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Herald Journal Guides
Senior Citizens Resources Guide

Making tough decisions

By Chris Schultz

Ultimately, for all of us, there comes a point in time when life and the relationships we have with others change dramatically.

Those changes can be good or bad, and in most cases, as the one I will talk briefly about, involve both good and bad.

A major change occurred in my life last August, when my father, Walter, was admitted to a long-term care center.

At age 86, his health was failing him. Alzheimer's and dementia were crippling his short-term memory. Cancer in a gland and the resulting surgery had slowed him up even more, and it seemed every injury or ailment he had in his life was quickly reappearing.

Time was taking its toll on my father, and even more so on my mother and my twin sister and her family.

The amount and level of attention and care my father needed was growing every day. Stress for all of us grew along with it.

Years before his surgery in August, my twin sister and I had made a commitment that we would do our best to care for both of our parents in the twilight of their lives. A few years ago that commitment included our parents moving in with my sister and her family.

With the change, her family then included her husband, two young kids, and grandpa and grandma. The system worked well until Walter's declining health and surgery.

In August, the time had come. Dad needed more care than any of us could provide.
A decision had to be made, and in our case, with a large family, and emotions running high, the decision was difficult.

Money, quality, location; in-home care, a long term care facility, or possibly adult day care.

Where do you start? How do you get objective information? What resources are available and what do they cost?

Although several immediate family members were involved in the decision, I found myself, being the administrator for my parents, leading the way. First of all, finding comprehensive information was difficult.

The hospital where he had to be moved from recommended a direct move to a long-term care facility and just simply asked where we wanted him sent.

In haste, we made a quick decision based on geography, and that's when the learning process really started.

Walter, with Alzheimer's and a passion to wander, wasn't accepted by many facilities for a long-term stay.

The first decision made for his care only led to a much more difficult one ­ in-home care or long-term care facility farther away.

Time was not in our favor, and although the people I dealt with were very nice, meetings with various agencies and social workers lead to only more confusion.

Every meeting lead to another resource or opportunity. No one seemed to have or be able to present information on a variety of services that were available.

I soon found out that there was no one good source of information on services or resources ­ just a pile of small brochures and recommendations from those in the industry. Private, public, in-home, or care facility ­ there were choices, and many of them.

With family emotions running high, financial considerations stressful ,and Walter needing to be moved in less than a week's time, things weren't going good. The right decision seemed a million miles away.

At that time, I changed my approach, scrapped all the small brochures and business cards, and leaned heavily on one local resource guide, the previous version of this one.

With it in hand, I called, visited, and interviewed various in-home care services and long-term care facilities. The guide lead me to a final decision for my father's care. In my briefcase with all the forms and applications, it still sits on top with this version soon to replace it.

So far, six months later the decision had been a good one for Walter. He seems happy and well cared for and we can visit often. That's the good.

The bad side is, he's not at home, we all miss him, and I will always question the process, the decisions made, if I could have done more, and if there was something better.

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