Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Howard Pattee on Independent Living

As I mentioned in my "Movin' on UP" to Independent Living about the move my wife and I just made, Howard Pattee and his wife have about a decade of experience in a similar situation at Sweetwood, Williamstown, MA.

Sweetwood (see autumn photo, taken from the road to Mount Greylock) is located in a relatively rural area of Massachusetts near Williams College, and has 70 apartments. By contrast, Freedom Pointe has 240 condos and is across the street from The Villages Hospital and a shopping center not far from one of the town centers in our giant (80,000 people and growing) retirement community.

Howard, who is still busy editing his latest book, kindly sent me some text and photos, which I am happy to post here.

[from Howard]
Your move suggested that a good discussion topic is retirement communities and the health care problem from our more limited point of view. The big national health care problem is just too much of a political mess to be solvable, but there is a lot of promising effort to improve home health care for the elderly. We are a member of Mass. Life Care Residents' Association (MLCRA) http://www.mlcra.org/ which promotes legislation in our favor.

Ira, your physical description inside the Villages Independent Living apartments and the services sounds very similar to ours. The area is exactly the same down to the 8 x 4 foot locked storage. Outside there are some differences. We are small, only 70 apartments. We are 4 miles by road or hiking trail from Williamstown (see Google Earth). Above is an Autumn view of Sweetwood from the road to Mount Greylock.

Here is a Spring view from Sweetwood with Mount Greylock in the background.

And below is a Winter view from our apartment window.

As you know, moving your home is always a hard choice. Moving to a retirement community is harder because it is very likely your last move, and you have to make a lot of guesses about your aging and health care. You were wise to move early so you can enjoy the advantages of the Villages. Too many people wait until they need assisted living or nursing care.

One of the most important conditions for us was having the option of “age in place” so you can choose to have home health care and hospice in your own apartment if it is what you and your spouse want. Every state has different laws governing levels of care in retirement communities and each community (and insurance company) has its own rules, so it takes careful investigation.

In Binghamton we had to help my stepmother move four times at Hilltop Retirement Community―moves which were required by NY State law for accreditation of their facilities. Each move was stressful and psychologically like a slow death as she gradually lost space, familiar belongings, friends, and freedom. She never lost her wits. She died peacefully in hospice care, but alone in a strange room. She could have been cared for better (and at less cost) in her original independent living apartment.

Keeping costs down must be the major health care issue nationally, and it should be outcome-driven, not liability-driven or ideology-driven. For example, after my valve job, my surgeon would not release me from the hospital unless I was driven by ambulance to a skilled care nursing home (for liability protection). Fortunately, Sweetwood has a nursing home next door and I knew the director who let me go back to my apartment without doing my rehab in the nursing home, because we have 24/7 care available. The 75-mile ambulance ride was fun, but it cost the taxpayer $30 per mile. It would have cost another few thousand to keep me a week in the nursing home, and I got much better food and care at home.
Howard Pattee


Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks, Howard for your thoughts and experiences. I think the damned lawyers and legislators (of both parties) are robbing and slowly killing us with regulations to "protect" us. (Like your $2,250 ambulance ride when you could have walked - or bicycled - or, let us be reasonable here, you could have travelled perfectly well in an ordinary car.)

Your comments about "aging in place" are spot on. We hope to end our lives here in Independent Living, with home care.

If and when needed, we can have relatively short periods in Skilled Nursing or the Hospital. Since all these services are on a common campus here, our loved ones will be able to visit by walking or scooter or golf cart. And, the funeral home is just down the street so I hope to walk to my own funeral!

Freedom Pointe offers a variety of financial plans. We chose the 50/50. When we leave Freedom Pointe, our heirs get 50% of the buy-in we paid. If we need Skilled Nursing or the Memory Unit, we are charged half the regular cost. Therefore, about 20% of our buy-in cost and monthly fee counts as pre-paid health care.

Freedom Pointe held our selected condo for six months at no cost to us while we tried, without success, to sell our house. Fortunately for us, they guaranteed a price for our house just before prices in our area dropped by 10%. So, when they buy our house at the end of this month, we will be OK financially.

Our buy-in was about $260K and our monthly fee is about $3.6K. Counting the value of the included meal and other services, and the pre-paid health care, it will cost us perhaps $1K/month more to live here than in our private house.

It is taking us a while to adjust to living in half the space. We took too much stuff from our old house. Fortunately, for the past month and a half we have had access to our old house and have returned stuff to it where it has been given away and/or thrown out.

Ira Glickstein

Eric Schayer said...

Wow .. I now have a better idea of what to look forward to -- lol. I like Howard's characteristically insightful epistemic surmisal of the national healthcare debate as too much of a political mess to be solvable. I think he hit the nail on the head.

And when it comes to being victims of.the very laws (civil and otherwise) designed to 'protect' us, again I concur wholeheartedly. Funny how the debate revolves around medical care when the doctors are increasingly practicing law.

Oh well, I suppose I can be thankful I still have my health ... so does my family & other peeps ... my dear late mother made it to 93 in an assisted living home without suffering in her final days. Deo Gratias.