My name is Morgan Jenkins and I want to introduce you to “Naomi” (not her real name/not her real photos.) “Naomi” is younger than most of my clients at Maintain Me, which helps older adults make confident decisions in the aging process. She is sharp, independent, intelligent and a planner, among other admirable qualities.
We came to know one another through her physical therapist, who she had been seeing for some time due to a “Parkinsons-like” syndrome. Her situation is particularly frustrating because there is no definitive diagnosis, there is no certain treatment, and there are no projections for the disease course. Can you imagine? It takes a strong person to stare this is the face, manage the challenges that come with the syndrome and still have the gusto to work, volunteer, and be active in her Jewish Community.
“Naomi” reached out because she wanted me to assess her living situation and have recommendations on ways she might improve the environment to be more adaptable for her mobility. This service falls under Maintain Me’s Consulting Program. For a reasonable one-time fee, we spend about two hours with our clients assessing their current situation and making recommendations based on our extensive professional experience. We look for ways to find more support, engagement, or care should it be needed, and we help identify the need if it is not realized. These are not easy conversations, however, avoiding them makes the situation worse! We must plan for our lives after the age of 65 or “retirement”. We are living easily into our 80’s now, and one must know what they would like that to look like and make a plan for it. That plan must also include saving money to live off of well beyond “retirement”.
My first visit with “Naomi” was in March 2021. We had all been through a full year of COVID suffering, isolation and the unknown. I remember it well because I had only recently started going back into client’s homes after doing virtual assessments. I was nervous, not for myself, but for my clients who were high risk or fearful themselves. I remember asking her if she wanted me to come in person, and she replied with an emphatic YES! We both craved social interaction.
I was instantly fond of her. The apartment was thoughtfully adorned with interesting art. My favorite piece was strips of raw fabric in brilliant colors that had been laid vertically, still on the bolt, transformed into art. It was her idea that she had commissioned. Creative and stylish! It took us a couple minutes to relax and settle into our meeting, and once we did the rest just flowed.
We moved through her apartment, I suggested grab-bars in the bathroom and then inquired how she was able to exit the apartment. (I was curious because it was no easy task to get up there to meet her!) Having no front door to the building per se, all residents went in and out through a secure garage. Seems good in theory, but in order to do things like pick up to-go food or go to the work out room in the adjacent building, she had to drive her car because walking that distance was far too taxing. Especially in poor weather, to me, this seemed like a hazard and completely inconvenient! This building design did not have older adults in mind or anyone with mobility limitations.
“Naomi” realized I had her best interests in mind and we dug right in. She has a syndrome that is progressively worse, and taking into consideration the hoops she must jump through to access the outside, plus the isolation she was feeling, I suggested Independent Living or a “55+” community. The benefits were obvious to her: security, social life, restaurant dining for the days she was tired from work and didn’t feel like cooking. However, thinking about moving was overwhelming. With that, we wrapped up our meeting with a summary, places to purchase grab bars, and how to connect with her building managers to be sure they were installed appropriately. But something else happened that day. “Naomi” now had a “friend in the business” so-to-speak. She had someone she connected with, that she felt comfortable having “these” conversations with.
“Naomi” is like the over 15.2 million people aged 55 and older that are childless, one in six older adults, in the United States. This statistic calls into question what other arrangements one must make for their care if they don’t have a child to provide it. Now, Naomi, like me, does not have children. Nor would either of us assume that just because we had children, they would be obligated to provide that care. No, Naomi knew her arrangements were on her to decide and facilitate, and she decided to take action.
We took the next steps into Maintain Me’s offerings with ourTransition Program. This is where we help the individual with the exploratory process of finding the right community. We make tour arrangements, focusing on communities that are value based, with good reputations based on experience. Next we go hand in hand on the journey of finding the “right place”, educating our clients to become informed consumers. The fees associated with the Transition Program are paid by the community that the client ultimately chooses. There is no fee charged to the client for this service.
A month after our initial meeting, we decided to take our first tour together. One tour was quickly six, and of those six places, we saw two of them multiple times! That is 12 tours over 15 months. I will add that she had a “wish list” of non-negotiables. Honestly, that was over 15 items long. Let me name a few and see if you can relate, because I sure could. Here are examples: Washer and dryer in the unit, full kitchen with a stove, covered parking, outside private deck or patio, a den or other similar space because she was still working, an exercise room, robust community engagement, and the list goes on. Really though, are these not all things you and I would want too? You can see from what I have shared, “Naomi” had put an incredible amount of thought into her decision, and my greatest joy was to support her on her journey. No matter what that meant, we were going to find her the place she felt excited about. The place that made her want to run home and pack her things and get settled.
I think the difference between this success story and others is the number of times we visited her top communities. I was there with her for each one, taking notes, asking probing questions based on previous visits, and helping “Naomi” set up visits with current residents and staff to hear their perspectives as well. It is imperative to have a well rounded view, not just the one from the sales person.
We had lunch on various tours, and we got to know one another. Her sister came out and we all toured together, and this helped “Naomi” finally decide. I was the person providing the information, “Naomi” had to choose her favorite based on factual and concrete information, and the feeling she got when she was at the community. You really do “just have a feeling” in this.
I am so pleased to report that “Naomi” has settled into her amazing new two bedroom apartment. She said it went so smoothly, and she is quite pleased. She is enjoying the feeling of having control over her own life, and making a thoughtful decision about her own future. I am thrilled to have been able to join her on her journey. I can’t wait to go visit her in her new community!