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Looking Into Assisted Living
Long Distance
By J Lang Wood
(Page 1 of 2)

It was sometime late in 2003 that I realized something had to be done with Mom. She had reached the end of her ability to manage her affairs independently, and the reports I got from family and friends in Illinois began to fill me with alarm. And as I lived far away in Florida and knew that Mom had no desire at all to move from the Chicago area where she had lived all her life, I knew I had to manage to somehow find her a suitable situation long-distance.

Assisted Living was a relatively new concept to me. I learned it was a system by which seniors entered a sort of group home facility, while still retaining a modicum of independence. Generally, the residents have their own apartment or separate bedroom. Often daily meals, laundry services, housekeeping and transportation are provided. It sounded like a perfect solution for my independent, social-butterfly, 87-year-old mother who was becoming too frail to live on her own.

Some families in America still manage to take their elders into their own homes, but changing job locations, long work hours, and other family responsibilities may make this impossible. Even getting seniors to places where they can socialize with others of their own generation and experiences can be a logistical nightmare. Assisted Living seems to fill these gaps nicely. There are always social activities, outings, guest speakers, card games, bingo, and religious services. Doctors come to the facility to treat medical needs, and caregiving assistants monitor the residents for changes in diet, behavior, and activity level. Yet there is always the ability for the resident to retreat to his or her own ‘separate space’ to regroup should the need arise.

Thank heavens for the internet! I was able to search web sites for eldercare facilities and all kinds of advice. This in itself is an education that took some time, because the costs and accommodations vary so widely and the legal issues can get complicated. By process of elimination, I began to see what was do-able. It also led to that ‘serious talk’ with my mother about financial resources and planning. Of course, I was a bit fearful to broach these subjects. Mom has always run her own affairs, and intruding into these personal details intimidated me, but these are the realities of modern life, and we both wanted what was best for her. If you, like me, are dealing with someone from the ‘Greatest Generation’ age bracket, rest assured they are not ignorant of financial realities. If a parent has reached the point where independent living has already made their circumstances muddy and confused, they will appreciate the help, as long as you include them in the process.

At this point, I was ready to look into specific state resources for elders. Often, if assets will not cover the monthly assisted living fees, one can ‘pay down’ assets and then go onto state aid. If a parent’s needs fall into this category, you will have to look for ‘subsidized care.’ This varies greatly from state to state, so I looked into Illinois’ Department on Aging and Health and Human Services Division. I was sent an enormous amount of material to sift through on programs for elders, which ranged from in-home care to full nursing home facilities. Over time, I was able to whittle it all down to what would work for Mom. I was fortunate in finding an assisted living facility affiliated with her particular religion, which allowed for daily services and special services for Holy Days. Many religions have endeavors in this area of elder care, and I would encourage anyone to look there first before going into state-run facilities.

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