Case Studies: How 3 Families Made the Transition to Assisted Living

Assisted Living : Case Studies: How 3 Families Made the Transition to Assisted Living

This article will present 3 case studies of how different families have made the transition from independent to assisted living. It is never an easy or a clear pathc, but perhaps these examples might be helpful to others who are about to embark on this emotional and complicated journey.


The Handwriting was on the wall

Helen Peterkin, our dear friend of sparkling personality and a certain age, is our personal hero on this subject. She and her husband, Gordon, acted decisively when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the early 1990's. Gordon, whose father also had the disease, saw his future and announced that they had to move to an assisted living facility. Helen cried at the prospect of moving out of their lovely home, so he gave her another year. Then they moved to Evergreen Woods, a top-notch facility in Branford, CT. The couple was able to live together for a few years in their beautiful and spacious apartment there, until the progression of Gordon's disease forced a move to the CCRC's health center. Economically their decision was a smart one: his extensive health needs were taken care of at no extra cost. But socially it was the right move too. Helen made friends and built a rich life in her new community. Since Gordon's death Helen has soldiered on, traveling the world and continuing to play an impressive game of golf.


Helen was kind enough to share observations about what she has seen as her friends have had to face a life change. Her experience with her senior friends is similar to that of many of us - it is very difficult to get the elderly to admit that it is time to move, and even then to take the steps that will get them into a good facility. Helen is quite definite that every time she has seen a couple wait too long, "it has been a disaster". What that usually means is that when one or the other of the couple becomes seriously ill, they either can't get into the facility of their choice, they have to pay a premium of several thousand dollars per month, or they have to settle for the least attractive facilities and/or units. Stress levels rise and families are disrupted as worried children scramble to research and gain admittance for their parents into the right kind of facility.


For other helpful articles on all types of retirement issues see our articles under "Assisted Living Advice"

Roberta Isleib Experience - It Takes Two to Tango
"My paternal grandparents planned carefully for their own decline", says clinical psychologist Dr. Roberta Isleib. "They moved from their retirement home in Bradenton, FL to an assisted living facility nearby. My grandmother, still spunky until she died at 92, insisted on referring to the other residents as "inmates." But both seemed satisfied with their choice, especially when my grandfather became ill and had to spend his last weeks in the infirmary.


My own father has always had this model in mind. Unfortunately he was hit by a car a few years ago, a disaster which accentuated his deterioration from dementia and which made him ineligible for an affordable assisted living facility. His wife did not want to move to a facility, so after his accident we struggled with how to choose the best facility to care for him near her home.

After a year it became clear that Bob needed to be in an institution that could handle his mental confusion and lack of physical strength. To her credit, my mother-in-law realized this before she became overwhelmed. She also made a good choice of facility, Summerville at Stafford. My dad wasn't perfectly happy, but he was well taken care of and loved by his caretakers.

The Bionic Parents - We're Not Ready... Yet
This editor's parents are in the 90's and up to recently in near perfect health, playing golf and bridge almost every day. But since no one lasts forever we children have been trying to persuade them to move from their active adult community in Fort Myers FL, to an assisted or independent living community near most of their children in Connecticut. All of our entreaties have fallen on deaf ears - with concerns cited such as "having to move in with all the old people", or "where would we play golf". Now that my father has a serious health condition they finally put down a deposit at a Continuing Care Retirement Community, Cypress Cove in Ft. Myers.


The decision to move in was made just in time. My father's heart condition worsened and he several setbacks. One of those landed him in the nursing care component of the CCRC. Although he didn't like that much, he was at least close enough to my mother that she could walk to see him every day.



My father died 2 years ago from heart disease.  Fortunately he and my mother were able to stay in their spacious independent living apartment right up until the end.  Just recently my mother finally came to grips with being so far away from her 7 children. In May of 2012 she moved from Ft. Myers to Cape Elizabeth, Maine (flying on the airlines by herself). She now lives in an assisted living facility, Village Crossings, that is just down the street from one of my sisters. There she is planning the guest list to her 100th birthday party next year!