Four years ago, when I moved my mother into an assisted living memory care community in Iowa, the emotional toll of having to place her there was almost unbearable.
I didn’t think much about the logistics, because it wasn’t too difficult to complete what I thought was the required paperwork — a couple of forms and copies of health insurance cards. In the following months, however, the paperwork trail seemed to never end. The stress to find and complete the lengthy document process was compounded by the guilt of placing Mom in a “home.”
I think I found a silver lining to my situation, but before I explain, let me give you some background.
My parents were the salt of the earth. Roger and Marjorie worked on my grandparents’ farm in Iowa, and later, after my father obtained his master’s electrician license, they started their own business, which grew to be one of the most successful residential electrician companies in our town. Mom helped with the books for the company and also worked as a baker, making donuts and bread. She didn’t work at the bakery very long, but some of my best memories were of my mom coming home with warm donuts and bread early in the morning after working the third shift.
By the early 2000s, my dad, my three brothers and I started to notice some changes in my mom. She became more and more forgetful. By 2005, after working in the family business for more than 20 years, Mom was no longer able to do the books. She was forgetting to pay bills and send invoices, but she would pay the taxes, sometimes three times for the same quarter.
Two years later, early-onset dementia was diagnosed in my mother. She was just 57 years old. My two older brothers and I were well into adulthood, but my youngest brother, a later-in-life baby, was only 15 when the disease hit. Over the past 10 years, I have been shocked to see what dementia has done to my mom’s mind and to our family.
Three years ago, my mother’s dementia got to the point that my father no longer could care for her on his own. You no doubt have heard similar stories countless times. He wasn’t able to leave the house. If he stepped out to cut the grass, he would find her halfway down the street looking for her parents’ house. The situation was unmanageable at home.
My father always had supported himself and his family and never had asked anyone for anything. The thought of moving his wife of 43 years out of the house to be cared for by strangers was unthinkable.
The decision was taken out of his hands in April 2014, however, when my mother had a large seizure caused by a massive urinary tract infection. Mom was hospitalized, and I received a call from my father that he thought she wasn’t going to make it through the weekend.
The doctors subsequently told us that they thought she would make a recovery once the UTI was under control. We worked with the social worker at the hospital, and I finally convinced my father that he needed help and that the best thing for him and mom was to move her into a senior living community.
With the help of some co-workers, I was able to find an open room in one of the only assisted living memory care communities in Iowa. It was a perfect fit. The staff members were great, Mom was being cared for and my father was able to sleep easier at night.
Sounds like a good ending to the story. Only that’s not where the story ends.
A new chapter
Families similar to mine that are new to the processes of senior living and long-term care can be naive to the overwhelming amount of paperwork required to keep loved ones in a new residence. It put my dad under additional — and unnecessary — stress.
Over the course of the next three months, my father would receive several calls per week asking for additional information. What then followed was a nightmare: multiple trips back to the admissions office of the community, trips to banks and doctors’ offices, collecting information, realizing we had missed some documents, and the round robin would begin again.
This whole process compounded the stress and guilt my father felt from moving his wife out of their house. He told me he was ready to just take her home, because it was easier than completing all of that paperwork. Eventually, Dad was able to submit all of the required information, which freed him up to regain his independence.
Four years later, Mom has moved from memory care to a nursing home; her dementia has gotten progressively worse. My father still visits every morning to have breakfast with her.
Seeing this world from both sides
In senior living and long-term care, where new people may be admitted each day, every day, it is easy to forget how excruciating this admissions decision can be for families. Admissions, however, are not a traditional business transaction. They are, first and foremost, about people — people with a story; people with a life; people with fears, concerns and perhaps sadness or guilt about making the move to your “home.” As a profession, we need to be sure to remember that people are giving up some freedoms, or giving up people that they have grown old with, to be cared for by other people.
I am not a doctor, a nurse or a professional caregiver. I couldn’t perform the duties they have with the compassion and dedication they show. I have the utmost respect for those individuals.
What I am is a problem-solver. And the problem I want to help solve is with the senior living and LTC admissions documentation process, for the benefit of residents, families and staff members.
Every community has similar problems, and although some may be not as severe as those I experienced with my parents, they still have problems that can be solved — with technology.
As it turns out, I now am in a position where I have intimate knowledge of both sides of the LTC “door,” both as a family member and, later, from managing the technology department for an LTC community. Now, I am the chief technology officer for a software company that specializes in application development for long-term care.
My passion for easing the transition process for the elderly into senior living and long-term care resulted in my using my software programming skills to initiate the development of an admissions software tool, a cloud-based, resident e-admissions tool called Admit+. The tool has been developed and brought to market by CVT (Creating Value Together) Software with my input and input from Western Home Communities, where I worked for several years.
The software is designed to streamline the admissions process by providing all required forms in one electronic document that organizes, simplifies and reduces the paperwork required. Signees can use it remotely or in person. Signing one time in the form populates the signature in every form required. The same principle is applied to personal data — they are entered once and populated throughout the documents wherever required.
The forms guide the user, allowing him or her to advance to the next part of the document only when all required information is provided. The process can protect both parties by ensuring that no critical information — such as veteran status, sex offender status, power of attorney and responsible financial agents — is missed.
The goal of Admit+ is multi-faceted: to help facilities insulate themselves from compliance risks; make informed decisions; reduce the workload of admissions personnel; improve communication through different departments; and the most important feature: allow staff members to spend more time with residents. Additionally, the software is designed to reduce the stress on families, help them identify what they need, when they need it, and allow them to focus on what is important: their loved ones.
Steve Lewis is chief technology officer at CVT Software, based in Cedar Falls, IA. CVT Software will exhibit and discuss Admit+ with technology partner LincWare in the Start-Up Zone at the LeadingAge PEAK Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, March 21 and 22.
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