Skip to content

Searching for a better home for my husband

Jackson flew back to Chicago after a five-day trip home. Robert didn’t understand why his son wasn’t around anymore. I visited Robert at Daylight Senior Living and Memory Care every other day and gently reminded him each time that Jackson was in a graduate nursing program in Chicago. 

“He lives in Chicago now.” 

Robert was always surprised by the news. “Really? Chicago? It’s cold there.”

“Yes, it is. Jackson is doing well in school. He has just a year to go in his program. He’ll be working as a nurse soon.”

“Jackson is really smart!” And then, in a quasi-nonsequitur, “Maddie is a nurse.” Maddie is our daughter.

(Robert was diagnosed with dementia three months after we dropped Jackson off at college in Illinois. The separation has probably been hardest on Jackson. He’s torn between the desire to be with his father as his disease progresses and the intense, entirely appropriate pull to grow into adulthood. When we have some greater distance from all this, I’ll talk with Jackson about his experience. The subject is too painful for a discussion just yet.)

Uh oh. This is not good.

During Jackson’s visit home, I realized, with some panic, that Robert needed to be moved to a new facility. My search for a new placement led me to several board and care homes that might have rooms available in the next couple of months.

When I was in my early twenties, rentals became available by word-of-mouth when a friend’s roommate started graduate school in another city or the ex-boyfriend of a flatmate was leaving to study abroad. We’d gather for a burrito and a beer to wish them well on their next adventure. 

In our new reality, we come together differently. Providers of eldercare placement services monitor area homes. Rooms become available when someone dies. 

Sweet home Casa Angelina’s

The first home I visited was Casa Angelina’s. The home was down a quiet country road, on what was once farmland in the green space between Petaluma and the next city along the freeway. The Casa team was three generations of the same family who lived in a large apartment on the second floor of the home.

Grandma made all the meals. Grandpa and one of his sons landscaped the grounds and kept the facility in good repair. Angelina and her sister oversaw the day-to-day operations, trained the care staff, and met with clients seeking placements. Another sister provided childcare for Angelina’s son, a very energetic toddler, who made a brief, but boisterous appearance during my visit. 

The building was purpose-built as a board and care with six bedrooms structured in a U-shape centered on a lovely courtyard. Angelina and her parents had taken great care to decorate the common areas with bright, festive, southwestern decor. I really, really liked the place and the family.

Less appealing was the half-hour drive to reach Robert; I wanted to be closer. But the kicker came when I asked if the family owned the building. They did not. I wanted to place Robert in a facility where the owner of the building was active in the residents’ care. The mess at Daylight, where Robert was living, originated when the REIT that owned the facility decided to sell the building

The underbelly of elder care

This business arrangement is common in the service of eldercare. REITs own the buildings and contract with care providers to service the residents; care providers rarely own the buildings in which they provide care. I decided not to pursue a placement at Casa Angelina’s.

As it turns out, six months later, the Casa family was forced to move their entire care business to a new building even farther away from our family home. The owners of the building had opted not to renew Angelina’s contract. I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened, but I do know that most of the residents moved with Angelina; resident care was stellar. (No, I’m not a troll tracking the goings on of eldercare REITS. I learned of the move through a friend whose 95-year-old mother lives at Angelina’s.)

Spirit? Really?

The stretch of country road where I’d found Casa Angelina’s was home to a few more board and care homes. The second stop on my search was at Spirit Homes. I very nearly skipped the tour. The building was nice enough, but when we arrived the owner was sitting in her idling Tesla in the driveway, scrolling through her phone. I found this very offputting. She didn’t want to bother going inside if I was a no-show. She didn’t care enough about the residents to check in while she was there.

She toured me around the home. It was bright and airy, but I felt an austere, unyielding sterility in the air. There was no love there. In explaining, the resident’s regimented bathroom schedule, the owner thoughtlessly intoned, “We have to make sure that Robert’s care will work for the aides.” She quickly realized what she had said and corrected herself to say “I mean, we need to make sure we can meet Robert’s needs.” Yeah. Right.

Disheartened, a few days later my search would continue on a third tour. 

To be continued…

Share your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *