The Search for an Assisted Living Home: One Family’s Journey
Susan could no longer deny she had a problem when her mother started to call her at 2:00 in the morning, asking her when she was coming to see her.
Her mother, Molly, is a vibrant, outgoing woman who raised three children and worked as a legal secretary, fully enjoying the job. She loves her family and being with people. Molly also has an impressive command of trivia questions.
Of the siblings, Susan lived nearest to her parents, and so she saw them the most often. Several years ago, she noticed that her mother seemed unfocused. Short, routine errands to nearby stores took hours. But her dad assured her that all was well.
Then Susan’s dad passed away, and Molly lived alone.
Susan assumed more responsibility for helping her mother, a role she termed as “Boss of the Bills and the Pills”. She continued to worry that her mother was “off” and she shared her concerns with her siblings, a difficult and emotional task. They were not convinced that Molly’s problems warranted taking her out of the home that she loved.
Susan increasingly worried about her mother’s confusion about time and space. She started getting calls from her mother in the middle of the night, asking her when she would come to visit. Neighbors called her to report that Molly was having difficulty driving. As Susan reports it, “I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach 24 hours a day.” The final straw was when Molly fell in her home and ended up in the hospital.
After the fall, the family moved Molly to an assisted living residence. Molly seemed to adjust to her new living situation, but Susan saw that her mother had lost the sparkle in her eyes. For a woman who was always busy and with friends, Molly now did not have much to do. She spent a lot of time alone in her room.
The staff at the assisted living residence reported that Molly wandered and had great difficulty finding her apartment. She left her stove on so frequently that the residence disabled it. Then Molly fell in her unit, fracturing her neck and nose. Molly did not use her emergency wrist pendant, so an aide found her long after the fact.
Molly was treated in a hospital, transferred to a rehab facility, and then she went back to her assisted living unit. Given her mental confusion, the residence required the family to hire 24 -hour care, at $600 per day. The family quickly decided they needed another solution.
Susan looked at memory care units near her home in Needham. When she walked into White Oak Cottages, she was surprised that it felt like a real home. Residents were coming and going through the living room, the smell of fresh laundry came from the dryer, and the staff was preparing dinner in the kitchen. Susan knew how much her mother wanted to be around other people, and she thought, “This is perfect!”
In September 2012 Molly moved into White Oak Cottages. Daily life is now much closer to what it was like when she was living in her family home. She has her own room to decorate and she can watch her television whenever she wants. Her children visit her, some having dinner with her, others watching movies with her in her room. They all appreciate the ability to focus on Molly, rather than on her care.
When Molly’s family is not visiting, she likes being in the action in the living room and playing word games. Molly is the recognized champ of the trivia contests. And she has made new friends. Susan enjoys the way the residents care for each other. “The residents ….are like family. They look out for each other.”
Since Molly has moved to White Oak, her medical condition has stabilized. According to Susan, “the spark is back in her eye”. Her favorite day is Saturday, when families visit with children and dogs. Susan says that the high level of activity is just what her mother needs. “She is thriving. I have nothing but positive things to say about White Oak. For me, it is peace of mind. When you walk out of White Oak and feel that all is well for your mother, it is worth everything.”