With the COVID-19 outbreak, life is different. At Vesta Senior Network, just like many businesses, we are unable to meet directly with the families we serve. However, we are finding that the knowledge and experience that we can provide families is even more important during this time than ever. In order to help, we are instead meeting via conference calls, coordinating virtual tours of potential assisted living communities, and helping families deal with new admission guidelines for move-in day. The rules we have to follow during the COVID-19 outbreak are making the move to assisted living communities less comfortable than it once was, and less than ideal. However, since we are still able to give families the special attention they deserve, we can help them find and select the care their loved ones need.
As always, we stand by our promise to understand each individual’s circumstances and needs, and to help the family come to the most sustainable decisions that are right for them. This takes time and attention to detail as well as kindness and caring to best explain how options differ and ultimately provide peace of mind.
Understanding the Individual
To help you understand our process, take a look at how we were able to help Melinda find the best care for her dad during this COVID crisis. (Names have been changed for privacy)
Melinda’s dad has some mild confusion or dementia stemming from his Parkinson’s disease. He has also recently had a fall and he now requires physical assistance in and out of his wheelchair for bathing and toileting. Melinda is a single working mother. She wanted to find a good assisted living community where he will get the care he needs because soon she will be back to working a lot of hours, as well as continuing to care for her three kids.
As always, we spent the time with Melinda to learn everything we could about Jerry’s individual circumstance while teaching Melinda what she needed to know about assisted living in Wisconsin. We took into consideration what Jerry’s care needs are today, what they might be in the future, and how his financial situation will impact his choices. We explained to Melinda the importance of making sustainable decisions.
We also talked about the current climate w COVID-19 and how things are different today than usual. How would this affect our search? How would we learn about and consider different communities?
- Having to do our tours via video conference and facetime
- There are no visitors during COVID-19, so when Dad moves in, we would have to drop him off and only communicate by phone and Facetime after that.
- Another COVID-19 policy in some communities is 14 days of isolation for a new resident once he moves in. Dad would have to stay in his apartment, but caregivers would still come in (gowned) to help him and deliver his meals via tray service
Which Assisted Living Will Be Best?
We identified three assisted living options that would work for Jerry, based on what we learned from Melinda. Our Vesta Elder Care Consultant got on a conference call with Melinda and her sister Allison, who lives in Ohio, to discuss the options and address their concerns.
- “What would happen if at some point Dad needed more than one person’s help getting in and out of his wheelchair?” Melinda had been told previously that if he would ever start to need more than one person to help him get in and out of his wheelchair, he would then have to move to a nursing home. This saddened and scared Melinda. Our Vesta Elder Care Consultant reassured Melinda that this was why we asked so many questions about Jerry. Understanding that he does have Parkinson’s and is not a small man, our consultant was showing Melinda and her sister only the options where Jerry could ultimately get a great deal of assistance and stay in his new home.
- “Could Dad have a mini-fridge in his apartment so he could keep a few of his favorite beverages (Diet Pepsi) in his room?”
- “Could his little dog, Brownie (now becoming Melinda’s dog), come for a visit?”
These were important questions that again, our consultant took into consideration when finding options that would work for Jerry. They talked through these so the sisters could feel comfortable with how things could be for their dad. One of the community options had a built in mini-fridge and kitchenette there in the studio, and the other two places were open to the family moving a mini-fridge in. Jerry’s little dog, Brownie, would be welcome to visit at any of the three options, at least of course, once the family is able to visit again after the COVID restrictions are lifted.
We arranged to take tours via Facetime with the marketing person at each community. This was difficult for the sisters, as they were concerned that they could not get the “feel” of the places or be able to do the “smell test”. They shared that they felt especially grateful for our insight into these places, and our consultant being able to share more details and experiences with them.
After the tours, there were several phone calls discussing the top two options and eventually Melinda and her sister chose the one they liked the best for their dad. Melinda put a deposit on the room and began getting the paperwork and information to the assisted living.
Plan for Move-in Day
As advocates, Vesta was able to work with the family members and the staff at the assisted living community to create a plan for move-in day. For Jerry’s move, it was important that Jerry and the family both understand: the plan was:
- Melinda was not going to be able to enter her dad’s new home with him. Hugs goodbye were only at the entrance.
- Jerry’s furniture was unloaded at the front door for the maintenance people to move to his room. Melinda got a floor plan from the community and was able to identify on paper exactly how Jerry’s room should look.
- A caregiver met Jerry at the door, took him to his room, and helped him get comfortable and make phone calls to his daughters, letting them know he was okay. Jerry was thrilled to find a 6-pack of Diet Pepsi chilling in his new fridge.
- After he was unpacked and settled, both Jerry’s daughters were able to see his new home via FaceTime.
Melinda has since shared with her Vesta Elder Care Consultant how happy she is that dad is now moved-in, safe, and well-cared for. Melinda commented that she was very pleased hearing how Jerry enjoyed his meals, and was given lots of time and attention during his first day at his new assisted living community. She also told her that she couldn’t have done this without her help. Melinda can’t wait for the day when COVID is behind us and she can take Brownie for a visit to make her dad smile.