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Senior living communities are often stigmatized by caregivers. Too often, they think they’re putting their loved ones “away.” But in reality, the right senior living community can help your loved ones thrive in later years.

Not only do they have as much care as they need, but they can connect with other seniors in the same boat — which they can’t get if they’re isolated in their own home.

But every senior living community is different. And some provide better care and opportunities than others.

In this episode, Alaine Capper from The Arbor Company joins me to reveal key things to look for in potential senior living communities, how to properly “vet” the best senior living communities, and why senior living communities give your loved ones the best possible quality of life.

Here Are The Show Highlights:

  • Why isolation is especially deadly for seniors battling dementia (and the easy way to prevent it) (3:37)
  • The insidious way stigmas sabotage your loved one’s quality of life (6:36)
  • Early warning signs that your loved one’s cognitive abilities are slipping (10:29)
  • The single best way to “vet” senior living communities to ensure they make a great home (15:11)

If you’d like to talk more with Alaine, you can give her a call at 817-819-9144 or call The Vantage at City View and ask for Alaine.

For daily 5-minute mind exercises, head over and like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hcafortworth/

You can also find additional support and resources by calling Home Care Assistance at 817-349-7599 or visit our websites https://www.homecareassistancefortworth.com/ and https://itsmyturntocare.com/.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “It’s My Turn To Care.” We know the challenges you face caring for someone with dementia. That's why each week we bring you tips, strategies, and most of all, support, as you navigate your role as caregiver. Let's get started. [00:15.6]

Dave: Hello. This is Dave Parks and welcome to It’s My Turn To Care: Secrets for the Dementia Caregiver. I'm a certified senior advisor and owner of Home Care Assistance and it's our goal on this program to always give you some tips, strategies, and things to think about as you care for someone with dementia.

Today I have Alaine Capper with the Vantage at Cityview, and Alaine has a very interesting background. Her father was one of the first or he was actually the second cardiologist here in Fort Worth, and he covered Parker County all the way to Dallas County. [01:01.6]

She also has a brother that's a pastor of the largest homeless church in Houston, and another brother that's a physician here in Fort Worth over the Homeless Clinic at JPS and their palliative care, so she has got a very interesting medical family.
She has been in the senior living industry for 18 years. She started in hospice and she has done senior living as well, which is what she's doing right now. She took a little five-year hiatus and was in the restaurant and event industry, and she really missed being with seniors and her passion. That's where her passion was and she came back in November of 2019.

Alaine, thanks so much for being on our program.

Alaine: It's my pleasure. I'm so grateful to be on it.

Dave: She's currently the external business development for the Vantage. So tell us a little bit about the Vantage. [02:06.4]

Alaine: The Vantage, we just were able [to celebrate]. We are a community that we have independent living, we have assisted living and we have memory care. The Vantage just celebrated our 16th birthday in July.

Dave: Yah.

Alaine: And it's a community over in Southwest Fort Worth.

Dave: Wow, 16 years. That's great. I understand you're kind of personally in the sandwich generation. Are your parents still living?

Alaine: They are. My father just turned 91 a couple of weeks ago.

Dave: Wow. Great.

Alaine: And my mother who actually is a resident in the Independent Living at the Vantage is 90.

Dave: That is great. Where does your father?

Alaine: My father lives independently at his home.

Dave: Okay, very good. All right, so you have one living at home and one living at home that just happens to be in a senior living community. Okay. [02:58.7]

The reason we wanted to have you on was to talk a little bit about senior living and the fact that you understand independent living assisted living and memory care. Talk a little bit about that. What do you see as the benefits of living in a senior living community?

Alaine: Because we offer three different levels, there are probably benefits that are very similar and yet they're very different in each of our levels. Ironically, as I stated before, my mother started this search because at the time my stepfather was living and they knew they wanted to be around people. They didn't even know they were in their own home, had a beautiful neighborhood. They realized that timing would come where they'd slow down, but they didn't want to be isolated. What the Vantage has brought and Senior Living, I believe, offers is that it offers the ability for you to have a community within a community. [04:01.7]

When my stepfather passed away, we even stated to my mom, “Do you want to go look at home or something and move?” and she said, “Absolutely not. This is my home.” What we found is that even though she didn't have my stepfather with her, she was able to still have her daily schedule, her friends, her activities. That continued, and as a family member, but also as someone who works in this industry, that to me is one of the best benefits that you have.

Assisted living, obviously, you're needing assistance. Even though we, as children, because as I stated, I am at that sandwich kind of “What are we going to do?” you realize that your parent may need assistance and they need the help, but with assisted living, they still have a community. They are not having to isolate or depend on you, when you may have all of your responsibilities still. They don't stop just because your parent make it ill or hurt. [05:14.7]

Memory care, obviously the benefits of having people, because in most memory care for dementia and Alzheimer's, they're trained. They are trained to be specific caregivers to those with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Dave: Talk a little bit about when a family comes in and many times it's a new experience for them, and they could be taking them from their home because they feel that's the best place to be for them. What are some of the things that you want to make sure they understand as they kind of transition into a senior living community? [05:53.1]

Alaine: To be quite honest with you, it's different now than it was then. COVID has changed a lot of rules. It has changed a lot of boundaries and a lot of dynamics and what we're seeing at least in the Assisted Living is that people now are desperate. They're not just looking for a solution. They have to find a solution.

But what we try to encourage is, once upon a time, our grandparents, if I'm speaking personally, my grandfather became ill and he was put into a facility, and so our parents saw that, and as I've dealt with families, many families have said that their parents made them promise they would never put them away. Assisted living, independent living and memory care, it's not putting them away as our parents saw that, and so it's getting past that definition of making them realize this is giving them quality of life. This is giving them extra eyes, extra ears, extra hands to see them. [07:05.7]

So, it's getting past that stigma, first and foremost, because a lot of families have that because they made their promises. Once, I think, you help them understand that, especially pre-COVID, they can come in and see their family member as much as they want to take them out, bring them back. It still will be relational for them. They're not losing their parent. They're just gaining help. They're gaining a different home.

Dave: We just talked about this in our last episode about being careful about making promises that at the time may seem not that big a deal, but it may not be what's best for your loved one down the road. Anyway, so we just talked about that in our last show, so it's interesting that you brought that up as well. [08:09.1]

Talk a little bit about some of the things that people need to look for. Let's say, they're in Independent Living. As time goes on, what are some things that family members need to look for to help start the process, if necessary, to move to that next level of care, being in assisted living,

Alaine: Right, and I'm glad you asked that. I think one thing I always encourage families is it is nice because so many communities offer those three levels, independent, assisted and memory, because depending on how that loved one ages, you can still remain where it has been home for them. It becomes an easier transition. You know the staff. You know the building. You know the location, the little things, but it's still a change. However, it helps because you've already been a part of a family. [09:08.9]

The difficulty is to realize that your loved one is becoming less independent and we're not talking they walk slower or we're talking, true, they need assistance in their every daily living needs, and that's hard. That's hard to accept. Even for any of us, even if we're in the industry, it's hard. It's hard to see one you love realizing their time is shorter rather than longer that we're going to have them.

Dave: Right. As it relates to those that are taking care of someone that have some form of cognitive decline, whether it's been officially diagnosed or not—because we actually have clients that are in Independent Living, but it's clear that they have some memory challenges and things of that nature—how does that kind of come into play? [10:05.9]

Because you have to make, or your nurse or some representative of the Vantage kind of has to make a determination on what's the appropriate level, so how does the cognitive piece kind of play into that?

Alaine: The obvious reasons, they are usually seen by a set of different eyes, the resident who's in Independent Living and you see they're starting to decline, whether it be looping in their conversation, they asked the same question when you talk and visit, because all of us try to have relationships to some degree with every resident. It takes a village. You've got a housekeeper who sees Mom or Dad has not changed clothes in three days and they're sleeping, and just the little things that a family member may not realize. [11:01.8]

Again, it's having that tough love conversation with the family and saying, Here are our options, and that's what I think is great and it also shares with what you do that we're able to give families options. Yes, it may not look what they thought it looked like or it may not be what they thought it would be, but we have so many things that we can offer them.

I can tell you, we, at least at our community, we have always kept full in our Assisted Living and Memory Care because, as the decline happens, we're able to transition them over, but there are still families that don't want to leave their apartment, period, the end, and they want to keep them in Independent Living. That's where you come into play.

Dave: Sure, and we have clients in independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care. It's just a matter of kind of what works best for the individual situation. [12:03.2]

What I tell people or what I try to kind of coach them with is what may work for your neighbor, they may love a particular community or a particular caregiver, but that may not work for you. The only thing that's unique about our business is that every situation is unique, and so what works for your neighbor or your friend, or “I'm going to move to so-and-so community because my neighbor had a great experience there,” that doesn't mean you're going to have a great experience there.
Talk a little bit about the fact that a community like the Vantage has all three levels, so what are the advantages of that?

Alaine: As I referred to earlier, basically we have a separate building for our assisted living and memory care. It's just right across a driveway. [13:00.0]

Say, for instance, our Memory Care director or our Assisted Living director, they're over in our building enough that we can say, Mrs. Smith, seems to be there's some changes. Could you just kind of come see her? It's a smooth [progression.] You've got the people, if they do need to move to a higher level of care, they've already laid their eyes on them. They've already seen their daily, how they're going, because we'll have them watch them or assess them, so it gives credibility for the family.
But I loved what you just said, because even though Mrs. Smith has cognitive issues and Mr. Jones down the hall, he too has cognitive issues, they're totally different. They are from one end of the spectrum to another. You can never cookie-cut residents into what level of care they need. Nobody is the same. [14:00.0]

I used to teach preschool and I had two-year-olds, and then I love seniors and people say, Those are total opposite ends of the spectrum, but really it's not because seniors become to where they think they know what's right, they think they know what they need and they're staunch in it. And, yes, some of them absolutely, but you need to almost encourage them positively to let them know, I care about you. This is why I'm making that difficult. This is why I see you need more help. Like the two-year-old, don't touch the stove because it's hot. Trust me, I see something different, Mr. Jones. I want to give you, get some answers. I want to get a solution.

Dave: Sure. Since you've been in the business for a while and you also have parents that are obviously aging, if you were to go visit, let's say, you went to visit another community, okay, think of the top three things that you want to make sure. We're trying to give tips to our families, so what are the top three or four things that they need to make sure they understand when they go on a tour, for example? [15:11.9]

Alaine: Pre-COVID, I would always recommend people do surprise tours. Don't make an appointment. Show up. Pre-COVID.

Dave: That’s a great tip, sure.

Alaine: Because I'll never forget showing up to one and the community, we walked through on a tour and this has been several years ago, and they had a can of air freshener and they just kept spraying it as we were walking, and it allowed us to go always show up as a surprise because then you're going to really see what they are and who they are.

I also highly encourage to listen. Listen to the conversations going on. Watch. How are they engaging? One of the things that I have because my mother still to this day at 90 balances that checkbook cognitively, and I asked her, “What made you choose here?” and this has been when she did and she said, “Because it felt home.” People were doing. They were still living. [16:13.6]

Dave: Good.

Alaine: And that wouldn't have taken a tour. That wouldn't have taken a salesperson. That just took her seeing and watching. Even if you are with your mom, your dad, really listen. Listen to how the coworkers talk to one another. Listen to how they talk to the residents and just listen.

The third thing, I think that's important because it is important to our seniors is the food.

Dave: Yeah, I was about to ask about the food.

Alaine: Always try to have a meal, always, because that has become such a focal point for seniors because it's one of the highlights of their day. It's also that, once we get past this, that's when they socialize. That's when they're able to be among their peers, but it is important to them what the food tastes. That to me is huge. [17:11.0]
Don't necessarily make one visit. Do a couple because the more you have peace of mind, the better the transition your loved one will feel.

Dave: Can you get a feel for the activities? Do a lot of people ask for a list of activities or a sense for that?

Alaine: Yes.

Dave: Because some people have gregarious personalities and they want to get involved in a lot of things, and some are more to themselves and that kind of thing.

Alaine: Absolutely, and people want them to be active, whether they're an Independent or Assisted or Memory Care. They still want to make sure they're doing things. They don't want them to just sit, because a lot of times, the reason families are coming to communities is they feel guilty that they haven't spent more time being able to do things with their loved ones. They want to make sure that their loved ones are getting to do with their peers. [18:04.0]

Absolutely, your engagement is huge. Find out. Get a calendar. They should have a calendar of what's going on each day. At every community, they'll have them. They should. If it's not printed, it should be handwritten somewhere on a dry erase board somewhere.

Dave: I've actually been pretty impressed with some of the activity calendars that I've seen. I don't know how they keep up with all that. It's pretty much you can be as active as you want to be.

Alaine: Right. You do.

Dave: In most places.

Alaine: Absolutely.

Dave: And there's variety.

Alaine: Variety. I’ve had two ends of the spectrum. I had my stepfather who they had a storage, a little office there, and he would go down there because that was his love. He'd just go through his papers and didn't do anything. Then I have a mother on the other that wants to be a part. She plays bridge every day still. You want to look at that because you want to see. [19:04.9]

There's going to be some transition, usually even in independent. This is all new, and so making sure that engagement, they are engaging, your new resident, really, really making them feel welcome.

Dave: Yeah, absolutely. Alaine, believe it or not, we’re running out of time. I appreciate you coming on the program, and if someone wants to get in touch with you and learn more about the Vantage, how would they do that?

Alaine: They are welcome to call me. My phone number is (817) 819-9144. I always keep it with me, or you are welcome to call the Vantage at Cityview and ask for me, and they will be able to get in touch.

Dave: Okay, great. Thanks again for being on. [19:54.7]

This is Dave parks with Home Care Assistance, and we always encourage you to visit our website at HomeCareAssistanceFortWorth.com or call our office if we can help in any way, (817) 349-7599. [20:13.1]
We look forward to another show next week.

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