's care while grappling with a difficult sibling.

1.  Realize issues with your sibling will continue.  He or she didn't just wake up one day recently wanting to micromanage things.  That behavior has likely been around for a while.  One game plan is to avoid talking one on one with your sibling about the "health care topic."  You can say something like, "It's really important for us to talk about Dad's care.  I want all of us to have input so we can make a joint decision."  If she keeps talking about the subject, you might say, "I feel uncomfortable discussing this until we can all get together."

2.  Call a family meeting.  Linda's brother and sisters did this.  Everyone came, including the difficult sibling. One sister with business acumen chaired it and kept order.  All parties had a chance to speak about Dad's health care. At the first meeting, they didn't come to a firm conclusion, but everyone aired thoughts and feelings. They also spoke about Dad's wants, and how due to his dementia, those desires might not be realistic.  At their next meeting, they agreed to have a nurse join them

3. Enlist a professional.  Many nurses, psychologists and social workers specialize in helping families of the elderly sort through issues.  They're called Geriatric Care Managers.  Linda's family met with a nurse who sorted out their dad's needs as well as those of the family.  Adult children were given a "to-do" list.  The presence of a professional often tames the crazy behavior of the difficult sibling, at least until a definite plan can be agreed on.

Do any of you have a sibling that makes it difficult for you to make decisions regarding your aging parent's health care?  How have you handled it?
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