Jerry Davich: New answer to ‘What about Mom?’ question
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org November 24, 2012 6:10PM
Clients and staff work on craft project in the living room of the Moses Caregivers home in Valparaiso Wednesday Nov. 21, 2012. The home opened in October. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 26, 2012 6:19AM
The Moses Caregiver Home looks just like any other home, blending into its neighborhood like a fresh flower in a rosy garden.
It looks nothing like I expected when I first learned about the “adult care home” and its fresh approach and alternative to nursing homes.
The new-construction, newly equipped converted duplex in rural Valparaiso boasts six private bedrooms, two living rooms, a 24-hour staff including a registered nurse on hand, and home-cooked meals three times a day. And it smells wonderfully new, with the aroma of lunch in the air.
Three Valparaiso sisters opened the home last month after they had to navigate the tricky and exhausting nursing home industry a couple years ago for their ailing mother, Marlene Moses.
“When you are forced to move your parent somewhere because you can no longer take care of them, you are burdened with the decision of where to take them where they will receive the care and attention they need and deserve,” said one of the sisters, Lynne Rehmel. “Whether they will be treated well and not just left lying in a bed.”
“It tears at your heart not wanting to leave them where they may feel they are abandoned or just left sitting in a room all alone. That is no way to live out the rest of your life.”
As anyone knows who has been through such an ordeal with an aging parent, the question “What about mom (or dad)?” is a common one. And a frightening one.
“Having watched our mother slowly fade away has given us a new prospective on helping the elderly live the last part of their lives as comfortably and happy as possible,” said Dee Cheeks, another sister.
“We always promised our mother she wouldn’t go into a nursing home, so we took care of her in her own home for a few years on a rotation basis,” said Liz Culp, the third sister who serves as the home’s director.
Rehmel noted, “We were truly blessed with wonderful parents and the thought of having to put mom into a nursing home was just not an option.”
Cheeks added, “We couldn’t keep up with her needs, so we found a private home instead of a traditional nursing home. After seeing how my mom was taken care of and how she finally accepted it for her own home, we were very happy.”
The concept, which will surely be a rising trend in our graying country, intrigued the sisters and they later decided to open their own similar home. It’s located at 693 Dearborn St. in the Coventry subdivision, right off County Road 700N near South Haven.
“The original plan was to have my mom move in the new home along with the other residents from the previous home,” Cheeks said.
But her mother died on Sept. 22, just before the new home opened on Oct. 1. It was named in her honor, the Moses Caregiver Home, and some of her favorite jewelry adorns the interior.
New trend for senior care?
Only two residents currently occupy the home, Joan Turner and Hugh Hicks. Both are 83 years old and suffer from dementia issues.
“Hello there,” Hicks happily told me when I visited the home.
“Nice to meet you,” replied Turner as they prepared to create some crafts with two staff members.
“They do crafts together, share lunch together, and even flirt with each other,” Culp explained. “It’s very cute.”
“They truly feel like this is their home, and they are loved and taken care of like family,” Cheeks said. “At the old house, Hugh would sit in his room all day except for meal time. In our new home, he sits in the living room and stays there all day.”
“He works in the kitchen every morning, helping the girls with lunch. He paints birdhouses and helps them with whatever they need,” she said.
“As for our lady resident, Joan, the girls do her hair every morning, put on her makeup, and help her with her jewelry. They know she wants all that done.”
The staff took Hicks and Turner to a pumpkin farm last month, and they celebrate holidays together with them. If one of them wants popcorn late at night, the caregiver will make it for them.
“They treat them like their parents,” Culp said proudly. “This is what makes it all worth it. If they were in a nursing home, Hugh and Joan may be sitting by themselves with no interaction with anyone.”
Culp said residents pay the same flat fee for all services, $5,000 a month. The Visiting Nurse Association of Porter County provides in-home medical care, if needed, and hospice care services.
The Moses Home is unlicensed, which allows the sisters to operate the home without all the state rules and regulations, they said.
I contacted the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging to find out how common, or uncommon, are these types of private care homes.
The proper term is “adult family care homes” and there are no statistics on how many such facilities exist, according to Faith Laird, director of Division of Aging at the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
“There is no state or federal payment to these homes,” she said. “Everything is paid for privately.”
I could find only one Indiana code (16-18-2-167) pertinent to these homes. It states that private homes which provide 24-hour care to four or fewer residents are not required to be licensed by the state. Facilities that provide care to more than four individuals are licensed by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Culp said she has held several jobs in her life, including owning a hair salon and working as a manager at a banquet hall. None have compared with this new endeavor.
“This is truly the most rewarding thing I have done,” she told me. “The elderly have done their part in life and now it is time to take care of them.”
Rehmel added, “There are too many seniors that need somewhere to call their home.”
For more information on the Moses Caregiver Home, call 508-7004 or visit www.facebook.com/MosesCaregivers.
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