Article Series

What’s best for Mom? - Home vs. Assisted Living

Article submitted by Gary Rasmussen, CSA - Denver, Colorado

The politically correct view, and often is the right move, is for Mom to stay in the home as long as physically possible. The government strongly encourages this, as well as the family pocketbook. However, it isn’t always the best option, even when the senior is physically able.

Two major reasons supporting the in-home option are the cost and “The Promise”. The cost of assisted living in Denver averages almost $3,000 per month. It’s indisputable in many cases… “We just can’t afford it now.” But what’s “The Promise”?

In many families, “The Promise” is “Mom; I’ll never put you in assisted living. You’ll always live with family when you’re no longer able to live alone.” And too many families view that as being written in stone, despite what may actually be best for Mom. Let me tell you about my family’s experience.

My Mom had always heard and assumed “The Promise” meant stay at home. In our case, once necessary to move, she moved in with my sister. Jan, an RN with 10 years of hospice (Medicaid clients only) had seen much in her career. And she knew Mom wasn’t going to see any of it – not if she had anything to say about it.

Jan had an ideal house. Mom had her own bedroom, own bath, 3 pugs (Jan heads “Pug Rescue” in Michigan), 3 cats and an understanding, supportive son-in-law, Jim. But things change.

After a year, Jan’s physical health took a big turn downward. She could no longer assist Mom in her daily life and still meet the high expectations of care Jan had set for herself. Jan lived an hour away from our hometown and my Mom’s social network couldn’t drive to visit. My Mom, very unusual for her, became despondent. She wanted her outside social life back.

To understand my 88-year old Mom better, l’ll relate my most recent phone call. Because she’s an avid baseball fan of the Detroit Tigers, I suggested my next visit could be somewhere near the start of the season. Without missing a beat, she responded with “we could go to opening day”. Uh,oh…I shouldn’t have said that. Opening Day in Detroit is utter chaos. Trying to back-off, I indicate that Opening Day is too big of a party and I was thinking more of the second or third week.

“I’m a party girl.”

“It’ll be too crowded. Too much pushing and shoving.”

“I can push with the best of them. Besides, I have a walker to help push.”

My Mom’s answers are made in a humorous vein. But you get the idea…she wants to be where there’s activity happening and she’s a part of it.

The point? My Mom thrives on social activity and being an hour away from her network, she wasn’t getting it. So what then is the spirit of “The Promise”???

To me, it doesn’t mean “you’ll always live here”. It implicitly means that you promise to give your parent the best possible care within reason.

Our family decided the best option was assisted living – back in our hometown. (Trust me… this option was not as easily reached as it sounds…in fact, it’s why I got into the senior referral business.) My Mom not being financially flush, we discussed what we kids could throw in monthly. Then, we found out about the VA Aid and Attendance benefit. The VA benefit made the move feasible and within budget.

In retrospect, it’s been a great move. Transportation to her church (she went daily before her moving in with Jan). Bingo…both home and away. Hall Bowling. Balloon volleyball. Meals with friends. Regular visitors. Last year, she was elected and crowned “Valentine’s Queen” at her community.

“The Promise” has not been broken. My Mom is happier, more independent and as her needs increase, the care is already in place. Staying “in-place” is NOT the best option for everybody, even when physically possible.

Next month we’ll look closer at “the least expensive care” option when staying “in-place” and how it involves the family care-givers.

P.S. I’ll also update you on where my tickets are located for Opening Day.

© 2013, All Rights Reserved by Gary Rasmussen - Denver, Colorado

Posted February 2013 on