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For loved ones of the elderly and aging, the initial steps of the journey to assisted living are never easy.
Many elderly people are proudly self sufficient until a fall or sudden illness leaves them needing more than a simple helping hand. Others may go through a gradual decline that often includes memory loss or a diminishing mental state. Suddenly, attentive daughters, sons, spouses, family members and friends are cast into a situation where their love and care need to be supplemented by a healthcare professional.
In the past, the thought of assisted living brought images of dreary, dimly lit, hospital-like settings with endless craft time and slow motion checker games to mind.
That isn’t the case anymore. Today’s assisted living facilities offer a wide variety of services tailored to individual needs.
Memory loss, mobility issues, declining health or any combination of ailments affecting the elderly and aging population of the Greater New Orleans area can all be addressed at a number of local facilities in an endlessly customizable manner.
Many aging people in need of assistance, wary of leaving their homes, take the first step toward assisted living by bringing healthcare providers into their homes.
Analiza Schneider, a marketing representative for Home Care Solutions in Metairie, says the company’s team of care managers begins each interaction with new clients with an in-depth assessment.
“Everyone here is very knowledgeable of all the assisted living facilities that we have in the area,” she says. “After making an assessment, our care managers will go to the different facilities with whoever is making the and show them the options. If they choose to stay home, our sitters will go to the patient’s home and care for them there.”
The level of care provided in the home is tailored to each person’s needs, ranging from two or three hours per day to a 24-hour basis.
The care managers will go to doctor’s appointments to act as a go-between for family members, who are often in varying states of shock and panic.
“Sometimes people don’t plan for elder care,” Schneider says. “So Mom or Dad falls or goes to the hospital for whatever reason, and all of the sudden the family has to make these huge decisions – these huge financial decisions. That’s when our aging life care managers can really be helpful.”
The first step may be to help loved ones advocate for the elder patient, but longterm care is always a priority.
Staying at home to receive health care can be a great fit for some, and may serve as a stopgap measure for others, Schneider says.
Many Home Care Solutions patients and care managers are in and out of assisted living facilities every day, she says, from Vista Shores to Lambeth House, Poydras Home to Hainkel Home and many more.
Kimberly Dixon, Director of Business Development for Gifted Healthcare, says the company’s over 500 caregivers regularly straddle the line between home healthcare and assisted living facilities.
“I’ve seen a trend where most people are opting to stay home,” Dixon says. “As the population of baby boomers get older, there has been growth in the assisted living community, but I think more people are wanting to stay because they value being home rather than moving all of their stuff to another place. They want to be where they’re familiar.”
For patients with memory disorders or debilitating health problems, assisted living is usually the best case, Dixon says, but it all depends on the individual’s situation.
“Our services are customized toward what the patient is looking for and not where they are,” she says.
For many of the 80 residents at the Vista Shores assisted living facility on the banks of Bayou St. John, their time spent at the facilities stretches back to when the sprawling building was a country club decades ago.
“A lot of the residents of Vista Shores were members of the country club back in their heyday, so it kind of feels like home to them,” marketing and media manager Alex Pence Guererri says.
Photo Courtesy Vista Shores
Vista Shores, like many facilities owned by Schonberg & Associates, focuses on memory care and long-term assistance, Guererri says.
“It’s really an aging in place type of community,” she says. “A lot of the residents are still independent enough that they drive and go on trips and things like that, but they just really love having help close by.”
The facilities are divided up into neighborhoods, each with its own character and features. Food is served in gourmet restaurant-style settings, rather than a cafeteria, which Guererri says is a very attractive feature for residents and staff alike. But creature comforts are only part of the equation.
“We have a very distinguished memory care program,” she says. “We were recently awarded the Dementia Care Specialist Distinguished Provider Award, which is a national award that recognizes communities that are exceptional in providing person-centered memory care.”
With more and more of the aging population requiring some degree of memory care assistance, a personalized level of service is an essential part of life for many residents.
“A lot of people who originally go in for assisted living end up needing memory care within a few years,” Guererri says.
Faith Camet Caluda, Director of Assisted Living at the Poydras Home’s Oak House Assisted Living facility, says the growing need for memory care assistance led to the creation of Oak House in 2013.
“With the increasing aging population and more advanced diagnostic tests, more and more of the elderly population is being appropriately diagnosed with some form of memory impairment,” Caluda says. “Memory support is definitely a very important area.”
Poydras Home marketing coordinator Jennifer Brammell says the addition of Oak House in response to that growing need helped transform Poydras Home into a continuing care retirement community.
“A secure memory care area within an assisted living facility is a nice choice for family members to navigate that part of the disease process,” Brammell says. “It’s a big reason that people seek a residential environment.”
Photo by Cheryl Gerber
With 33 assisted living suites, 11 of which are in the memory support division, Poydras Home serves a variety of residents, some of who are married couples.
For Christine Vinson, owner of Vinson Guard Service, transitioning her father to Poydras Home’s nursing care area wasn’t an easy decision, but it quickly proved to be the right one.
“When first looking for a residence for Dad, we were looking for the best care to assist him and our needs,” Vinson says. “After moving Dad into Poydras Home, the convenient location was a huge plus. Just being 15 minutes away from home and 10 minutes from my work gave us ease and comfort.”
After settling one parent into Poydras Home, Vinson soon realized that her mother would be best served moving into the Oak House assisted living facility.
“Even though they lived in separate sections, it allowed Mom independence while providing her a closeness with Dad she didn’t have while living apart,” Vinson says. “It also helped Mom feel more involved in Dad’s care since she was on campus, and staff would continuously give her updates on his day while she participated in her own activities.”
After her father passed away, another aspect of the Poydras Home community emerged.
“[Being at Poydras Home] has helped mom through her grieving process,” Vinson says. “She has been provided an immediate support group.”
At all phases of care and with services catered to every health and living situation, elder care in the Greater New Orleans area has evolved to fit the needs of every aging resident, bringing untold relief and peace of mind to countless local families.