“This side of heaven, you won’t find a perfect home.”
Some 205 years ago I heard that statement. And it certainly rings true, today. Until recently I worked helping families find quality housing and care, chiefly assisted living and adult family homes. In each case we did our level best to rise to the standard of the heavenlies. But the truth is: no one can find the perfect home.
That doesn’t keep us from trying. We take our “matchmaker” job seriously, to find homes that will be good fits. Together with the family, we search for a home that will make their loved one feel comfortable and cared for.
The search isn’t always easy. Take Rick and his family. At 63, he was one of our youngest clients. He had suffered Traumatic Brain Injury as a result of a motorcycle accident at age 22. For the next 41 years, he lived with his parents, until their physician told them, “No more.” The stress was building; they needed a break from caregiving.
What does Traumatic Brain Injury look like? That depends on what part of the brain is injured. Some people have seizures. For others, behavior and personality are affected. Anger erupts for seemingly no reason. And nearly all TBI patients have short-term memory loss.
That was Rick’s issue. He remembers his high school days in detail, and events up to the time of the motorcycle accident. Today he is pleasant and polite, but won’t remember any conversation 15 minutes later.
He and his parents talked about his needs for a new home in what we describe as an intake. It’s a key part of our process, because we can’t find the best home for anyone unless we discover not only their diagnoses and medications, but what makes them tick.
So we drew up a list of must-haves: 1. The chosen home had to fit the family’s budget. 2. It had to be within 15 minutes from the family home. 3. It needed caregivers who were highly experienced and who could learn more about Traumatic Brain Injury and how it compares with dementia. 4. Preferably there would be one or two younger residents and at least one male caregiver. 5. It must allow smoking outside.
I looked for these qualities in the homes I researched and visited. The top three homes were the ones we toured together. Rick and his family liked one home especially, and two weeks later, he moved in.
Today I visited. Rick seemed happy. He didn’t remember seeing me before, but that’s part of the condition. He walks outside from time to time, something he had always enjoyed. He likes the food. And he has bonded with the male caregiver.
Is this adult family home heaven? Of course not. He has only been there two weeks. Give him two more weeks, and he will feel more and more at home. In the meantime, the caregivers are enjoying him. He helps with the laundry, folds and puts away his clean clothes, and looks for other things to. “I like to help,” he says.