I didn’t have far to drive to the next home for inspection. And that’s exactly how I felt; I was an inspector. Although I had little idea what I was looking for, was it smells, was it staff, or was it food? The list was endless. All I knew was that Mom was too young to be dealing with this, in fact, so was I. From the very beginning I began to notice people looking at me with that ‘I’m so sorry’ look. That look would almost put me over the edge. I didn’t want to be pitied, I wanted help, but most of all I wanted it to go away!
I threw all those thoughts out of my head for the time being, as I parked and walked to the front door of the next facility.
This particular building and landscaping looked very new. I noticed as I walked up to the front sliding glass door that the windows were large enough so that the sun could shine into the lobby. Well, that was a plus; it wouldn’t be dingy like some of the homes I had visited. I had hoped it wouldn’t be like the old saying ‘looks can be deceiving’ or as a ‘Trooper’ song had pointed out, ‘It’s a 3 dressed up as a 9’ and that I wasn’t ‘wasting my time’.
I entered the first set of sliding doors and noticed a keypad and code written above it. I keyed in the number and ‘open sesame’ the second sliding glass door opened into a large and very bright lobby. I walked over to the reception and announced I was here for the tour. The receptionist asked me to take a seat and she would call Marjorie* to let her know I had arrived. I looked around and didn’t see any residents. I had read in one of my pamphlets that this building was home to 90 residents, but yet, not one did I see. I was beginning to feel a little uneasy when a blonde lady walked over to me and introduced herself as Marjorie. We shook hands and began the tour.
She asked about my Mom and remarked how sorry she was, and that Mom was too young to be dealing with Alzheimer’s. No shit Sherlock, my thoughts exactly, although I never said that in my outside voice.
We began in the lobby then she pointed out that the 2nd floor was for complex care, and at this point Mom would be living on the main floor.
I followed her to a door with a keypad. She explained that the residents living past the door were in lock-down, which meant that most of them had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Each resident wore a special bracelet, because if they did somehow get passed this door and into the lobby, an alarm would sound and notify staff that a resident was wandering. Marjorie then asked if Mom wandered.
‘No, I don’t think so’, I said (not being 100% sure).
She keyed in the code and we went into the lock-down section. Now I was expecting a scene from ‘one flew over the cuckoos nest’, but ‘thank god’ I was absolutely mistaken. This section was brightly lit with huge windows and very wide aisles. She pointed out that the aisles were double the size so that 2 persons could be in wheelchairs next to one another. Wow, I thought, what a great idea!
I also noticed that the artwork was hung low and remarked to Marjorie regarding that fact.
‘Yes, all our art is hung low, so it is visible to everyone, especially those in wheelchairs.’
The section was set up very similar to the infinity symbol. Marjorie said it was easier for the wanderers and residents who couldn’t sit for long and walked most of the days. As we strolled the corridor, Marjorie said ‘hello’ to everyone and seemed genuine. She knocked on an open door and asked a resident if she could show me her room. Hmmm, I thought, Marjorie didn’t barge into a room; she had respect for the resident, another plus.
The resident smiled and said ‘of course, please come in’.
Marjorie explained that I wouldn’t find any rooms with more than 2 people in them at this facility. Now that was interesting, as the last home I had visited there were a few rooms that held up to 4 residents. She went on to tell me that each resident was allowed to bring furniture from his or her home so that it was familiar and comfortable. We both said our ‘thanks’ to the resident and continued walking past the first turn. Marjorie also asked if Mom liked animals. There it was, another question for me to try and answer. I said that Mom loved my cat Buggs, grew up with rabbits, and we had a dog for all of 6 months before she admitted she couldn’t handle a dog.
‘I’m asking because here at Woodlawn Acres we have a resident cat and birds who live in this section, and upstairs we have a cat, bunnies, and budgies’, Marjorie said with a smile.
Wow, I thought to myself, where do I sign up? I thought I used my inside voice, but next thing I knew, she was laughing at my comment. Ooops, note to self; always try to filter thoughts prior to opening mouth.
She brought me to the dining room, the activity room, the outdoor garden, and the snoezelen room. In the meantime, I was introduced to staff and residents as the tour wound down.
We reached the door to exit to the lobby; Marjorie keyed in the code, and said,
‘When entering or exiting here, we always have to make sure the residents cannot see the code. You would be surprised at how many sneak up and take a peak at people using the code.’
‘Really’? I said.
‘Yes, like all of us, they can be pretty sneaky sometimes’, she laughed.
I actually laughed alongside her. I guess if you didn’t have some sort of sense of humour, you wouldn’t be in this job for long.
Marjorie walked me to the sliding glass doors, asked if I had any more questions, handed me her card and thanked me for coming in to tour the facility. She keyed in the code and I left feeling a tiny bit better.