For a short period during our caregiving days, my mother was a resident at an assisted living facility in Brookfield, Wis. During one of my visits, I overheard a conversation between two women when I stepped onto the elevator. The woman I dubbed “Sweetie” was large, plump and had a gentle demeanor. On the other hand, you would not want to encounter “Snarly” in a dark alley. She was short, lean and mean and spoke with a low gravelly voice.
As I got on the elevator and turned toward the door, I heard Snarly say, “I guess you know that Gretchen’s closed?” Sweetie was obviously hard of hearing because she thought she heard that the kitchen was closed. Gretchen’s is the hair-dressing salon in the building.
Sweetie: “Oh no! What are we going to do?” in her sweet high-pitched voice.
Snarly: “I’m going to wait until Thursday.”
Sweetie: “You aren’t going to eat until Thursday?”
Snarly, with slight bewilderment: “Why wouldn’t I eat until Thursday?”
Sweetie, in her innocent tone: “Well, the kitchen's closed!”
Snarly, “The kitchen's closed too? What the heck is going on around here?”
The doors opened, and I departed with a smile.
Mother moved to a senior living apartment shortly after that, not because of Snarly, Gretchen’s or the kitchen, but mainly just because she didn’t require the “assistance” at that time. Please don’t take this as condemnation of assisted living. It was a great facility that took good care of their residents.
In our case, a senior living facility worked better because they provided a full-size apartment that included a kitchen as well as offering an optional evening meal in the dining room. Also, I was engaged managing medications and other needs and lived close enough to visit her several times a week.
The lesson I learned was to give more consideration to specific needs and then to use the internet to evaluate the various options available in your area.
Bob Meister is a certified care resource specialist who has been studying America’s aging demographic and has been involved in caregiving and health care since 1989. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.