Marilyn NunesMedford Valley

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What to Look for in assisted living!

If the old real estate adage that it's all about "location, location, location" is true, in assisted living it has to be "advocacy, advocacy, advocacy." Without advocacy all elder care is merely a collection of physical surroundings, amenities and activities that may have surface appeal but are really just fluffy icing without the cake.

At this time of the year, many Michigan retirees prepare their trips south for the winter. Some with parents may ask themselves, "Is Mom (or Dad) going to be safe alone until we return?" A few will broach the difficult subject of assisted living with them.

Many resources exist to guide the public through this process, usually in the form of checklists. However, neither the above-mentioned advocacy is included in them, nor two other important criteria we would like to point out. We know their significance as owners and sole operators of a licensed adult foster care in our home.

All elder care providers promote their beautiful settings, comfortably decorated homes, home-cooked meals, carefree living, social life, etc. These should be self-apparent, though. Much more simple and important is: Can you envision any one of us forcefully and intelligently representing you and your parent in public, at the doctor's office or in the hospital while you are away?

Suppose your mother develops the distinct signs of a urinary tract infection on a Friday morning, an illness that not only can knock elderly off their feet, but also cause delirium. Can you rest assured that we will do what it takes to get help for your mother before the weekend, even if her doctor's practice is initially unresponsive?

Being energetic and uncompromising representatives for the health and rights of your loved one is the hardest, most crucial work we perform as caregivers. If we do that well, it is safe to assume that all other aspects of our care are equally attentive, with or without a checklist.

Two more things of technical nature to look for. First, are we licensed? According to Michigan Act No. 218 of the Public Acts of 1979, people supervising, caring for and protecting seniors 24 hours a day, five or more days a week, and for two or more consecutive weeks for compensation are providing adult foster care and must be licensed.

Violation is a misdemeanor with stern consequences for the homeowners. Worse, though, residents and their families lack the standards of care, serious protection and access to officials that Michigan affords licensed settings.

Lastly, are we properly insured? Even if our home is a residential setting, providing care in its confines makes us a place of business. Our house, its contents, our liability and transportation enjoy protection only if commercial insurance policies are in place. Possessing a license is a prerequisite for underwriters. We are uninsured if all we can show you is a regular homeowner's policy, personal liability and regular auto coverage.

We hope this advice might help families avoid pitfalls seeking superior care for loved ones.

About the author: Michael Popp and his wife, Cornelia, have owned and operated the Four Maples Retirement Home since 2001. On the Web at:
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