CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: To Facility or Not to Facility

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By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO
(First published in 
The Rafu Shimpo on Jan. 4, 2012.)

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The verbal battle continues to rage regarding the pros and cons of relocating (luv that word) to a “facility” while healthy and mobile versus staying at home sweet home.  The varied reactions underline the importance of the seldom confronted question while age and gender splits give further insight into the argument.  Let’s take a stab at presenting all sides of the dilemma without coming up with biased conclusions or unsubstantiated assumptions.

CR2S hailed the decision to take up residence at Keiro Retirement Home five months ago, especially after an unexpected and scary emergency underlined the folly of living alone.  On the other hand, a widower friend had the dreaded “falling down” accident that required hospitalization and lengthy physical therapy.  Upon release, instead of returning home, he succumbed to family entreaty and moved in with a daughter. In several cases of spousal caregiving I’m aware of, there are doting wives watching over husbands of deteriorating mental and physical health; there are fewer cases of male caregivers, in most instances without family assistance; a tough row to dig with a short-handled hoe.  In most single survivor situations, females appear to cope better than their male counterparts.

There are a number of power points to consider when confronted with the “To do or not to do” question.  If you live alone and without family, eventually taking up residence in a facility is an almost *certainty.  If you are still a healthy and active couple, the discussion is simplified to “when” and “if” while being honest about the care giving capabilities of each partner.  And what to do when one wants to and the other objects?  Honest evaluation of family support is also a must.  During my association with Alzheimer’s support groups, it was a stunning reality that what some say they’ll do and what they actually contribute is achingly disparate.  (*All possibilities are assuming individuals are financially capable, of course.)

What many on the cusp fail to take into consideration is that some preferred facilities have lengthy waiting lists that are measured in years.  In other words you just can’t make up your mind that KRH is the place for you and request placement.  (What many future-thinking people did early on was get on waiting lists, knowing they could turn down openings later down the road without losing their preferred status.)  And keep in mind that couples do not have to be separated if one is deteriorating and the other is healthy.  For what it’s worth, CR2S was doing okay when the difficult decision was made to relocate and there were misgivings until kayoed by a physiological malfunction.  Not forgotten was not winding up a family burden.

Whether a potential in need Nisei or a possible Sansei caregiver, there are many considerations to ponder.  Unlike the Issei/Nisei dichotomy of yore, there are no automatic assumptions.  A self-sufficient Granny when grandchildren are young is one scenario; when elderly and dependent is a whole different ball game.

CR2S would be remiss if mention is not made of the womenfolk who appear to better cope during later years.  Many are freed to travel, cultivate new interests and hobbies.  I could (but won’t) give you a growing roster of mature ladies doing quite well in their second semesters.  And quite comfortable, thank you, with selected male companions.  You don’t see as many widowers venturing out into the great social beyond.  Why, I don’t know.  Maybe a lack of adventure.  Confidence?  Interest?  Personally speaking, I’ve lost my deep degenerate loves for gambling and drinking, a double dose I once thought to be impossible. As far as a lady interest is concerned, did I mention pets are not allowed at this gated campus?  Right now a Drone missile couldn’t penetrate my abode but outside these walls there might be a possible target, who knows?  The only sure bet is a need for haste.

To summarize, my solemn suggestion to aging Nisei compadres:  Don’t put off discussing the subject of a retirement home or facility relocation, with spouse, family or both.  Debilitation in whatever form has a way of sneaking up on you unannounced.  Just as you buy life insurance at an early stage in your life without hesitation or question, why postpone laying plans for your penultimate residence?  At least broach the subject honestly, no holds barred.

Even if you still remain indecisive, you will have laid the groundwork and will find it easier to confront the future with confidence and assurance.  Or else ask Dr. Oz.

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W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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