“I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” These words of six-year-old Alexander in Judith Viorst’s read-aloud book ring true for many of us Boomers as we face obstacles relating to our aging parents. We’re tempted to say, with Alexander: “I think I’ll move to Australia.”
We don’t wake up with gum in our hair, or lose our best friend, or get tricked out of our life’s savings by a pesky big brother. Instead, we get a wake up call: our parent has had a stroke, broken a hip, or needs more care.
Pulling the blankets over our heads won’t help. Yet there’s no doubt that finding excellent care for your parent is daunting. In King County, where Seattle is located, there are nearly 1100 adult family homes, plus hundreds of assisted living communities and home care agencies.
A senior care referral agency often will help. Referral agencies help people find in-home care, retirement or assisted living communities or adult family homes. At their best, these agencies save time, energy and even money. Yet they’re not all alike.
An excellent senior care agency:
1. Thinks outside the box and sees the person as paramount. Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals, where I work, meets with families in person, including the elder when possible. Often the question: “What’s going on now?” unleashes a torrent of response. Then comes an extensive discussion, about diagnoses, medications and physical needs. But there’s more. Your aging parent is far more than the sum of her maladies. He or she is unique, enjoying things that make life worth living. Not long ago, the daughter of an 93-year-old woman asked Silver Age to find an adult family home in a specific geographic area that would accept a cat, and allow a conversion to Medicaid funding. Very few adult family homes accept pets, so the search began in earnest. Today, though, both Mother and her cat are now happily settled. Ditto for a 90-something married couple, who needed assisted living for him, and future memory care for her, in a specific area of Seattle.
2. Pre-qualifies housing and care providers. Excellent referral agencies are committed to visit adult family homes and assisted living communities in person, and to enter their information into an extensive data base. At Silver Age, our database contains profiles of 900-plus providers: home care agencies, retirement and assisted living communities and adult family homes. It includes licensing and inspection records, level of care services provided, source of payment accepted, and more. When a family says, “Mother speaks only Chinese; can you find a place for her on the Eastside?” we can. We know which homes accept pets, smokers, and diagnoses with difficult behaviors.
3. Tours with the family and connects them to resources. Some referral agencies schedule tours with providers and send the family out on their own. The best agencies make it a practice to accompany clients on visits and provide transportation. Often the time in the car in between communities or adult family homes is productive for discussing what the family liked, didn’t like and what questions might remain. Silver Age continues to tour with families until they find the home they like best. When questions arise during the decision-making and move-in process, we will refer clients to elder law attorneys, movers and health care professionals.
A senior referral agency won’t do all your work for you. But a good one will help tremendously. Most of all, you will feel less alone. And less like moving to Australia. Although maybe that’s not such a bad idea?