Part 15: The Care Center
It’s time to write about the Care Center. I have a love/hate relationship with the place. Let me begin by saying I am glad it is here and it was one of the reasons Bob and I moved to this senior residence six years ago. That said, the other side of the story is I hope I never have to live there, short term or long term. However, the Care Center is my insurance policy.
It is a free-standing building near the lodge and adjacent to the cottages. As lodge and cottage residents age and cannot manage independent living, if there is space available, they can move into a small apartment in the assisted living unit at the Care Center. If someone is hospitalized for an illness or surgery, they can recover in skilled nursing before returning to their apartment in independent living. For those people who are seriously failing and need lots of care, they frequently spend their last days in skilled nursing. The third unit at the Care Center is the memory care floor for folks that have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
The Care Center is a wonderful facility, and those that use it find they receive super care and support. It is excellent in what it offers; I just hope I don’t need to accept the offer.
Bob’s death happened so quickly he never lived long enough to go there to recover. He died the fourth day he was in the hospital. No one can predict how my last days will play out. My wish, of course, is that I will be like Bob and go from being alert and vigorous to death. However, the Care Center is waiting for me if I need it. Thus the love/hate relationship.
Pros and cons
Good friends of ours from the mountains moved to senior living here at the same time Bob and I did. Unfortunately, their move did not go as smoothly as ours. My skiing buddy’s health and life skills failed rapidly, and a year after the move she needed assisted living. Her husband chose to move to the Care Center with her, although he could have remained in their apartment in the lodge at no additional cost. A few months later, he died. Whether it was the stress over his wife’s failing mind and health or irregularity of taking his meds or just a worn out heart, Bob and I lost a wonderful friend.
Now, five years later his wife is still living. It is so sad. Through the years, her mind and body have seriously failed. She spends most of her time sitting in a wheel chair in skilled nursing with very few of her cognitive skills left. It was after a fall—which left her unable to walk or manage a walker—that she was moved from memory care to skilled nursing for more care.
Her three children are as attentive as possible. However, because of distance their visits are irregular. This has certainly reaffirmed to me how important it is for us older folks to move close to at least one of our children if at all possible. I visit my friend weekly. Initially, I did it to offer her companionship. As I experienced her cognitive failure and found it increasingly difficult to speak with her, I continued the weekly visits because I wanted the staff at the Care Center to know she had an advocate. Actually, she never needed an advocate as the staff at the Care Center love her and treat her with great care. Yet, I still want them to be aware that she has a frequent visitor, me. I think it has been more painful for me to see her descent into mental nothingness than for her to live the experience. Dementia is terrible.
A concern arises
I have a concern related to care at our place that bothers me and other residents and seems unsolvable. Here it is: The older we get, the more at risk we become in needing the facilities of the Care Center. Many of us worry about what happens when the unit we need to move into is full.
The Care Center was designed to offer a certain percentage of apartments and rooms related to the number of independent living residents. Now that independent living is almost full and assisted living and skilled nursing are frequently full, we wonder how the Care Center will take care of us when we need it. Our Continuing Care Residency Agreement promises that if there is no available space at the Care Center for us when we need it, management will find another facility at no additional expense to us. I never anticipated this when we moved here.
There is a particular resident still in independent living at the lodge who I watch and worry about. She frequently appears lost and confused and seems to need to be living in the Care Center. I do not know the details of her planning. That is not my business. However, I wish she were being more closely supported by staff here at the lodge. In inquiring around about this, management has told me that according to our state license as an independent living facility, their hands are tied in offering her assistance. This really bothers me. I guess my hands are tied, too.
In an earlier article I wrote about my friend who was critical of my naming this series “The Last Stop”. But it is my last stop—and while my living situation isn’t perfect, in my opinion it is as good as it gets.
This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”