Jun 112012

Note: At the time this series of articles was written, my wife Beth was still with us. She died October 11, 2012.

Ceiling Lift installed in my room at Huntington Manor

The owner of Huntington Manor was willing to have my ceiling lift installed.

Once we decided we needed assisted living, there was another choice to make — which facility. We knew the change was going to be huge, whichever facility we chose. so we tried to find as many ways as possible to keep our life intact. This included finding a place not too far away so the overall community would still be familiar to us, and one that would allow us to bring enough personal items to continue our lifestyle as best we could. For example, we both use power wheelchairs and wanted to continue to do so as they give us the independence to travel several miles into the surrounding area. We are both artists and wanted to be able to bring our art supplies and our table. Of course we wanted to remain together for as long as possible.

We did a CANHR (California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform) search and it yielded nearly 700 facilities just for San Diego County. Most are converted single-family homes where they are able to keep six residents, two to a bedroom. Small facilities such as this do not have as restrictive licensing requirements as larger ones and they may be less expensive. For many people this might be a good alternative, however for us they were not appropriate.

Huntington Manor Dining Room

Every few days, before signing a contract, I would roll into the Huntington Manor dining room unannounced.

We needed wide hallways and doorways and adjoining separate rooms to accommodate our large wheelchairs — a physical layout rarely found in a single-family home. Since I cannot help with transfers, I needed a team of caregivers or an overhead lift system. I was also concerned whether a small facility would have the level of care we needed for Beth’s complex medication management and my challenging physical state due to inclusion body myositis.

There are several large assisted living facilities in the county, but they have fire code restrictions that prevent them from accepting non ambulatory residents. Most have associated skilled nursing facilities which is where they suggested I stay, but that would totally restrict my freedom and be very expensive. Also, because our needs were different, the large facilities planned to put my wife and I into two separate buildings.

After eliminating hundreds of facilities, we came upon Huntington Manor, just five miles east, in Poway, California. At 27 residents it was neither large nor small, which for our needs was just right.  It came with good online recommendations and had beautiful surroundings. What really caught my eye was their statement that they accepted nonambulatory patients. Huntington Manor specializes in caring for the frail elderly and has done all of the necessary legal groundwork to be able to accept up to 21 residents who are unable to bear weight. Also, for the first time, I found a facility owner who was willing, even eager, to let me install an overhead lift system in my room.

I stopped by several times, unannounced, to observe the staff and sample the food (friendly, delicious).

A plate of BBQ chicken, carrots and peas

With plates like this, Huntington Manor passed the taste test.

One drawback, which the owner made sure we understood, was the age of the other residents. Most are in their nineties, so we may need to look outside the facility for social interactions.

Price was an issue of course and although Huntington Manor was less expensive than some of the very large facilities, it is still more than we can afford indefinitely. Eventually we will need to sell our home and after that within a few years we’ll need to find some other living arrangement.

In the meantime I am looking for additional sources of income. (Any potential sponsors for this blog site, please take note.)

Index for this series of articles about assisted living.

Introductory article plus updates.

Is it time for assisted living?

Making the decision to move to assisted living, emotionally, practically and financially.

How we chose the facility we did.

Deciding what to take, what to leave, how to adjust our expectations.

What life in assisted living has been like.

How can we make assisted living better for the physically disabled?

  9 Responses to “Mike and Beth’s Big Move Part III – Choosing a Facility”

  1. You really have made it feel like your home there. I think it was a wise choice, if a very difficult one.

  2. Hi Mike, it’s good to read part III of your account of the big move. Keep educating us the way you always do. Hope the “settling in” continues as you wish. Glad that we are now able to visualize your surroundings, since our visit. Cheers, Stan and Dottie

  3. Thanks for the input, Mike. It sounds really nice, maybe better than just the two of you in your former home in some ways. I’m thinkin’ nice meals prepared by someone else, , companionship, assistance nearby if needed. And what about that view, how did you arrange that?
    Saw old pals last night at NTC Liberty Station First Friday. Good crowd! You were both missed.

  4. Mike, I am interested in knowing the brand of ceiling lift you have and the cost. I am not finding anything to help my husband onto the toilet. We have already put a shower chair over it plus another portable toilet seat on that, plus I added 2 boards to raise it up higher, it’s getting a little dangerous now but he has to fall on it so the higher the better. I have looked at different models but you have to have some leg strength to help and he doesn’t have any. We can’t afford a bathroom remodel so before I saw yours I had decided to buy an electrical hoist like garages use. It’s cheaper than all the medical ceiling lifts I’ve seen. I help him now but it’s still scary when he’s standing and we both want him to be more independent in case I’m not home. Well, thanks for listening to my rambling on. Oh, we tried getting a sliding tub transfer chair from medicare but they said that was considered a luxury!! What??? Oh well, I feel like I’m becoming a mechanic through all this. Thanks, Deeda

    • Deeda,

      As far as I can tell by looking at the various websites, the type of ceiling lift I have still costs about $1500 if you buy it online. However, this does not include the cost of the overhead track itself or the sling and those 2 items can easily add up to another $2000 or more.

      In most cases, you will also need the services of any skilled mobility specialist to install the equipment. In my opinion, this is the most important part of the system–their expertise. Think about the disastrous consequences if such a system would collapse!

      There are several options for this type of system although one is clearly not good for you and that would be the freestanding units which have a pedestal at either end. I’m sure those would not fit into your existing bathroom. There is also a system that uses pressure fit columns against the ceiling. That might work but only if there was enough clearance at either end. Probably the best bet would be a ceiling track actually mounted into the joists in the ceiling, or attached at the top of the walls provided you had studs in the proper locations. These require no floor space whatsoever and have the added advantage of being securely anchored into heavy wood.

      I would suggest that you contact mobility suppliers in your area and ask them if they install this type of equipment. If they do, ask them to come visit you, examine your situation, and give you their advice and a quote. If money is a severe constraint, they might even have some used equipment available. One of my lifts is used and it has given me no trouble at all. My supplier was Pacific Mobility and you can look them up by following the link on this blog site. Of course they are doing business in the Southwest but they might be able to give you a good recommendation if you gave them a call.


  5. […] How we chose the facility we did. […]

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