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?

Jun 082011

Mike in a ceiling lift hovering above his bed.

Mike in a ceiling lift hovering above his bed.

Now that I am too weak for sliding transfers, the only option is for someone or something to pick me up. I chose the latter – a ceiling lift. I had previously installed two, one in the bedroom and one in the bath, so now it was time to put them to use. This video shows the process I go through each morning and night.

Important update: when I lived at home, these lifts were attached to the ceiling. Now that I am in assisted living that is no longer a desirable solution. There are new types of systems that require only unobtrusive pieces attached to walls on opposite sides of the room–they don’t even need to be attached to studs as all of the weight is absorbed at the base.