Sunday, January 28, 2018

Note to Adult Children, Senior Care Pros: Mind Your P's &Q's

Mind your P's and Q's. 

If you're a Millennial, you might say, "What?"  But if you're a Boomer, chances are you heard this phrase growing up.  Many times.

Translated, Mind your P's and Q's is "Mind your manners," "Mind your language."  "Be on your best behavior."

If you work with seniors or if you have an elder in your life, I'd like to suggest another meaning for the P's:  three words that are important, for one reason or another.

PATIENCE--We know that seniors walk more slowly, so we change our pace to meet theirs.  Other parts of their bodies also require us to adjust.  We speak distinctly and sit face to face when we know they're experiencing hearing loss.   But what about decision making?  For many independent seniors, a decision like giving up driving or moving to a retirement community is huge, requiring months and even years to process.  As  professionals, or as adult children, it's frustrating to hear for the seemingly millionth time,  "We're just not ready yet."  So what do we do? Probably the biggest gift we can give seniors in the throes of decision is emotional space.  We also can acknowledge the difficulty they're facing, saying things like  "I can tell this is hard for you.  I want you to know I'm here to help.  Another tact is to extend invitations to explore options but with no  strings attached. 

PERSISTENCE--This may seem to contradict the patience idea.  This is the Yin and the other the Yang.  As senior professionals, if we are so patient that we wait a long time before contacting a senior prospect after the initial visit, he or she may go elsewhere.   As adult children, if we don't bring up the issue at all, our parents may jump to an erroneous conclusion that we don't care. My advice is to keep talking, but at a slower pace than you might prefer.

PUSHY--Don't do it!  Seniors hate even the slightest hint of pushiness.  Their idea of pushiness is likely different than yours!  You can tell when they're viewing you as pushy if they don't answer your calls or return messages or if their tone of voice or body language screams, "I'm not interested.  Don't talk to me!"   But pushiness isn't always such a bad thing.  I remember working with a single woman in her 90s who had a heart condition and other severe medical problems but who was alert and oriented.  She loved her condo, but realized she would need more care as time went on.  She visited retirement communities, but kept stalling and stalling on this difficult decision.   Later, after moving in and settling in comfortably, I asked her, "Do you think I was pushy during the time you were deciding about moving?  I waited for her answer.  "No, not really.  But maybe a little pushy.  But not too much."

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Senior Care Referral Agents--How We Spend Our Days

One of my favorite children's storybook authors, Richard Scarry, wrote an immensely popular book in 1968 called, "What do people do all day?"  In it, darling animals build houses, fly planes, keep house and grow food.

People ask you and me, perhaps in different words, "What do you do all day?"  I am a senior care referral agent, and I help families find the right choice in in-home care, assisted living or adult family homes.

I'm not alone.  At Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals, where I work, we are a team.  Each member has an area or areas of expertise:  occupational therapy,  caregiving, ombudsman experience and finance.  We share knowledge, benefitting our clients.

There are approximately 70 senior care referral agencies in Washington State. Like the characters in Scarry's book, we keep busy helping families.

Ever day, all day, we do the following:

SUPPORT--This is the social work part of our job.  When a family member calls us, the first thing we often ask is, "What's going on with  your loved one?"  Then the story--and they are nearly all different--comes tumbling out.  Mom had a stroke, is in rehab, and needs a more permanent home.  Dad has been caring for Mom and his health is now failing.  Mom lives in Illinois, and daughter has been using all her frequent flyer miles and cash to fly back and forth.

Bottom line, placing a loved one is one of the hardest things a family can do.  It's hard because it's our mother, or father, or other loved one for which we're making the decision, not simply a client. And it's hard because this might be their last home on earth.  Very often professional help can make the job easier.

Another thing  that helps:  the referral agencies' services are generally free to families.  The communities pay a commission to the agency on move-in.

TEACH--A senior care referral agent is a vital source of information.  At Silver Age, we know which communities accept Medicaid, which specialize in heavy care and which are located in the family's desired locations.  We provide a list of questions to ask when touring communities, and we tour alongside the family.  We have questions that we feel are especially important to ask; the family will think of others.  They are experts on their loved one; we are very knowledgeable about assisted living communities and adult family homes.  We inspect them before touring with a family and we check to see which places have enforcement letters from the state and may not be worth touring.

INSPECT BUILDINGS AND EVALUATE PROGRAMS  People often ask me, "Are you a Realtor?"  There certainly are some similarities.  Like a Realtor, we keep abreast of what's available.  Depending on the client's desires, we will search for communities with full kitchens, two bedrooms, or patios.  Finally the community has to be a good financial fit for the client. So in many ways we are like Realtors.   But there are differences.  Care needs--both physical and cognitive-- are a huge concern for many people.  Memory care is another potential issue.  For still others, an active social program is a must-have.  For most families, the key issue, besides availability of care, is the vital interaction of residents with staff.  Many people compare searching for  an assisted living or adult family home to looking for a college, private day school or kindergarten.  The building is important, but it's not everything.  Caring, knowledgeable staff are what matter most.

Need some help with obtaining housing and/or care for a loved one?  Contact Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals.

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