Monday, November 11, 2013


I've been a lurker, and sometimes commentor, in a Social Media group that uses words like superpower, transmission and resonance to describe the next quantum leap in marketing.  In fact, it's so far away from marketing that I hate to even link those two things in a sentence.  But I did, so sue me.

I toy with these notions in an abstract-observer-from-another-planet kinda way.  They are little puzzles for me to assemble, take apart, and reassemble.  I didn't think I had any use for most of this, it was after all targeted toward helping independent artists and business people create success, not little nerdy girls in research.  Wasn't it?

Now that I've explained that, I'm going to digress a bit so stay with me.  I promise to close the circle.

I have been looking at facilities where I might move my mom who has Alzheimer's.  It's not critical, but we're getting close.  Sometimes we dance right over that line and I step up the looking.  Usually things settle back down and the need becomes less pressing.  The last couple weeks, we haven't really danced back into the Land of the Sane, so I've been hitting the pavement hard.

I've learned the distinction among Assisted Living, Personal Care, Memory Care and Skilled Care.  Each has its own criteria and rules that most facilities are either quick to explain or to hide.  Ditto the costs.  (Don't even get me started about how fucking ridiculously priced these places are).  Lots of hidden upcharges or one big bundled price from hell that you have to ask for - which makes you feel douchy that you just had to make it about money.

Enter appointment number 2 of 3 yesterday at a local religiously affiliated facility.  (I was prepared to hate this one going in).  The Sales/Marketing person was waiting for me and chatting with a resident.  She not only introduced herself, but the resident and told me they had been waiting for me.  Smiles and handshakes all 'round.  Compare and contrast to appt #3 where the same person was late, passed me off to someone else midway even though I had an appointment.  #2 took me into her office, made me comfortable and then began by asking about my mom starting with her name (#3 didn't bother to ask).  She did not ask about my mom's financial means (this was a high priority in #3's mind) and costs were clearly defined and available in the printed material.  She offered to help us run the financials if we needed it, pointed out a few pieces of alternate funding we might try for if/when we needed to, and told me they have a benificent fund for residents of more than three years whose finances get low that sliding scales their payment to match their income.  (It is an all too common thing that these kinds of places eat all the available money and then kick the residents to the curb and I'm pretty sure #3 would have no hesitation to do exactly that).

As we toured I found myself more content than I had been since this whole shitty process started.  That was when Nancy (the fact that I remembered her name should NOT be underestimated here) turned to me and said -

"Our philosophy here is to ask ourselves if what we are doing is in the resident's best interest. If it isn't we don't do it."

Pretty sure I had my mouth hanging open because my brother and I ask ourselves this CON-STANT-LY around how to move forward with my mom.  It has become our mantra of operations.  Here was a total stranger echoing my own words back to me.  It was a transcendent A-HA moment (and no I don't mean the 1980's musical group).  I asked Nancy if she could expand on that after I regained my power of speech.  What came next was the most elegant, kind and heart-centered philosophy of elder care I had ever heard.  There was talk of sound, aroma and textural therapy instead of just shoving some pill into a gawping mouth when the residents started to act out to make them stop.  She pulled out baskets labeled with each resident's name, the contents equally well-labeled with things like Works well when upset about family and Works when want to go home. (Picks jaw up off the floor AGAIN).

This was too good to be true.  I probed for the 'catch'.  I asked about dismissal policy, drug handling and other things I had been warned to ask for.  She looked at me and said

"Oh Mary, we don't believe in any of those things.  There are very few policies and every decision is made with the resident's best interest at the heart."

"So you wouldn't kick her out if she slapped someone?"  (Physical violence is a dismissable offense in most facilities)

"We would work with her first and see if we could determine what made her do that."

"What if she needed to go to rehab?"

"We have rehab onsite and we hold her bed until she is able to come back"

"But we would have to PAY for both beds"

"No Mary.  You pay for the rehab and she gets a bed there and we hold her bed here."

WTF!?!  That sounds like bad business practice.

And that's when it happened.

I felt something shift around inside me, like a ship that has been listing to port for a long time that suddenly rights itself.  After months of traversing the slanty deck of Alzheimers and wondering how long before I ended up in the drink, or my mom did, or we both - it felt decidedly odd to navigate straight and true again.

By the time we had returned to her office I knew half a dozen residents and a handful of staff members by name.  Everyone smiling and genuinely happy.  I found myself smiling.  No, more than that I found I was happy here and could easily imagine my mom happy too.

I gritted my teeth against the oncoming talk of pricing.  I would be heartbroken if we couldn't make this happen.  I almost puked when she told me it would be SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than #1 or #3 (no hidden upcharges, everything clear, concise and fair)  My heart stayed intact.  I had found it.

I made myself go to appt #3, which only served to point up everything #2 did right by doing it all so monumentally wrong.  All money, cost, disorganized, dirty, unhappiness and generally yucky.  I texted my brother and tried to get him to fake emergency me from his deer stand so that I could bail without finishing the tour, but he was out of range.

It was only when I got home and was puttering in the social media group that I realized this was EXACTLY what the facilitator is trying to convey.  One really fucking big and megawatt LIGHT BULB.  Facility #2 is the same size as #3.  It doesn't advertise (I only knew of its existence because someone in my support group has a parent there) and still the facility is wait listed, whereas #3 had many beds available.

I never expected to find the principles of BOOM! so clearly illustrated in this industry - coherence, resonance and superpowers galore.

I am blown away.

Happily drinking the Kool-Aid and signing her up knowing all will be the best that it can.

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled C...