The needle of Mary’s sewing machine dipped in and out of her favorite apron. Her wrinkled hands shifted its fabric under the antique tank of metal that slowed to a stop as she looked at Emily and winked. Mary was mending the apron so Emily, who had been her caregiver for the past three years, could use it again while preparing their meals.
Emily treasured these small moments. They reminded her why she loved her job.
Emily knew it was hard for Mary to sew with her newly worsening arthritis, but she also knew she would never give up her favorite hobby. “It can take my hands, but it can’t take my threads,” Mary liked to joke. Since both women wore many of the clothes Mary made and used them for years, her “threads” really did seem to last forever.
Emily wondered whether Mary’s assisted living community would allow her to bring the old sewing machine along when she moved in. She reflected on Mary’s life in her home, which Emily had been a part of for a long time. Mary’s husband Joe passed away a year ago. Over time, their four-bedroom house became too large to maintain. Soon her grown son and daughter wished for her to move into the Flower Hill Senior Community near their homes downtown. Through it all, Mary’s sewing machine had been there, ready for her to lovingly transform blank sheets of fabric into works of art.
The process of deciding between Mary staying at home and moving to Flower Hill was not easy. Emily remembered Mary’s son handing his mother a packet of pamphlets one day. It was the “Why Choose Flower Hill Senior Community” introduction for “Seniors Seasoned with Reason.” According to the pamphlets, Flower Hill was a reasonable, obvious choice for senior citizens who would need increasing long-term care, especially widows. The glossy photos in each pamphlet showed caregivers assisting residents with typical activities of daily living, like eating and reading books together.
“Do you see how each caregiver in these pictures is the only one holding the mug, or the book, or the hairbrush, everything!” Mary told her son as she looked at the pamphlets. “It can take my hands, but now they want to hold my hairbrush for me. Why should I go to Flower Hill? I have Emily. And the arthritis isn’t so bad,” she said, “I can still sew.”
At that time, Emily was entirely aware of the level of intensity with Mary’s arthritis. It was not only in her hands but her knees as well. Mary had trouble bending, climbing the stairs in the house, sitting down and getting into bed. Emily assisted Mary in doing anything her hands or knees made her struggle with. Knowing this, she did not say anything for fear that Mary’s son would think she was complaining. She had nothing to complain about, but she feared what might happen if Mary fell or lost complete use of her hands and knees.
Mary’s son told her that the pictures in the pamphlets did not show everything Flower Hill had to offer. The place was beautiful and full of friends her age. The assisted living staff could supplement Emily’s help with daily tasks, but they could also limit medical assistance if Mary preferred it. Mary liked her independence, even when traveling to doctors’ appointments all on her own, and Flower Hill would let her. They would even provide transportation for it. Mary and Emily wouldn’t have to worry about housekeeping in her large home anymore. The same would go for laundry and yard work. Wouldn’t that help everyone?
“Even Emily?” Mary asked him, “Can she come with me?”
The answer was yes. By move-in day, Emily was still commissioned as Mary’s personal caregiver, thanks to the senior care agency who worked it into the long-term care insurance policy Mary held. Besides Mary’s clothes, pictures, and other material belongings, the sewing machine was the most beloved item from home that Mary brought with her to Flower Hill, besides Emily herself.
“I bet this place costs a fortune,” Mary told Emily on the drive to Flower Hill.
Mary’s son had actually told Emily otherwise. He had run the numbers. The house Mary lived in with her husband would sell very soon. All the money would go towards Mary’s trust. The mortgage and utilities for Mary’s old house would have cost a significant amount compared to the cost of assisted living for Mary and her private room, so her expenses would actually decrease. Mary and Emily also wouldn’t need to shop and buy groceries since Flower Hill would take care of meals. Lastly, Emily had the option to work more caregiving hours, which Mary would need in time.
Emily looked forward to more time with Mary. She also hoped to care for her full time, rather than taking multiple clients from the agency. They were close friends and she made Mary feel much more comfortable in her new home. The two of them enjoyed teaming up while meeting new neighbors at Flower Hill. Mary was so proud to show other ladies the clothes Emily wore, like the birthday blouse she made her last year, or her hand-embroidered apron and even some shirts she had made for her past husband. Mary and Emily came to know wonderful people at Flower Hill.
Even if she worked longer shifts with Mary, Emily greatly appreciated the new assisted living community. She had continued providing her usual assistance but was able to focus more on Mary now that she didn’t have to clean a house or cook food. Whenever Mary needed help moving around through Flower Hill, strong staff members could lift her or walk along the women to support Mary from both sides. There were other caregivers at Flower Hill who liked Emily and became her friends. Every morning when she went to work, she came to Mary’s clean, private room, where Mary was usually already chatting over coffee with a neighbor.
“Look at this beautiful mug Susan gave me, Emily!” Mary said when she came in one day. “Look how sweet the little handle is. This is going right on my sewing table.”
Emily saw the mug in Mary’s soft, shaky hands and felt a small, treasured moment shared between them. She looked again and noticed crooked stitches in the sleeve of Mary’s shirt. When she saw Mary’s large smile, she decided to let them be.
This story provides a first-hand point of view into the process of choosing between in-home care and senior housing. Through Emily’s perspective, you saw the factors that lead seniors like Mary to need either an in-home caregiver or further assisted living in a senior community. Mary’s very realistic situation – where she has aged through circumstances that changed her life, where her health has limited her ability to live at home and how her children influenced her move to Flower Hill – may be similar to your own. If this is the case, this article intends to help you choose the right option for senior care.
Assisted living options, like Mary’s new home at Flower Hill Senior Community, are for seniors who need assistance with activities of daily living, but not the intensive medical care of a hospital. Assisted living tends to have community routines for residents who each live in separate or shared rooms. Residents are provided meals, laundry service, housekeeping, transportation and sometimes fitness activities in assisted living.
In-home care takes place in the privacy of a senior’s own home and is usually provided by one or very few caregivers. Agencies like Amada Senior Care provide qualified caregivers to a senior for personalized, private care. In-home care is often paid for by the hour and depends on what type of care is provided. This option prevents seniors from being separated from their cherished homes and family.
Elderly adults in need of long-term care tend to prefer “aging in place” at home. However, certain constraints can inhibit seniors from remaining in their homes as they age. Health, finance or the wishes of children may lead families to consider placing their elderly loved one in assisted living. “Assisted living” is synonymous with multiple other terms, such as independent senior living communities, skilled nursing facilities, and the most stigmatized term of all: nursing homes.
Senior citizens today express a deep aversion to “ending up in a nursing home.” This applies a stigma against what may actually be the best option for providing seniors with their long-term care. Below is a table comparing the advantages and disadvantages of assisted living versus in-home care. As you can also see in Mary and Emily’s story, there are benefits to each.
If you need help deciding what kind of long-term care is best for you, we would love to speak with you. Amada Senior Care is committed to enriching lives by providing nurturing, compassionate, non-medical in-home care and by guiding families through the many senior housing options available for assisted living and care homes. Click here to find a location near you.
“Choosing In Home Care Versus Senior Housing,” by Michelle Mendoza, Amada Blog Contributor.