As a caregiver, our lives are FILLED with decisions. From minor decisions, like what to feed our loved ones, to major decisions regarding safety and medical care. Caregiver decision making is a 24 hour job. My decision making started when my grandmother was admitted to the hospital earlier this year, after a seizure and an aggressive episode with my mother.
Long story short, after her hospital stay, we were able to convince the hospital that she could not come home just yet, because my mom was still working at the time and I was still living out of state. From those conversations, we learned that my G-mom could be transferred to a skilled nursing facility.
Basically, a temporary stay at a nursing home, of my choice. Greeeeat. Let me just call up my favorite, most trusted, clean and qualified nursing home and you can send her right over, but not really. What did I know about nursing homes, rehab centers, etc? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Yet here I am, on a Wednesday afternoon, with a decision to make. The hospital social worker was kind enough to give me a list of about FIFTY facilities to choose from. It was broken out geographically, so I guess that helped. But other than that, I basically had 24 hours to pick a facility. So I attempted to do some research, but it wasn’t very helpful. Unless a place is just horrible, there’s not much in terms of reviews for a lot of these places. Or maybe I just didn’t know where to look.
I chose a facility located just across the street from the hospital and about 10 minutes from our house. I toured the facility that morning, and she was transferred by the afternoon. Right, not much time to explore our options.
It seemed cleaned, the staff seemed nice enough and of course the marketing person was a sweetheart. It was a nursing home, and it was pretty much what I thought nursing homes looked like. Of course you can’t tell much from a 20 minute tour, with a very persuasive Marketing Director. Fast forward to maybe two weeks into her stay. She started getting up at night, and sitting by the door to wait for my mom to come pick her up. Of course, my mom was not coming to pick her up.
One day soon, I entered her room for a visit, only to find all of her belongings had been packed. Apparently, the staff felt that she needed to be moved to a more secure environment. And by secure environment, they meant “Memory Lane”. “Memory Lane” is a nice name for the lockdown unit. The facility social worker gave me a 10 minute tour of “Memory Lane”, introduced me to grandmother’s new roommate, and requested that I make yet another tough decision. Would I be okay with moving her to Memory Lane? Well considering they had already packed up her room and expressed their safety concerns, I really didn’t feel as though I had much of a choice. Off to Memory Lane she went.
That lasted about a week. “Memory Lane” consisted of patients at every function level, living on one locked wing of the building. So that included everyone from the high-functioning patients such as my G-mom, who could pretty much still perform all the “Activities of Daily Living,” to the man who sat in his chair in the TV room constantly spitting on the floor, to the lady who walked up and down the halls crying.
You can imagine the environment. It was constant chaos. The residents could not lock their doors and some residents would pace up and down the hall opening rooms that did not belong to them. With G-mom already being naturally anxious, you can imagine that this did not go over well. She was not sleeping at night. I arrived one day to have her tell me how glad she was that I got there because her roommate had threatened to beat her up.
I had her moved to another room, where this roommate would sleep in a chair in front of the door to keep the roamers from trying to come in at night. Needless, to say this was no way to live. I was uncomfortable visiting the unit because of the chaos. I could write an entire post about that place, and maybe I will someday. At this point, I had another decision to make.
On a Thursday, at the recommendation of a family friend, I decided to check out another facility. I called and was able to make an immediate appointment for a walk-thru. OMG! The difference was NIGHT and DAY.
It was like leaving a Motel 6 and going to The W Hotel. I almost wanted to check myself in, the place was so nice. Fortunately, this decision was a no-brainer. I had to get her out of her current living conditions and into The Ritz! To my shock, all I needed to do was inform her current facility, have the new facility confirm insurance arrangements, and like magic, she was transferred the NEXT DAY! No, really. Within 24 hours, she was at peace, and so was I.
So all of that said, please do some research. I understand that with some insurance situations, transfers may not be as easy. But trust me, it’s worth a shot. You don’t have to keep your loved one in an uncomfortable environment. Based on this experience, I learned that as much as we all hate nursing homes, they are not all the awful stereotypical places we think they are. There are a select few, with caring and helpful staff and comfortable and clean environments that are worth seeking out.
So that was my first major decision, and I’ve made a zillion more since then.