BY TONY LEWIS, CEO, Cobble Hill LifeCare
Tricia had an MBA in finance and was vice-president in a bank where she supervised 30 employees . At work she was decisive and resourceful. But when it came to caring for her aging parents, Tricia was at a loss. When she came to see me in my office at the Cobble Hill Health Center she was agitated. “I need to place my parents in the nursing home,” she said decisively. “ Mom sometimes forgets to turn off the gas when she cooks. My dad needs to be reminded to take his blood pressure medication. Last week he tripped on a rug in the hallway and fell. He’s a big guy and mom couldn’t get him up. He laid there an hour until I could get to him. He didn’t break anything but it really freaked me out. They just can’t manage alone anymore.” Tricia confessed that the stress of worrying about her parents was affecting her ability to function. “I never thought I would do it but I need to make sure my parents are taken care of and safe. I can’t be there all the time. I found this place on the internet and it looked like a good place. I want my parents here.”
I listened patiently. I explained to Tricia that her parents didn’t need a nursing home. They were forgetful but weren’t suffering from Alzheimer’s. They were generally healthy. They could take care of themselves but needed some help and supervision. I recommended moving them to an assisted living facility. They would receive all the services they needed such as meals, cleaning help, companionship and socialization. Above all, the management would keep tabs on their well-being. “Assisted living is the best solution for them and for you,” I told her. “They will feel independent but there will always be someone there if anything happens or they need something.” I recommended a highly regarded facility not too far from where she lived.
Tricia’s was only one among countless similar stories I had heard over the 25 years I had spent as Cobble Hill Health Center’s administrator and as the CEO of Cobble Hill LifeCare, our newly formed comprehensive health care system.
Competent people who can navigate career and life goals with surety and ease become discombobulated when faced with caring for their elderly loved ones. Primarily, this is because there are so many variables when faced with the decision of what to do with people you love when they can no longer care for themselves independently. Tricia didn’t know the difference between a skilled care facility like Cobble Hill Health Center and an assisted living facility. Other care options such as home care, care coordination in the home and day care for adults can be viable alternatives for many frail and elderly adults. But they are little understood by the average person. Who pays for these services? How do I apply for it? What’s the eligibility criteria?
Several years ago, I remember a friend telling me that when her mother had surgery on her leg, she arrived home with a bandage that needed changing. The family didn’t know who would change the bandage. They had never even heard of home care. Luckily, a neighbor told them about his brother-in-law’s home care agency and a nurse came in until the wound healed.
These options are lifesaving but you’d be surprised how many people have no idea they exist or have no idea how to access them. Many large organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association, have a centralized toll free number to call to get information about care options. Caregivers can call Cobble Hill LifeCare’s 1- 855 number and access professional help in making the best choice possible for their loved one.
It’s not an easy time when loved ones age and deteriorate mentally or physically. But it makes a significant difference in the caregiver’s and patient’s life when you know where to go for professional help.