Austin Senior Living: Solved! a transcribed interview with Michael Gill, CEO Texas Senior Living Locators, interviewed by Grace Lanni, All About That Brand. [photo cred: Carmen Buck Photography]
Grace Lanni: There are a lot of changes that happen after moving into a new community. I wonder if folks who are being placed in memory care might take longer to adjust than someone who is going into a regular assisted living community?
Michael Gill: Yes, memory care clients definitely take longer to adjust. One of the problems is that people appear to go downhill when they move into a memory care facility. But this is deceiving, as they’re not really going downhill so much as their already existing cognitive deficiencies are becoming much more apparent. When they’re at home, they have memory pathways to know where the bathroom is, where the snacks are, where to find their caregiver. When they move into a memory care facility, they have to use skills that have deteriorated. These include executive decision, problem solving and sequencing skills. Adjusting to the new environment leads to confusion and increased anxiety, which leads to an extended period of uncomfortable emotions for the resident and their family. Three weeks is a good guestimate as to how long the adjustment period lasts, though it’s different for everyone.
Grace Lanni: The most impressive fact that you’ve shared with me is once a family member’s is placed, you follow up a month later, the next time you’re in that facility, and you make sure everything’s okay.
Michael Gill: It’s always good to lay eyes on somebody once they’ve moved in to a memory care facility. Realistically, there are positive and negative surprises because no one person is the same, and it takes a while for people to adjust to any new place. Usually, it’s two or three weeks before things start going smoothly. I always likes to wait a little while to give the facility and the client a chance to adjust to each other. Then, I stop in and look at them to get a sense of how things are going.
Grace Lanni: Say four weeks have gone by. How do I relax my anxiety? Having placed a parent and memory care, how do I kind of lean back and say, okay, I’ve picked the right place. How do I know that I did?
Michael Gill: Usually that’s self-evident because your family member has made a friend or two and the staff reports that they’ve settled in. If you’re wondering if you made the best decision, plan to visit the community during different shifts and on a random basis. Every resident needs an advocate, and information gathering is one of a relative’s most important functions. You will get clarity on the situation from the staff and management and your simple presence at the community. Sometimes, you have to commit to a place and make every effort to make it work. What’s difficult to figure out is, okay, have I made a mistake and is there going to be better someplace better? Or am I just attempting a geographic solution where a move is just going to create a different set of problems someplace else? Remember, we’re dealing with people with a marked cognitive decline, and there’s very little that you can do that can make any place or situation perfect. The goal is for them to be safe, properly cared for, intellectually stimulated and treated kindly and hopefully with love.
Grace Lanni: Anything else, that you want to add as a conclusion on our talk today?
Michael Gill: Sure. Expectation management is one of the more important functions that I provide people because there will be things that happen in a community that are negative. For example, there will be falls. That’s true whether someone is at home or in a community. I’ve had clients who’ve had a loved take a fall and brake a hip when they were literally holding onto them. It only takes a second, you look away, and bam! They’re down. Accidents will happen anyplace, even with the best of intentions and care.
Consider the circumstances of any accident. I recommend that you partner with the facility, and make every effort to not make it an adversarial relationship. A successful partnership will get your loved one the best care. Get to know everybody in the community from the executive director on down. You need to expect turnover of staff, because it’s endemic to the industry. And if one of the people that you relied on leaves, you’ll have to find somebody else there who’s going to tell you what’s really going on with your loved one. The partnership is important. Everybody needs an advocate. I recommend families visit at least once a week to check on what’s going on with their loved ones.
It’s important to also visit at different times because there are different shifts. I had one client recently who really liked the caregivers in the mornings. But when they went in the evenings, they found things were completely different and quite intolerable. This was because the afternoon shift did not have good leadership and caregivers were doing things that were inappropriate like raising their voice at a resident or double diapering them so they didn’t have provide care as often. That type of thing borders on abuse and is completely unacceptable and unforgivable. You’ll want to be at the community checking on your loved one to make sure they’re clean, don’t have pressure sores, and you need to look for the little things, like whether or not their teeth are brushed, whether or not the trash is emptied. Little details are often harbingers of larger problems. That’s something that the families of all memory care residents need to know.
Grace Lanni: In summary, if you’re going to be managing a family member that’s been diagnosed with dementia, there are choices. You could certainly do everything on your end or you could find someone like Michael Gill at Texas Senior Living locators who can guide you through the ups and downs of the process. Well, Michael Gill, I’m so happy to have gotten all these details in one place, in this article, and on this podcast. I appreciate you taking the time today, and I look forward to our next conversation. For those of you who are in Austin, particularly South Austin or Dripping Springs, you have an event coming up, don’t you? On June 14th?
Michael Gill: I do. On the 14th, I’ll be speaking out at United Methodist Church in Dripping Springs. I speak usually 10 or 12 times a year to various different church groups and conferences, talking about all things senior living.
Grace Lanni: Wonderful. So that’ll be at 6:30 PM. It says light refreshments will be served. And if you need to get ahold of Michael in the meantime, what are the best ways for people to find you?
Michael Gill: Generally it’s to call me: 512-630-7133. Or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace Lanni: If you’re a Facebook person, you could type in Texas Senior Living Locators and you’ll find Michael and his team. You can also go to Texassll.com and check out all the information that Michael has for you on his website. Okay sir, I appreciate you. Look forward to talking again.
Michael Gill: Thank you, Grace Lanni. It’s been great talking to you.