Tuesday, April 7, 2015

There ARE good facilities!

I remember going to various nursing homes when I was young.  I hated going to them!  They seemed dirty. They smelled like old urine.  People were moaning and grabbing at me.  As a child, it was a scary place to go.

When dad was placed in the hospital the first time, my mom was really upset, and lonely, so I drove to Kansas to be with her, and to see my dad.  The staff at the hospital told my mom that dad needed to go to an assisted living facility from the hospital.  My mom had only looked at a couple of facilities for "day" care, but nothing for long-term care because she had planned to always keep him home.

Mom and I spent the days looking at facilities online.  We looked at pictures, and reviews.  We made lists of what facilities needed to be visited.  To save my mom from some of the stress, I made visits to the facilities, so I could narrow down the list of choices.  I broke down in tears every time I walked through the door of another facility.  It was one of the most difficult tasks of my life.  I never thought I would see the day that I would seek a nursing home, or assisted living facility for one my parents...especially not in their 60's.  It was emotionally draining.

For some facilities, the list was narrowed as soon as I walked in the door.  If there was a smell...I was out the door!  For other facilities, I didn't care for the staff.  Some directors seemed more like sales people. Some caregivers seemed like they didn't care about the residents.  They went through the motions of taking care of them, but they didn't love them...they were just patients, not real people.  For some facilities, the wait list was up to 2 years long.  I wasn't sure if my dad would even be here in two years.  For some facilities, my dad would not be accepted because he was a "behavior case."  The long list dwindled rather quickly!

I was discouraged.  I still hadn't found a facility that I felt was "right," or "good enough" for my dad.  Mom decided to bring dad home from the hospital, against everyone's wishes, but we were concerned that he would not be able to stay home.  I needed to get my kids out of the house because noise agitated dad, and I was afraid of what he would do if he became angry.  I loaded the kids in the car and decided to go for a drive, and make a few more phone calls to facilities.  I drove right by a facility that was on my list, so I stopped for a surprise visit.  *for the record...I never scheduled an appointment!  I didn't want them to "expect me."*  I went into the facility and asked to speak to someone about the Memory Care Unit.  The director of the entire facility came, offered me something to drink, and then began asking about my dad and mom.  He was great!  He understood what we were going through, and had so much compassion for my family.

This facility was perfect for my dad!  It was an assisted living facility, and they placed a lot of emphasis on keeping dad as independent as possible.  They had a "safe" tool table, so men could tinker.  I knew my dad would love that!  They had a nursery, so women could take care of their pretend babies.  They had a vanity where women could put on scarves and hats.  There were skylights in the roof, so they could have sunlight. That was amazing!  One of the comments that stuck with me the most was when the director said, "We can give your mom the gift of being a wife again.  We will take good care of your dad, and your mom can come be his wife."  I liked that idea a lot!

Dad moved into this facility a little over a month later.  Mom was there up to three times a day.  She helped shower him, dress him, brush his teeth.  She didn't need to do any of these things, but she wanted to.  Dad was getting great care!  He got to go out to eat with the men sometimes, he helped vacuum, and move chairs and tables, and really enjoyed being the helper.

Then, the director of the facility left, and everything began to change.  The staff was being reduced. Residents were leaving.  Basically, dad was kicked out, but in a very deceiving way.  We later found out that other families were being told the same stories about their loved ones that we were told.  I am glad that he is no longer there.

Dad was moved to a very nice facility while we waited for an opening at the facility where he is now.  His new facility is a skilled nursing home.  There are several different wings.  Dad is in a locked-down wing that houses men with dementia who are considered behavioral cases.  He has a nurse in his wing at all times, caregivers are present 24 hours a day, and a doctor is present at his facility every day.  Dad's main nurse is a man, his doctor is a man, and his caregivers are men.  This is so much better for dad!

I was just in town to visit my family.  My mom brags on dad's nurses and caregivers all the time.  I hadn't seen them "in action" much, so I was looking forward to observing them with my dad.  Now, I can brag, too!

Dad's nurse, "D," seems serious, but is so nice to the men, and very good at his job.  He talks to the residents as "men," not just patients.

"J" is one of dad's main caregivers.  This guy is a gem!  My dad responds to him like no other.  He is so good to all of the men.  Somehow, he sees beyond the disease and sees the person.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that!  I think "J" really cares for my dad.  He has been there a long time, and I sure hope he sticks around!  He is gifted at his job.

"L" is a guy with a smile!  I know these guys have a really tough job, but they all walk around with a smile.  "L" seems to enjoy the residents.  He talks to them, and listens to them...even when they don't make sense.  I watched him as he talked to one of the residents, and played along with the delusion, so the resident would be comforted.  He also sat with a big smile on his face while another resident cussed at him like a sailor!

"U" is so kind and gentle with the residents.  I watched him as he fed the gentleman across the table from my dad.  I could tell he had done this many, many times, but there was nothing in his demeanor that would indicate that he was bothered by the job.  He was so good at what he was doing.  As another gentleman spilled his milk all over the table, floor, and on himself, "U" was calm and reassuring to the gentleman.  He got up immediately, with no complaint, cleaned up the gentleman, table, and floor, and assured the resident that everything was okay, and they would get him cleaned up as soon as he was done eating.

I went to visit my dad several days when I was in town.  The caregivers were the same every time.  My mom visits nearly every day, and at different times of the day, so it is evident that the care is consistent.  We have come to trust the staff, and that is a huge blessing.

 I only visited my dad very late on one day, so I didn't get much of a chance to observe his nightly caregivers, but my mom has bragged about dad's nighttime caregivers, as well.  They are quick to call if there are any problems, or if dad gets hurt.  Dad still doesn't sleep much at night, so they are busy with him all night long. They never complain.  They do not ask to over-medicate him to make him sleep.  They walk with him, talk to him,  and treat him with dignity and respect.  How do we know this?  Because mom is known to show up at any time in the day...including very late nights!

There ARE good facilities!  Do your research!  Check out www.aplaceformom.com!  They have lists of facilities in your area, with reviews!  Do independent reviews online, too!  Visit the facilities without scheduling an appointment.  Visit at different times of the day.  If another visitor is leaving the facility at the same time as you, ask them their thoughts of the facility for their loved one.  After placing your loved one, visit them frequently, unannounced, and at different times of the day, and night.  If something doesn't seem right, go with your gut!  Get on waiting lists!  You never know when your loved one will need to be placed in a facility, or moved from the facility they are in.  Be encouraged...I know this is one of the most difficult decisions for you, but there ARE good facilities, with wonderful caregivers.

And...a big Thank you to the caregivers!  Ya'll are amazing!!!  I think you have the toughest job in the world!