Archive for December 26th, 2007

A Place to Live for the Young & Mentally Ill

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

This is the next installment in the series of Recollections post from last summer 2007.

I made mention before of trying to find a personal care home for my son when he was in the the hospital for the first time this year in June. From what I was told, a personal care home would be the only feasible option of a residence for my son. I describe personal care homes (PCHs) here.

In the hospital the social workers tried to find him a place but were unsuccessful. I was told BH of Altrus was an expert who would get in touch with me and be a big help.

One week after DS’s discharge, I have had no phone call from BH. I call her. She says she had DS’s name, but no contact information for him. (Hmmm, I know at least two social workers in the hospital that could easily access that information for her.)

I have made quite a few telephone calls with BH back and forth so I admit that some of it is a muddle to my memory. One time she tells me I need to locate the home first before getting SOURCE approval. At another time she has given my name to a SOURCE worker who calls me to get some information. This person then tells me to locate a home first.

After some delays, BH gives me the names of two personal care homes in Cherokee County, with telephone numbers and owner’s names. These were the only two homes in this county with a vacancy at this time. It always seems to be true that when you call these homes, a staff person will answer the telephone. They then inform you that they are not the owner and they give you the owner’s cell phone number. The owners are usually most available in the evening, so I assume they may work regular day jobs and keep a personal care home for side income. They nearly always have a foreign language accent, so communication is not so great.

I call the first PCH and make an evening appointment to see the place alone. I say “alone” because my son is still in the hospital (second time). The last half mile to the home is a gravel, rutted road. The brakes in the car I was driving were very bad and scaring me the whole way over there. When I come to a place in the road where the grade is very steep, I have had enough. I turn around and make a cell phone call to the owner with apologies for canceling the appointment.

I call the second PCH and make an appointment to see it at the owner’s convenience, two days later. The morning of the appointment I receive a call from her that the vacancy has been filled. I begin to get the feeling that PCHs are rare and you need to rush to get in one when there is a vacancy.

So, according to BH there are no more vacancies in Cherokee County (Georgia) where we live. Let’s try neighboring Cobb County I tell her, thinking about the OCS program I was told about, which provides transportation to residents of Cobb. This county is a great deal larger in population and there are many PCHs. BH promises to mail me a list. I wait a week: no list. I telephone her. She asks if I have a fax machine. Thank heavens I do. She faxes me a two-page list of homes. I have found the fax machine to be a big asset on many occasions since DS’s illness began.

I begin telephoning PCHs, going through the process of calling the home, getting the owner’s number, calling the owner, waiting for the return call, etc. I find through this process that some homes are just for women, most homes are just for the elderly and most homes have no vacancies.  

At this time I was fortunate to receive a telephone call from KM, who called herself a therapist at the hospital, Wellstar Behavior Health. I am not sure why she has this information, but she says she knows of a PCH, though not SOURCE-funded, that would possibly take DS at a discount because they have empty beds they are trying to fill.

To make an even longer and boring story short, this place becomes DS’s first PCH. They agree to take him at $600 a month. They say they are applying for SOURCE status, but they cannot promise when that will happen. The home manager I speak with most of the time, MG, is from England, so she has a British accent, but I can actually understand her most of the time. The owner is a very excellent nurse, I am told. The home has seven beds for women and eight beds for men in wings at opposite ends of the house. There is a large living room with a big-screen television and a dining room that seats all the residents at two tables. Most of the residents are elderly, but three of them are more middle-aged and are friendly and happy to talk about the place with me. They aver that this personal care home is a great place. Two say they have schizophrenia. We chit-chat about medications and doctors. I think, “this place exceeds my expectations.” I decide to snatch up a slot for DS before it gets filled.

I bring DS to visit the home, that I will call AM, on the very afternoon he is discharged from the hospital. He seems to be all right with it also. We spend the week trying to scrape together the paperwork because my husband and I have a trip planned to see his mother the following week. (She had a close call with an illness and recently went to live in assisted living herself.) DS and I go the rounds to the health department for the turbuculosis test, the primary care physician for the physical forms, back to the health department to read the results of the TB test, etc.

I am getting a little ahead in my narrative now, because I did not talk about the going-ons with the second hospitalization, and I will in the next post. Just suffice it to say, finding and getting a loved one in a personal care home is a big, inefficient hassle. Dealing with it on top of dealing with symptoms of an illness was a lot to bear. I did not make much progress until DS was back in the hospital again.

Another funny and sad thing… the whole time I was trying to get information from BH I had to be very secretive about it. DS had met BH in the hospital and did not like her at all… he wanted me to have nothing to do with her. It was his paranoia I know, but I could not help but agree that his general feeling about the state of housing for the mentally ill was right.