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Assisted Living: One Family's Story
Lynne Romano, a 57-year-old retired middle school teacher from Rhode Island
, has had her share of experience with retirement communities. First in 2002, her and her family made the decision to place her father- and mother-in-law in an Assisted Living
community due to their failing health. Then, in 2004, she helped her uncle, Louis Romano, with his own transition into an Assisted Living
While each of Lynne's relatives had their own distinct needs, assisted living's versatility turned out to be the answer for both situations.
Finding the Right Fit
Originally, she says, her uncle was only interested in spending the winter months in the community to avoid the cold weather, but he ended up enjoying the lifestyle so much that he chose to make it a permanent stay.
"The decision to go was his and the decision to stay was his," says Lynne. "The main reason he chose to remain there was because his brother and his brother's wife were living there. He's a social guy. Before the move, he was alone too much; he needed to be around family."
The option of a temporary stay was critical to her uncle's willingness to try out an assisted living community, which is important for families who are struggling to convince loved ones to make a senior housing transition due to health and medical needs. "It doesn't have to be a lifelong decision," Lynne says. "They can stay temporarily and give it a try before deciding to make it a permanent move."
For the past three years, Louis was a member of the Independent Living
community at Greenwich Bay Manor (East Greenwich, RI), and he very recently moved to Brightview Commons, an independent and assisted living community in Wakefield, RI, to be closer to his extended family.
"After his brother passed away two years ago, his original reason for remaining in that community no longer existed, so it made sense for him to move somewhere closer to the family," shares Lynne. "This time, I made the decision and he went along with it. Brightview is only a three-and-a-half-mile walk from my house, so the location is ideal."
Aside from the close proximity to home and reasonable finances (Louis is able to afford the monthly costs, despite the fact that Medicaid or Medicare is not accepted), Lynne and her uncle were also drawn to the three levels of assisted living available at Brightview. As a resident's needs increase, he or she can simply increase the level of care they require. Although the costs rise along with the care, Lynne says it's a comfort to know that all of Louis' needs can be met in one place.
"Right now, he's on the lowest level of care. All he needs help with is getting his medications dispensed," she says. "His main reason for being in the community is the socialization." Although independent in many ways, Louis no longer drives, which can make it difficult for him to get out and be social on his own, says Lynne. At the assisted living community, he is surrounded by others his own age and is regularly visited by family members, which has greatly improved his quality of life.
Fulfilling Different Needs
"It's too soon to tell with the new place because he just moved in," she says. "But we saw tremendous changes in him during his time spent at the previous place. The biggest advantage for older adults in a senior living community is they don't have to be alone." At the Greenwich location, Louis, who loves to sing, thrived as a member of the community's choral group. Now, at Brightview, he is working with the activities director start another group so he can continue his hobby.
Likewise, Lynne recalls seeing an even more marked transformation in her mother-in-law during her time spent at Greenwich Bay Manor. "She thrived and she absolutely loved it there because there were people around and there were all kinds of activities. For her, it was like heaven."
While both her uncle and her in-laws were living in the same community for two years, their situations were drastically different. Her uncle was simply looking to escape the cold and meet some new people; the fragile state of her in-laws' health at the time made the decision to place them in an assisted living community more imperative.
"They didn't want to go," says Lynne. "But they were forced to because of health reasons." The family chose a place that was centrally located between them, and despite their initial resistance to the move, her in-laws were better able to enjoy their final years because of it.
"All of their needs were taken care of - they had three meals a day prepared for them, the staff was always around, and most importantly, they were never alone. It was a huge relief," shares Lynne. And they loved it, she adds. "[My mother-in-law] used to tell me to save my money so I could live there when I got older."
Every family's situation is different, insists Lynne, and there is no set of rules that applies to everyone. "But one thing that is critical for extended family is to find a location that's close by," she advises. Being able to visit on a regular basis is vital not just to the mental and physical well being of your loved ones, but for you and your family's as well.
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