Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Getting Even

The question is, who needs care? What kind of care? Who decides what care to give?

Mark, the caregiver from Options for Elders, was supposed to come on Wednesday last week. Through a series of crossed wires – and the absence of an answering machine on my parents’ telephone – we didn’t get the message that he had a Wednesday conflict and would not be here until Friday. That set a sour tone for my mother. On Friday Mark arrived exactly on time – and right on the heels of Glenn, who mows the lawns. It’s a good thing Glenn works unsupervised!

Afterward Mother commented, “I agreed to this because I thought he was going to help me. Apparently he thinks he is supposed to help your father. Seems to me your father can get along just fine. He can get outside, sit on the lanai, look at the yard. He doesn’t need someone to take him out. I need help with things like heavy cleaning. I asked him to clean the counters in the kitchen. He wiped them down, but there are stained spots that need to be scrubbed and the stains are still there.” But he also scrubbed down the woodwork and diagnosed the problem with the overhead kitchen light.

Meanwhile, Daddy still needs to feel useful, even if he really is creating more work for someone else in the process. He is entitled to some quality of life. If I think about it, I can appreciate the thought process going on. He’s spent most of the last 70 years – probably most of the last 94 year – considering only his pleasures, not the consequences of his decisions. While he’s been enjoying life, she has been hurting. Are we playing “get evensies”?

We are seeing obvious signs that Mother is slipping, too. There was the charge on her credit card – the one for which she remembered writing the order, but not putting it in the mail. At dinner last night she asked about her “meat pounder” – one of those hammer-looking devices used to tenderize meat. Said she looked everywhere for it, but it was not to be found. I found it right where it was supposed to be. Yes, it was buried under a spatula, but still in the box. Took the box out to show her. She was chagrinned. He quietly said, “Thank you.”

What about me? I am getting restless. I think I need to find a friend or two, someone to have coffee or lunch with occasionally, someone who is interested in craft fairs or special exhibitions or just exploring, or someone who would enjoy an occasion afternoon movie. Now what?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Owning vs. Renting

We have spent the last week looking at Senior Communities.

We went back to Pohai Nani, where my dad passed the "assisted living" test. He can live in the regular apartments with help -- as much or as little as he needs, with the appropriate associated fees. Pohai Nani is operated by a unit of the Lutheran Church specializing in services to seniors, both in transitional care and independent living settings. Decisions on services are made by local management based on what corporate experience suggests is popular or desirable for resident care. For example, they are transitioning all their tub/shower units to step-in showers (i.e., small curb to contain water). Roll-in showers represent a higher level of care and are available in both the small group cottages and skilled nursing facilities. Pohai Nani is in a suburban community on the windward side of Oahu; all apartments have lanai and magnificent views of the mountains.

One Kalakaua is much newer than Pohai Nani, and has a very urban apartment complex feel. Units there are privately owned, and compactly designed. Each has a full kitchen and washer/dryer. The master bedrooms are spacious; where there is a second bedroom, it is tiny. All the common rooms are on two floors -- there are no common areas on the residential floors. With your apartment comes covered, secure parking for one car. There is no community bus; the City bus and taxis are readily available. Your monthly service fee includes only 1 meal in the dining room daily, and the lunch and dinner menus are identical. Many residents do not use even their 30-day allotment of dining room meals preferring to eat in their apartments or in another restaurant in town. Everyone wears an emergency call bracelet or necklace, and there is 24-hour coverage at the front desk. You cannot sneak out the front door without being seen! Someone set on escaping might be able to get out through the garage, but there's a lot of walking involved in that exercise. An interesting concept is that the hallway door to each apartment is alarmed nightly from the outside by the facility security staff. If the door is not opened to break the alarm circuit in the morning, someone will call and ask you to open your front door. If they do not get an answer by telephone, they will come into the apartment to check on your status. The down side is that since the units are privately owned, all decisions for services (except on the medical floor) are made by the Homeowner's Association members -- i.e. the residents. If the majority of those interested in the decision-making process are from the young-and-active crowd (anyone can live there as long as the primary resident is at least 55), policy will reflect their preferences. They do have active residents in their 90's, and are proud of them. There are more off-premises activities here, reflecting both the more active status of the average resident and the location right in town.

So here's the Question of the Day -- at 95, is one better off to (1) stretch really hard, purchase a unit, pay a smaller monthly service fee, and have a piece of real, inheritable property or (2) make no initial investment, rent for a much larger monthly fee -- which is affordable now, but may be more difficult for my mother alone -- and have no investment at the other end. Your perspectives are appreciated.

Today's trivia: Barach Obama spent most of his growing up years living with his grandparents only a block away from One Kalakaua in another apartment building where his grandmother still lives.

I learned a new Hawaiian word this week: mokulele. Moku is a boat. Lele is jump, or jumping. Mokulele is airport. Thus an airplane is literally a jumping boat! Interesting concept. I wonder if other cultures describe them similarly?