I’ve been thinking about Ginny’s future over the last week. Sometimes, she enters my thoughts as I’m fading towards sleep and sometimes she is my first thought of the day. Sometimes, I lay awake. So far, she has not exhibited additional dementia-type symptoms, so that’s significant, but a return of vertigo always looms. Plus, given her sudden enthusiasm about moving, we have to figure this out.
I do try and get in her head regarding the root of that enthusiasm. Her car has been gone for over a year now. In fact, for a long time, she called her condo a prison out of frustration that she wasn’t getting out enough. Aside from time with Hailey and her relationship with Betsy, a piece is still missing. She can’t walk down to Lois’s any longer and doesn’t really have any other friends in the complex. Her eagerness for something different makes sense.
And it’s not just her. I also want to spare Hailey from that day-to-day strain of handling mom whether it’s a trip in or a phone call. It’s pretty constant.
Dennis shared with me that he remembers how his own mother grew more and more dependent on Betsy and called her constantly. She called her at work, she called her late at night requesting she come over. He thinks that Ginny’s calls are not going to stop even if she moved. There will simply be new complaints and new concerns. I do agree with him, but there is also a peace of mind in knowing professional staff is right there if it’s needed.
When I heard that The Groves owns another property in a town maybe 40 minutes from my own home on the east coast, I researched whether that could be an option. I would become the primary caretaker. Given that the town is not an A-rated location, I was fairly certain that this could be a way to save money. I was wrong. It’s actually $350.00 more per month than its Gulf coast counterpart.
I dive into new research. I review a dozen senior facilities in both my county and Orlando and a trend emerges. There are very few Independent Living options. The majority are Assisted Living and/or Memory Care. I locate one Independent Living that includes the price and it starts at $3200.00.
I locate another possibility and fill out their online form. They call back within 24 hours.
Unfortunately, their units start at $2700.00. I explain our financial situation and she mentions that mom could get a companion (translation: share a room) for $2200.00/month. That would be a challenge to convince mom to do that, but I write it down.
She was helpful in suggesting that I explore home care. Hailey and I had briefly touched on that topic, but it stalled. I think both of us share an uncomfortable feeling of bringing a stranger into mom’s home since she is alone and we also worry about Ginny’s ability to communicate with them.
The representative recommended a specific home care company. She explained that their caregivers are employees. Their staff services are not “contracted” out. They are bonded and go through a level 2 background check.
I thank her and visit the company’s home page. They offer a “Companion Care” option where the caregiver can be there for conversation, help with a hobby, do laundry, ironing or run errands. This is intriguing to me.
After sharing what I’ve learned with Hailey, we decide to move ahead to interview. First, I have a conversation with mom about this idea. She’s reserved about someone coming into her home, but the hook proves to be that the person can take her places. Hailey tag teams the idea a day later. Then, I schedule the company I researched and we agree to meet at Ginny’s home a week later. Hailey schedules another company for a second interview (the same one who assisted with the VA) to also meet with Ginny while we are all there. The plan doesn’t pan out though because of our schedules. There is only time for one interview and Hailey prefers to use the company to which she has a relationship. I cancel mine.
We drive to Ginny’s for a 2:00 p.m. meeting with the senior care company.
- They have a $23.00/hr rate with a 4 hour minimum per day
- They deduct Social Security, Medicare and Worker’s Compensation Insurance.
- If we need a driver, we will be billed an additional .65/per mile for gas.
- The majority of their employees work Monday-Friday. We could request a Saturday, but it could prove difficult to fill.
The representative informed us that if they were selected, she would return for a second discussion to create a care plan and basically, a personality profile. She would ask Ginny questions about her likes, dislikes, television shows she enjoys, books she reads so she can get a feel for who mom is and who would work well with her. The care plan would include exactly what we expect the caregiver to provide.
We have a long family conversation after the representative leaves. We agree to hire the company. The initial total will be $400.00/month which we will split. That cost remains much less than placing her in the Independent Living facility and it feels like the right compromise. We can continue to add hours/days as needed. It’s a start. Since we are in town until Friday, Dennis and I will meet the rep for the care plan discussion and Hailey will return on the start date for the hired caregiver so she can meet (screen) her.
First we decide the schedule. We’ll ease into home care with a four hour shift on Fridays. We can always build on that as needed. Betsy is Monday and Thursday. Hailey’s time shifts week to week. I encourage Friday since it is the day before the weekend. She is often alone on the weekend.
Since we are aware that mom could freeze up in the interview, or misunderstand questions because of her hearing, we discuss in advance what Ginny likes to do and what television shows she likes etc. and I write them down. Hailey and I hammer out what we would like to see the caregiver do. They are willing to cook and we would love to see her get a “home-cooked” meal once a week, but Ginny balks. Even when Hailey explains that the person will clean-up everything and leave the meal in the fridge for dinner, she waves us off.
We decide on the top priorities:
- Stimulate mom with outings – possibly including an occasional lunch or movie, shopping, local events such as an art festival.
- Wash sheets & towels (mom will continue w/her own clothes for now.)
- Change the bed
- Light chores
We don’t need heavy cleaning because Ginny wants to retain her cleaning lady and friend Nellie who comes once a month. As mom put it, “she knows how I like things done”. Enough said.
We also agree that mom will not have the yellow “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) placard on her refrigerator because her current advance directives include that she wants CPR and/or to be taken to the hospital and placed in the Intensive Care Unit. She just does not want nutritional fluids fed to her or medications that can prolong her dying.
Lastly, we make the easy decision to give Betsy a raise. It’s important she knows how much her help means to us and that we are not transitioning away from her. We need her.
We call the representative back and schedule a follow-up meeting two days later.
Carolyn arrives promptly at 3:00 pm. She asks the questions she said that she would. Mom veers off-course a few times because she doesn’t understand, but Carolyn is patient and clearly familiar with the behavior. She is encouraging and said more than once “I should be your person, Miss Ginny, I like art and I love to shop” and we all laugh. She has a great touch with the elderly and I am impressed. Her questions become more and more focused as she circled in on what mom is all about. I have high hopes she can find a good match.
I follow-up with a few questions including billing. I inquire if they are able to split every bill and put the charges on two credit cards, but that isn’t possible. I’m just not keen on writing a lot of checks.
We conclude that the best approach to pay the bills will be to alternate an online payment. Hailey and I will receive invoices by e-mail, and I will make a designated online payment for that bill and she will pay the next etc.
They also have an online space where family can read the caregivers’ notes and make our own comments. When I receive the link, it is labeled “Family Room for Ginny XYZ.” I have to admit I’m feeling good about this development. My intuition is telling me we are doing the right thing.
Thanks for following this long three-part series on this topic. I was only trying to show how ideas and decisions about moving or not moving a parent take time and are not linear. They criss cross and stop at dead ends. There’s a ton of second guessing. The bottom line? We do the best we can.