Monday, July 28, 2008

An Adult Family Home is Home

Mom and Dad now live in an Adult Family Home; a concept that until several months ago never seemed a viable option for their ongoing and escalating care needs. I'd never even heard of an adult family home (AFH) until I toured one with J.K., an elder care specialist, 18 months ago. I thought the concept was great but the big hurdle was getting Mom to accept the idea that she'd be living in a home, just not "her home". Although none of the options appealed, she seemed more willing to go for the retirement apartment model with extra services tacked on or the assisted living model with continuous one-on-one overnight coverage tacked on to the tune of astounding dollars each month. By June 2008 we had definitely "been there and done (all) that" at great expense, and felt pressed to consider other options. Somehow the perfect AFH with two open spots appeared and of all places, the home was close by. Ahhhh. No more driving fifteen miles one way in traffic, burning gas!

Mom and Dad have been in residence at this lovely AFH for about a month now. It hasn't been the easiest of transitions; they never are. Overall, things seem to be more positive than negative especially as the weeks pass. My hope is that with more time the really great features of living "at home", things like the family atmosphere, great city/Mt. Rainier views, wildlife (birds), consistent caregivers, and familiar faces (the other four residents) plus the the lap dog, "Cozy" will make this living situation their best choice to date.

I know I'm a lot happier especially since I no longer have to worry about running out to buy chocolate drinks, toothpaste, paper towels, beer and other semi-emergent essentials multiple times a week. I leave those tasks to Anna and her trusty staff. Although I fill pill boxes once a month, keep tabs on prescriptions that need renewal, and write the occasional check, I'm finding that I'm more like a daughter, a welcomed visitor to their home, and part of an extended family when I walk through the(ir) front door. Once a week or so I take them to a doctor or dentist appointment but Catie, Mom and Dad's dearest home helper/caregiver still comes three days a week from 1-4 PM to do "whatever is needed" that day. Sometimes it's just talking and visiting; other times it's a an outing to Trina's for a wash and set for Mom's hair or to the Vietnamese ladies who run the corner barbershop for Dad. They've also gone to Tully's Coffee a few times, hoping to catch Laura at the helm of the espresso machine in her role as barista. This is all good.

I visit Mom and Dad frequently and usually find them either in the common room watching TV or more often in the larger of the two bedrooms sitting, reading the paper or watching their own TV. Sure, I'm there to visit with them, review the incoming mail, and to be a cheerleader for the cause but I must admit, I go there for the food too (is that bad?). There's always a ready supply of fresh baked goods or ice cream going on at Anna's place. Today when I walked in the kitchen and asked "what's there to eat?" I had choices! There were brownies, cupcakes, and cheesecake plus a pot of freshly brewed (real) coffee. What's not to like? If I arrive at mealtime, I'm always invited to join in. There is food aplenty in this home. To me, sharing of good food is one of the things that makes a house into a family home.

There are plenty of planned events at the AFH, like the one we enjoyed on July 4th with great views of fireworks and the spread of food as shown here. Coming up is a Luau Party in August; extended family has an open invitation. It's nice to see the elders in residence joined by the younger generations, the owners of the AFH, and the attentive caregivers sharing good times together.

This is home. This is what we long for when we can no longer have our own expansive private spaces. It's about finding and nurturing a new extended family and putting down roots in a new community of people who share our same boat. This getting older business is definitely not for sissies. But we'll forge ahead together and hope that we can make the last days meaningful. We try. We definitely try our best.

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