Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Eagle Nests and Old People Nests


Occasionally my senior hall offers tours of independent and assisted living facilities. Wednesday I hopped on the bus with twenty-four others and off we went to two new places on the other end of town. One fed us lunch and the other served us coffee and the best peanut butter cookies I’ve had since my mom used to make them. Both of these places are the type that steps you up to increased care when you reach a certain point and we learned a lot about those trigger points. One was when you require a two person assist to make transfers. I never would have thought to ask the 'triggers point' question but it’s an important one because the cost of your room about doubles when they step you up. I’ve toured five places like this, but this time we had a guy who came with us who owns a business that specializes in in-home care and assisted living placement. There are a lot of placement specialists around---even national chains that do it---but I never knew much about them. He says they get $2,500 for every client they place, paid for by the facilities and all facilities pay the exact same amount to all the placement specialists in town.

At first, one of these places seemed kind of creepy with all its high tech surveillance gadgets. Each resident wears a watch-like gadget that automatically unlocked AND locks your apartment door, tracks your every move by GPS and gives you a way to talk directly to the staff, and them to you. But the creepy part is they also have motion detectors in your apartments (the units were cute, by the way) and those motion detectors spend two weeks learning your habits---like how many times you pee and how long it takes you to do it, what time you get up and go to bed---then after that if you break your pattern someone will check on you. The staff all wears a red “tag” that electronically logs where they go and how long they stay with each resident and those logs can be reviewed by families. I jokingly asked them if the microwave in your unit is eavesdropping and we were assured that the only listening device is on your arm. Like that’s a big comfort! We talked about this ‘big brother’ kind of care on the bus afterward and at first glance it creeped most of us out but as we talked and compared it to other assisted living places where lights are flashing and call bells are going off in the halls, this place felt less institutional, more homey, and we soften our views on these high tech babysitters.

I am nowhere near needing or wanting to move to an independent or assisted living home but Mr. Specialist says that’s the best time to check them out and make decisions so families aren’t making decisions like that in an emergency situation. He also has resources to calculate if you have enough money to go to places like this compared to in-home care. That “resource calculation” service is free and I'm going to make an appointment with him for that. It will be helpful to know how long my assets would last if/when I need care. Can I afford to redecorate now? Take a trip? The assisted living places we saw this week cost $4,000 a month and doubles if they have to step you up. He said the lowest priced place in town is $1,500 a month and I know it to be a Medicaid dive. When you get through talking to him about your finances, he can tell you the price range you need to stay in and he gives you a list of places in that range. He’ll even drive you around to see them, if you want. I’m thinking whatever he has to say it will be fuel to keep me on my self-imposed, Spring of Getting Physically Fit program. Two person assist transfers? Heck, we all need to make sure we don't need a one person assist if we want to age in place!

This week I also went to a fascinating and funny senior hall lecture about bald eagles. It was delivered by a woman who lives on a pond where a couple of eagles nested for five years and raised fifteen baby eagles, many of which were banded as babies by researchers who climbed up to the nest to take blood samples and weigh the fuss balls and take the cutest baby pictures. The lecturer had wonderful photos and she made you fall in love with the personalities of the nesting mamma and poppa eagles. She wrote poems about the eagles, funny poems that where illustrated with slides. One was about ice fishermen who have their fish snatched by the eagles if they don’t hide them as soon as they reel them in. Others purposely threw their catches on top of the ice just to get a close up view of the eagles diving in for the steal. What a thrill that would be!

I had three options for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, one with the Red Hat Society girls for lunch out in the boondocks for a traditional, boiled Irish dinner. I called to cancel that because of an impending storm that was supposed to include ice, snow and rain. Another was to go with the Movie and Lunch Club but I had no interest is seeing The Beauty and the Beast so I e-mailed my regrets. Then at the eagle lecturer some friends invited me to tag along with them to an Irish Pub close to where I live. I figured I could get in and out before the storm hit but this morning that got canceled, too. I am SO sick of winter and spring playing chase-and-flee tag with our lives! ©
 


Stock photos, our lecturer was not online.

24 comments:

  1. Actually the hi-tech place sounds quite safe but it is way out of my range financially so I'd better work on my fitness and hope I blink out while still moving:) Those baby eaglets are adorable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, their system does seem safe. I wish I would have asked what happens during a power outrage but they must have a back up power source of some kind.

      I don't think I could afford $4,000 either but it wasn't the most expensive place we've gone to. I think if you knew you were terminal, though, or, you are 90 it would make a difference on its affordability. I'm anxious to see what Mr. Specialist says about my resources. My S-I-L who just died gave away thousands of dollars at a time to her kids in the five years before she died and when she needed to go in a nursing home she ended up in dive. I told her several times to not give away her money because she might need it for her care, but her kids encouraged the HUGE cash give-aways.

      The high tech place even had a cool room with a garage door for an entrance that was like a tricked out garage inside for guys to gather and work on small projects and right across the hall was a garden with a putting green.

      Delete
  2. Very interesting. Really find that hi-tech one interesting to think about. What a thoughtful idea to have a garage for the men. Most men like congregating in a garage. I don't think I can afford those higher end ones but I'll certainly be disappointed if I wind up in one of those old fashioned nursing homes.

    I volunteered at a Wetlands for a while where they had a bald eagle nest on exhibit. That was one big nest. There was also an active pair of eagles on the property. One year we had what the experts thought was a love triangle with one of the parties being a very large very angry female eagle that harassed our pair of eagles and destroyed the eggs. Eagles aren't known for changing partners but apparently something happened to the male of our pair. When the female returned for a new nesting season she was with a different male, thus entered the bully female.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How interesting about the bully female! Our lecturer said that what they believed to be 1-2 year old off springs would come back to the nest at a certain time of the year but the male would chase them away. Eagles are coming back in numbers because the researchers learned that the DNT the farmers were using for weed killers was found in their eggs and those eggs won't harden up because of it. Banning the DNT is making a difference to the bird populations. Makes me very angry that the current administration is gutting the EPA and environmental studies.

      Delete
  3. Linda, that is an amusing story about the Eagles. I have on many occasions been to a nature reserve that has a web cam on an osprey nest. Although it is fascinating, I find it invasive and I know I am anthropomorphizing an osprey or an eagle's consciousness! There is something in my thinking that has to do with using technology to intrude and doesn't seem as comfortable as watching an eagle through binoculars or simply our eyes. I think it is the same issue with the living facility you described where technology, although very useful, can seems a little too invasive like a web cam.
    We are having similar weather and in fact, on my husband's return from England on Wednesday he had to spend the night in an airport hotel as we had a lot more snow than predicted and it didn't clear until Thursday morning. I wouldn't describe this weather as chase and flee tag because I have never heard that term! That must be a regional word for a kind of tag that I'm sure goes by a different name in my region!
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chase and flee tag isn't a regional term. I made it up when I wrote this blog because that's what the seasons seem to be doing.

      I've never thought about the nature web cams being invasive to animals and birds. Although you have a point, I also thing the good outweighs the bad. The good part is the more we know about animals the better we can protect them and their environments, and the more people who take an interest in viewing the animal cams the more people who will donate to causes and support laws so we can co-exist with nature.

      Delete
  4. After having moved my Dad to assisted living with step ups, the most important thing we asked was "do you accept Medicaid if his money runs out?"

    Also look into those "step up" triggers. If we added a vitamin to his list of pills to take, the cost went up. When he needed wheelchair service 3x day to the dining room, the bill went up. And so on.

    My Dad's "watch" prevented him from sneaking out the doors (beginning of dementia). I think he would have benefitted from a workshop. His complex did have a giant train room and he loved going there. Also had a sunny bird room and a nice quiet reading nook with a huge salt water tank. They let us put up a bird feeder outside his window and a planter where he could grow tomatoes.

    Our little town has three eagle nests! Such fun to watch!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ohmygosh, that Medicaid question is most important and I haven't heard that mentioned locally at all!

      The train room and fish tank sound nice! A lot of places are trying harder to add life enrichment stuff to their facilities. I've even been to one with a little garden plot for residents. Still no place like home.

      Delete
  5. Clearly, I need to keep working until I'm 90, and then check out. There's no way in the world....

    So, on a more cheerful note, I love your eagle tales. I'm lucky enough to have ospreys around a good part of the year, and their behavior's similar. I love the nest cams. The Cornell Ornithology site has every sort. One of the most fascinating I've ever watched was a hummingbird nest -- all the way from the building through the laying through the hatching and raising. If you want to really feel exhausted, follow a mama hummer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've seen a hummingbird cam. Thanks for reminding me how interesting they are. I need to bookmark one. I've bookmarked the panda cam and the graffiti cam and peek in every day.

      Delete
  6. I would be one to throw my catch on the ice just to get a close-up look at a bald eagle. We used to see them on Eastern Shore when we lived in Maryland. There's so much wildlife there, and the sunsets are inspiring. Oh, and when huge flocks of geese come down to roost in the open fields as the sun sets... it's a beautiful sight.

    I hate to think about assisted living, but I'm sure there are some interesting choices out there. We need to look at our investments every day and say, "GROW." I'll have to think about what I think about all the high-tech surveillance, but it's good to know what's out there. Thanks for keeping us up to date. Loved your microwave question and how seriously they took it. You are so bold. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would miss seeing wildlife. Even in my little city lot I have little critters coming and going.

      If you figure out the secret to making your investments grow every day, let me know! I'm so afraid to make changes I just don't do it.

      It was interesting to see who understood the microwave joke and laughed and who clearly didn't. A good indication of where they get their news. LOL

      Delete
  7. Oops. I forgot to tell you that my aunt visited an extended care facility and they gave her just-baked cookies, too. Must be a sales technique. I know it would work for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pretty sure it is. This place made a point of telling us how much their chef liked to bake and that she does it every day.

      Delete
  8. Interesting read on your tour of retirement facilities. I was tempted to go on a tour recently. I have to admit that the offer of morning tea was the main attraction! But postponed the thought till next year.

    I've been in a similar situation of making a microwave joke and seeing a clear difference of who gets it, and who doesn't. My (minor) feeling of superiority died when I realised that their are other in-jokes that go over my head. For example, the internet lingo. I have to look up the internet slang often, and then keep on forgetting what ICYMI, etc stand for.

    I'm interested in the Government assisted-home help on offer - to enable one to die at home. Its more cost-effective than paying for nursing home beds, and seniors are happier. I remember hearing talk of somehow regulating that each senior was made the responsibility of say a younger couple (relation or otherwise) - that was the gist of the idea. I think Japan has developed a similar idea a bit further. I'm not sure of how I feel about this - can see it being abused, but then, every policy can be. ~ Libby


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to use the Urban Dictionary often, too, because I don't get the slang sometimes used on political sites.

      I have never heard of a home care plan like you wrote about in paragraph two, at least not a formal one. We still have family members who will take in a parent or grandparent here but it's not the norm. I think the fear of abuse is a real one, given that in recent years laws have been passed against elder abuse...a clear indication that it does happen. Again, not the norm.

      Delete
    2. The Government home care packages have been in place for many years now, with tweaks, simply because its cheaper than expanding nursing homes. I'm pretty sure USA has something similar (we generally copy from you, or Canada).

      I should have inserted a paragraph break for the mention of a senior being made the responsibility of a younger person/couple. I heard brief mention of it once a few years ago, but never again. ~ Libby

      Delete
    3. Okay, you may be talking about our Hospice system which is at home support services for someone who is within six months of being terminal. We have other in-home services for elderly people but like Mr. Specialist said, you do need a family member who can coordinate it all. It's pretty much what many of us widows did for our spouses near their end.

      Delete
  9. Ouch! I can't see the money lasting very long if we both have to pay for eldercare.
    My grandfather lived with a family who cared for him for about 5 years before he passed. He seemed happy enough in that situation. I have no idea what the cost was. I wonder if such a thing happens anymore?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ouch is right. I don't have any children or grandchildren who could give in-house support to keep me at home so this is scary, not knowing how long your money will last. I know several older women who live with one of their adult children, so I know it's still an option for a very few.

      Delete
  10. Really good recap on some things to be aware of when selecting a facility where one might want to live. I've provided services in some of the better ones in my area -- the full range of care Independent, Assisted Living, Skilled, Green House (the first, maybe only one, in Calif.) Know they're busy updating tech services and since I retired a couple years or so ago, expect they've continued to update their patient/resident monitoring abilities. As independent as one may be in any of those settings, you are giving up some independence so very important to know what that entails and whether you can accept whatever it might be. I have attended some of the sessions the individual facilities offer -- can be dinner, entertainment, all sorts of programs and subjects to facilitate downsizing, home sale, figuring individual costs, tours, meeting and talking freely with other residents. They encourage coming to these and one woman I spoke with said she and her husband attended them for six years before they moved in -- facility gal said they welcome people doing that -- no pressure to move in. I like your experience of a bus going around to all of them where you are and having that knowledgeable tour guide, too. You are so right about how important it is to learn, as you put it, the "trigger points" that require moving to a different level of care. One thing to think about, too, is what is the trigger point in an Asst. Living level that would require moving to a skilled nursing setting (SNF)? This would be especially important to know if that meant you had to move to a different location -- i.e. the Asst. Living facility was just that and didn't offer any other level of care. You would be moving away from friends who might not be able to visit you in the SNF and you wouldn't likely be able to go visiting much. SNF costs then will be important as to quality of place and what you can afford. Living is never easy -- trying to figure out what's best to do and our health and unknown quantity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. All of the places we've gone with the bus have said that we can drop in on our own and just walk around. There are two places I will do that with when I'm in the area.

      What I worry most about is what happens if you run out of money and/or something happens to social security and Medicare and you can't pay. Without children or grandchildren to advocate for me if I can't for myself would I be living in a cardboard box?

      Delete
  11. If I lived in the Big Brother place, I can just see myself trying to play tricks on the listening and monitoring devices. But, I won't end up there as the price is about 3 times my monthly income. I will end up in one of those sad, colorless, smelly nursing homes. That's why, I have to stay healthy. My neighbor was 94, when I saw them taking her out, via ambulance, to the nursing home. She only had to stay there 1 week before she transitioned on to the cemetery. That's the way I want to go too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the first thing I thought of doing, too...trick the motion detectors and GPS trackers. My goal would be to stay at home until a week before I die. I don't want to die at home because it would be months before anyone would find my body and I don't want the dog to die just because I did.

      Delete