Story and photo by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Living decisions for seniors can be complicated all by themselves.
Throw in an unexpected illness or injury and the situation can quickly spiral out of control.
After seeing these situations play out over and over and the turmoil they create for families, local senior living leaders have come together to provide awareness through education.
Melissa Mahaffey, MHA, serves as the executive director of Tealridge Retirement Community and is one member of a group focused on bringing information to those needing it the most.
“We want people to know we’re in this industry together and we don’t necessarily have to be owned and operated by the same company to put on great resource events and work together for the betterment of the larger community,” Mahaffey said. “We just want to provide a resource. We partner because we feel like we have the same type of philosophy in terms of we want the community to know and what some of the options are.”
Communities like Tealridge and Legend at Jefferson’s Garden have long focused on giving residents just the right amount of personalized support to enhance independence.
But in an industry that can have an array of service levels people can quickly get lost.
“They hear one word and they automatically go down a rabbit hole. It’s educating on all levels,” said Tealridge Retirement Counselor Kristen Moss.
Finding information on those levels is the focus of a series of upcoming progressive tours and educational presentations.
“I think we want to encourage people not to start looking when there is a crisis but be educated prior because they could help their family, their neighbor or someone within their church,” Mahaffey said. “That’s why we need people to understand we are offering this.”
“During each progressive tour stop people will get to touch and feel what we do here. We want people not to be afraid to ask questions. We encourage everyone over the age of 60 to come.”
Unfortunately, decisions regarding the next level of care often occur within 24 to 48 hours prior to a loved one needing care. All too often an injury or illness has landed a loved one in the hospital and the determination has been made that further care is needed after discharge.
What shape and form that care comes in is often a mystery to those charged with making a decision on behalf of their loved one.”
Moss said the scenario plays out time and again, forcing people into crisis mode.
“Then somebody ends up in the hospital and it’s go time,” Moss said. “It’s Wednesday and the hospital is going to release on Friday and we have to go somewhere.”
And then there’s the issue of cost and where funding will come from.
Skilled nursing days are limited under Medicare.
Independent and assisted living costs are excluded altogether.
“Education is so important because they don’t know,” said Kristi Wilhelm, sales director at Legend at Jefferson’s Gardens in Edmond. “I had a family that literally walked into my building and she realized mom is exhausted from taking care of dad and mom’s fixing to go downhill if she doesn’t do something.
“She didn’t know what independent living is. She didn’t know what assisted living is. I was with them for two hours going through all the steps.
“She was so relieved I educated her and explained everything to her.”
And learning that information when not facing a deadline can make the difference between the right decision and a decision for right now.
“And a lot of times people in that emergency, the first place they go to they’ll end up moving in and it might not actually be the right fit for them,” Wilhelm said. “Eventually they start shopping again because they’re not happy because mom isn’t happy. That’s why it’s all about education so it’s not the last minute.”
Mahaffey said the program is unique to the metro but expects it to expand quickly because at the end of the day it comes down to the right fit for both the resident and the residence. “I always tell people when they come to visit our community know that if I’m not the one you chose, I’m still here as a resource to help you in any way. They appreciate it so much,” Wilhelm said.
Tealridge Retirement Community is a full-service retirement community located at 2100 NE 140th Edmond.
Legend at Jefferson’s Garden specializes in assisted living and is located at 15401 N Pennsylvania Ave in Edmond.
For more information about Tealridge Retirement Community visit http://www.tealridge.com