Living far from loved ones with special needs can be a strain on families and friends. One Valley company hopes to ease the burden such distance creates.
The Peace of Mind program aims to provide just that, peace of mind, by checking in on family members living in assisted care facilities. The program, which debuted Oct. 1, allows people who travel frequently or live out of state to remain informed about their loved ones.
"What we would be able to do is go in and visit with them and spend some quality time making sure that they're eating OK ... that they appear happy, or if not, notifying the family that we've noticed something," said Becky Feola, founder of Assisted Living Advantage in Phoenix.
She said she started the program after noticing that many people were hesitant to place their family members in assisted living situations. They didn't know what the effect would be on their loved ones.
"One of the main reasons that I've come across in the past that families would not go with assisted living is because they were worried," Feola said. "Who's going to watch them? Who's going to let us know if something's going on?"
The company also helps families settle on whether assisted living is right for their relatives, as well as which facilities are best for them.
When Colleen Bole's mother was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, which causes a person to struggle with memory, language or other mental functions, she decided it was time to find an assisted living facility for her mother. While Bole, 39, thought the decision would be easy to make, it soon grew overwhelming, she said.
"This was going to be one of the most important decisions of my life and I didn't want to mess this up," Bole said.
After speaking with Assisted Living Advantage, Bole toured several group homes and larger facilities with her mother. To her surprise, she discovered her mother preferred the private group homes.
"The funny thing is I was pretty determined that my mom needed a (larger) living facility," Bole said. "I was so sure that was something mom needed so she could have an active life."
Feola's knowledge of the assisted care system helped her to settle on a group home her mother was happy with, she said.
"It all worked out exactly the way it should," Bole noted.
Billy Estrada, a caretaker with American Care Homes, said he understands the hesitation people have about deciding whether to go with assisted living.
"It's normal because they don't really know us," he said.
Fellow caretaker Cristy Odad agreed, saying that finding the right home isn't as simple as some people think.
"They're not just looking for a house," she said. "They're looking for the best care."
It's important for those in assisted living to be checked on by someone they trust, even when their friends and family can't be there, Odad said.
"They still need someone they know so they don't feel like they're left behind," she said.
Settling on assisted living isn't always a difficult decision, however. Ahwatukee Foothills resident Kay Willobee, 90, said she had no problem moving into assisted care.
"They take good care of you," she said, adding that she didn't know anyone else who struggled with the question of assisted living.
Willobee said that she enjoyed the home she was staying in, and that she never worried about safety while living there.
Family members interested in the Peace of Mind or Assisted Living Advantage program can call (480) 419-4202 or visit their website at assistedlivingadvantage.com.
Josh Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a senior at Arizona State University.