In addition to my sister moving to Florida, Mom is now looking to come down here (after all, the grandkids and both of her kids would be here, and there’s no snow here). Without divulging too much, let’s just say that Mom is a senior and has come to realize that she won’t be moving too much more often. She’s starting to think about what sort of senior living community would be best for her. As the offspring already in Florida, I’ve been taking the lead with on-site visits. And yes, I’m again using my technical writing skills to help Mom with this process.
Fortunately, Mom is mentally competent and definitely has opinions about where she moves. She’s still driving her own vehicle and she’s healthy and independent enough not to need 24-hour care–medical or others. However, she also recognizes that she’s not as diligent as she should be on things such as cooking her own meals in a nutritious fashion. That puts her in the “independent living” category of seniors, which is a good place to be because she can express preferences and choices about where she lives. This means before I go visit senior independent living communities, I need to gather some requirements.
Government agencies and other organizations must go through a similar exercise before they procure a new product or service: they need to establish what they want and what they want to accomplish. Any candidates need to be judged on the same criteria: their ability to meet the customer’s needs and wants.
As with proposal efforts, price is an important consideration. Mom knows what she’s comfortable spending within her retiree’s budget. Having some money beyond Social Security increases her options. That became the first filter A Place for Mom–a service for helping seniors and their children find them homes–used to help find her a place to live.
Discussions about price included practical questions such as how does the place charge for their services–monthly? Yearly? Do they require a large down payment? Do their charges include utilities? What appliances are in the rooms?
While “Florida” was a given, where in Florida was another matter. I’m in Orlando, my sister and her family are looking to move somewhere on the West Coast–most likely Tampa or St. Petersburg. I suggested Lakeland, Florida, which is halfway between the two metropolitan areas. Later, Mom changed her mind and said she wanted to be closer to my sister. This made sense because they live five minutes away from each other now, and they’re used to being in close proximity to each other.
And since Mom is still driving her own car, she wanted to make certain she’d be close to a grocery store and a library.
Mom has a hard time cooking because a lot of meal recipes are not designed for single people and she isn’t always thrilled to eat leftovers (I can relate). She also usually eats only one or two meals a day. “Three meals a day is too much.” However, all of the senior living facilities that provide meals provide three meals or nothing, but she’s not required to eat all three that they provide. There are no meal plans like I recall having in college. Oh, well.
By the time the big questions have been answered–the must-have items–all that remains are the nice-to-have details, like can Mom get a cable channel that plays Chicago Cubs games? Are there refrigerators and microwaves in the rooms? Are there walking paths nearby? Do they have storage space?
After I’ve answered all the questions Mom and I conjured up between the two of us, the final decision will come down to site visits: first mine, then Mom’s. I’m going first because I’m here and I can get pictures, get a feel for the neighborhood, and pass along these items to Mom. In this case, my role shifts from gathering requirements to making judgments based on what I see. Do the buildings appear to be in good repair? Do the residents look happy? Are the staff helpful and responsive? I don’t own or have stock in any of these communities and I want Mom to be happy and comfortable, so I can be a decent judge and advocate on her behalf.
To help keep things straight for Mom, me, and my sister, I’ve developed review documents for each community that summarize my observations and thoughts as I review their websites and interview community managers or salespeople. The documents include the name and contact information for the person(s) I’ve spoken with, highlights from the website, responses to the specific questions I asked, and next steps, if any. Eventually, I’ll include photos from my site visits to keep everything in one place.
Of course in the end it’s Mom’s choice. After I’ve visited a few places (and probably my sister has, as well) 0we’ll bring her to the top two or three choices so she can see them for herself. And on the day of the visit she’ll probably have new, unspoken criteria or questions that will come up based on what she sees. It’s only fair, she’s the one spending the money and moving there.
None of this work will guarantee that Mom will have a spectacular time wherever she ends up moving, but then the same could be said about the condo I’m buying next month. In the end, she has to make a choice given the best information she and her children can find. Providing the best information I can is in everyone’s best interests and is more likely to produce a happy outcome.