Casting a Safety Net

Moving is a big decision at any time of life, requiring financial planning, research and forethought. So it’s no wonder seniors are reluctant to move from familiar homes where they’ve raised families to an apartment or independent living community.

Many hesitate, not knowing how long they’ll be able to stay on their own before finding it necessary to move yet again if a health crisis occurs.

Carespring’s communities, including the newest — Barrington in Oakley — have solved the problem.

Residents in independent living apartments who find themselves needing assisted living services can stay put. “You don’t go to the services,” says Kim Majick, vice president of marketing and admissions. “We come to you.”

New to two locations in Ohio — Oakley and West Chester — Carespring has been using this model of care in Northern Kentucky for 10 years.

“We’ve licensed the whole community as assisted living to make the transition easier,” she says. “Nobody has to seek out supplemental services or move to get more care.”

There are round-the-clock certified nursing assistant services and nurses staffing all the buildings so “if there’s a bump in the road medically, we can adapt at the push of a button.”

“We’ve had people relocate from independent living communities when one spouse has required more care,” leaving them the uncomfortable choice of moving the spouse or leaving them behind.

It makes sense, she says. “People are terrified of the thought of moving at all,” and often put it off for fear they will need more help and have to move again. This reassurance makes the process easier.

Barrington has been designed with “all the amenities that Boomers and their parents are looking for,” Majick says. That includes movie theaters, massage therapy rooms, community and great rooms, private and public dining rooms, cocktail lounge, exercise facility, master chef and social director. And apartments come with fully-equipped kitchens plus washers and dryers.

“We want them to be able to maintain the lifestyle they are accustomed to,” and it makes the move from home to apartment much more palatable, Majick explains.

“You get the best amenities and the peace of mind knowing there’s a safety net,” without a required deposit or a contract.

A Cruise Ship On Land

Describing Maple Knoll Village as a “cruise ship on land” might not be the comparison that comes to mind for many, but it suits Becky Schulte, Maple Knoll Village director of communications just fine.

“I’m on a one-person crusade to change people’s views,” she says. “It’s not just a nursing home. The health care is there if you need it, but it’s just one small piece of the community.”

As a retirement community Maple Knoll is a far cry from old perceptions of senior living. The facilities that most remember probably didn’t have tai chi water classes, warm water pools, pubs with big screen TVs, poker games, planned trips and a concierge . . . let alone four social directors, including one just for the assisted living community.

“In most people’s minds, they remember grandma’s nursing home,” Schulte says. “And we do have that. But the reason you should come here is that this retirement community takes care of all the things that aren’t fun in life like security, housekeeping, lawn care, maintenance. You can push all that aside here. Let us worry about the furnace.”

Instead of fretting about those details you can be busy planning outings, exercising, going to classes and discovering new hobbies and friendships.

“We can keep you busy morning till night if you participate in everything,” Schulte says. “It’s not a place you come and just sit. It’s an active community for people who enjoy life.”

Choosing Home Care

Studies show that seniors do better being cared for at home, and that’s no surprise to Mike and Shannon Garfunkel of Family Bridges Home Care, providers of non-medical care for seniors.

“It’s not complicated,” Mike says. “People want to stay as independent as possible, and many are leaving nursing homes to return home. There is a better awareness of home services in the last decade and there are more agencies out there offering them.”

Finding one with operating experience is the key to a successful transition. “When talking with clients we make it clear that we are out to facilitate independence, not take it away,” he says.

He offers these tips to consider in arranging for home care:

Meet the caregiver first. “We take into account geographic location, anticipated care and skills,” he says, “but there’s an intangible — what we know about the giver’s personality and the client’s personality. Before we start, we encourage clients to meet the caregiver so we can match up that intangible.”

Make sure the agency is bonded and is actually employing the caregivers rather than acting as an agent.

Do the caregivers have training and experience? And what level of screening do they get? Is the employer actually doing the state-mandated fingerprint check and complete background check? Do they check references? Are they drug-screened? “We require at least one year of professional care giving experience as opposed to some who may hire people they think will be good and give them only classroom experience.”

Support services. If a caregiver is sick, what kind of replacement is the agency going to be able to provide? Or if a snowstorm limits travel, is the agency going to be able to handle it?

Follow-up services. Once you’ve initiated services, are there supervisory visits? How frequent are they and what are the qualifications of the person supervising? “We do six-to-eight week follow-ups, and it’s usually an RN doing the visits,” Garfunkel says.

Families often have trouble caring for parents as they age because of emotional ties. “They almost know each other too well,” Garfunkel says. “Often the parent is more tolerant, and patient, with a third party professional than with their own children, once they get to know them.

“You’d be surprised how well it works when you take out the emotional ties. We hear from families saying, ‘Ever since you’ve been helping I can go back to talking to her as a daughter and she can go back to talking to me as a mom.’ ”