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SUDDEN RACE TO FIND A NURSING HOME
November 10 , 2007
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What I Learned – My Mother
In 2006, my now 77-year old Mother had a severe bout of arthritis … which was complicated by several pre-existing other conditions she had.  I personally brought her to the emergency room, and stayed with her while her symptoms got progressively worse … and she started going into seizures.  There were nurses and doctors running around … needles … IVs … various machines and pumps … it is all a blur to me now, and it was a blur to me to sit and watch at that time.  After they stabilized Mom, and before they really knew what was causing her seizures, one of the doctors sat me down and said something to the effect of, “Look – you need to be prepared for your mother needing 24/7 care when she is better … because there is no guarantee how well she is going to pull through all of this.”   I remember feeling crushed by the doctor telling me this, but I knew I needed to get myself smart on the various options available, and I knew I would have to do it in a hurry.   Mom was transferred from the ER to a normal hospital room – and was sedated … and so I had a day to start looking around at the various assisted living options.

The first assisted living facility I visited was less than one mile from where I live.  It is fairly new, and I’ve driven past it many times.  I walked in there blind – not knowing anything about what to expect, what costs were involved, etc.  All I knew was that it was close by, and that I would personally look it over.  When I walked into this place, it did not look like a nursing home or assisted living facility at all.  It was fairly lavishly decorated, and reminded me more of a five star hotel.  I remember thinking to myself, “Damn – this place is nice.”  And while I waited for the facility’s representative to meet with me, I walked around and spoke with a handful of different residents – asking them what they thought of the place, and they all said how wonderful it was, and that they were very happy there, etc.  To make a long story short – it turned out that this place is the Ritz Carlton of assisted living facilities in my city … which means I was told that this place was without question far above any place else around.   Here are the prices they shared with me (in 2006 dollars):

Prices for Top-Tier Assisted Living in my Neighborhood
$2880/month for a shared two-person studio
$3180/month for a single bedroom but two-person apartment (common living area)
$3750/month for a single person private suite
$4890/month for a single person two-room suite
Dementia rates run the monthly bill up to roughly $7000/month.
Extra monthly fees depending on the "care level" needed ... and these fees vary from $870 to $1920/month

I just about fell out of my chair backward when I saw those fees the first time – as my mother has no insurance to cover this sort of thing … which means it would be coming out of my pocket.  I was honest with the representative, and told her that I could only afford rates like that for a limited time – and then I asked her for the name of the next-best place here in town which might be a little less expensive.   She actually gave me the name of another place which was less expensive, and which I visited that same day.   Here are that next-best place’s prices (in 2006 dollars):

$1850/month for a Studio
$2400/month for a Deluxe Studio
$2700/month for a One Bedroom
$3100/month for a Two Bedroom
Extra monthly fees depending on the "care level" needed range from $525 to $1500 per month.

So what I essentially learned that day was that a top-tier place around where I live can easily run anywhere from $3500 to $5000 per month (or more if dementia is involved).

Fortunately the next day when I went to visit my Mother at the hospital, she was doing much, much better.  In fact, she was walking around and not having too many problems at all – and so it had appeared that I had essentially “dodged a bullet” and would not have to worry about continuing to visit different assisted living facilities in order to find the right one at the right price.  I took her home the next day, and she has been fine and independent ever since … but I have not forgotten what it felt like to be in that panic … and having to seek out places like that without knowing anything at all.

Another Option – In-Home Caregiver
The only other data point I can share is what my Father did with his mother (my grandmother) years ago when she needed extended care.  He actually moved her in with him and his wife – and they hired “helpers” to come in for twelve-hour shifts.   These “helpers” were located through ads my Father placed in the newspaper – and the people were not paid very well.  I remember they all had to be constantly supervised … but they did do the tough stuff, like bathing grandma, helping her go to the bathroom, etc.   I cannot tell you the costs involved, but that did seem to work out pretty well for all involved.

What I Recommend You Do
If you find yourself in the situation where you need to find assisted living or nursing home care – first ask the doctor or hospital what resources they recommend.  Talk to others you know who have gone through something similar and leverage the midlife knowledge … which is the slogan of this website.  Visit the entire range of places under consideration, and remember to talk to the residents at random, and ask them if they like where they are.  You should also check the state licensing board where you live, and see if there are any complaints or actions against the facilities you are considering.  Use the web – do a search on “Assisted Living Resources” or “assisted living ratings” followed by your city and state, and see what comes up.  Thankfully, I have never had to complete the process of locating an assisted living facility, but I think I am smart enough about the various options that I could locate one in a week or so if it became necessary.


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