Today I’m gonna talk about where I’m currently living. You may remember my post about life at Friedman Place. Since writing that I spent a wonderful year and a half there and did things that I truly enjoyed and made one friend I’ll have for Life. Robert you know who you are LOL!
The good points I made about Friedman I believe are all still true. However I would caution anyone applying or thinking of going there who has a mental illness to think carefully. They have no mental health services. When I was there there was a very nice social worker named Jeff who had a lovable guide dog black lab named Randy. They made a good team. They were nice to talk with. Jeff however wasn’t a therapist in spite of being in the social work field for awhile. Since I’ve left there have been major changes in staff including a new exicutive director and another social worker who I never did get to meet. I’ve heard this new social worker is very good. There is a third social worker who is the director of nursing which I still don’t honestly understand why a nurse isn’t the director of nursing. In any case, none of these people are therapists. And they don’t pretend to be which I guess is a plus. But they’re clear about for some reason not being able to provide mental health services within the building. Whether this is something they feel there isn’t the need for (in spite of my meeting many of the residents and discovering over time that they have various mental health issues) or if they just are unable to provide such a service. While I was there their attitude was that they would wait til a person was in true crisis and then have them hospitalized. They’d come back a couple weeks later with no care plan or long term support to keep this from happening. Then there would be a build up crisis and another hospitalization.
I also don’t believe staff could be able to recognize or address behaviors associated with mental illness such as depressive behaviors, isolating, changes in speech and mood not eating sleeping too much ETC. I know that they did not know how to respond to self injury as I did this a lot and no one seemed to catch on. Not that I really wanted them to most of the time. I would also question that they’d be able to spot eating disorder behavior either. So they have no training in mental health care at all. This I feel is a huge piece missing in a facility that otherwise provides decent care to those that are blind and visually impaired.
In November 2013 I had a major emotional breakdown. And was going to attempt suicide. I had a plan and means and if the nurse and CNA at that particular time hadn’t been there I probably would have succeded or been seriously hurt by what I had wanted to do. However they did catch me and did actually know what to do as having a CNA watch me constantly til I went to the hospital. At the time they said it would be a five day stay and then I’d be back. I was still dazed and starting to get furious that I would actually have to live my life and pick up the pieces of being so overwhelmed that I had wanted to end my life. It ended up that I never went back to Friedman again. During my hospital stay the only thing that pulled me out of the dark place long enough to change the path of my current living situation was remembering people at Trilogy behavioral health care, where I had gotten outpatient services talk about psychiatric rehabilitation facilities. They’re basically nursing homes who’s focus is psychiatric care. Some are better than others and of course clients who are up in arms about being there in the first place are unlikely to give good reviews. However I did remember at some point looking online and seeing they seemed like nice places. So I asked the social worker and my psychiatrist to look into me getting into one. I’ll save my fight to get into Albany care for another post because it’s another topic. But there was much discussion many people saying no and a ton of advocacy on my part in spite of still being deep in my break down.
Eventually I did get into albany care. Albany care is a for hundred bed, I believe facility. For 18 years and older. Though I’ve never met someone that young here. A handful of us are in our twenties and early thirties the rest are a whole lot older. There are more men than women as seems to be the trend.
It was a lot to get used to going from a place with sixty people at the most in their own apartments to hundreds of people, though of course not all at once, covering a building withnarrow hallways. The lobby and dining hall and elavators are particularly crowded. Many people are made unaware of what’s going around them due to psychosis depression or anxiety so often don’t get out of your way even if you can see. It also can be chaotic and loud at times. Though there is extremely rare (like one incident every couple years or something) instances of physical agression verbal agression and fighting of that nature are common. This was extremely hard on me as someone with PTSD related to emotional and verbal abuse. For me witnessing it is a trigger because with my family often I wasn’t the target but had to witness a lot of put downs and name calling and I felt helpless and felt the feelings of the person as if I were going through it myself.
I’m thankful to the staff at albany for opening their minds and resources to taking on a resident with a disability in addition to mental illness. They’re pritty open to people with disabilities given that they have three residents that are deaf and many staff know ASL especially a case worker specifically hired for this purpose. From the beginning there were CNAS that warmed to me emediately and helped with things like laundry getting to and from meals and making sure I got my meds.
The psychosocial rehabilitation services coordinators, or PRSCS are an extremely big part of life here. Each person is assigned one. Each one unfortunately probably has thirty people on their caseload. Often they are just out of college with their undergraduate degree in psychology related studies and little mental health work experience. However many have amazing instincts with people which is way more important than any degree. They also learn quickly and the facility has a lot of oppurtunities for trainings. They’ There’s also a person called a quality assurance coordinator who helps nigotiate things with residents if there are problems with residents between residents and staff they help with that. As well as invintorying items and making reports for missing items.
Then there’s nursing. All six floors have a nurse during the day and evenings every day. At the night shift I think there are like three nurses there so they have to devide themselves among the floors spending time on a couple floors a night. There are also CNAS three on the floors during the day and two at night. CNAS help with personal care and generally see how residents are doing. They also monitor and serve in the dining room.
Oh forgot to say with the case managers not only do you meet with them one on one at least once a week there are also groups that they run. Such as anxiety management, depression management, relaxation, music group art group ETC. Often the groups can be chaotic because you have people with all varieties of functioning there and some can’t pay attention and participate without fighting or going into their own world. Also the PRCS are not experienced in leading groups. However some are and it can make for good groups.
The building used to have seven floors of rooms. Now they have six with the seventh being for activities. There are a number of activity staff including a very good activities director who’s been there for years and has a good raport with residents. The staff organize activities in the facility such as bingo and other games, beauty group, reading, arts and crafts ETC. As well as outings to Wal mart target and other stores, to Navy Peer musiums and other places. They also play movies in the little theater that has a huge movie theater type setting as well as have socials in the dinging room. Unfortunately due to my anxiety these activities are often too crowded and loud for me even if not for others. However I have on ocassion gone up there to use the exercise room they have bikes and other equiptment weights and a punching bag and therapy ball to sit on. I’d love other equiptment like a trampoleen swing and other sensory equiptment that I feel would help myself and other residents. However it’s probably very expensive.
The good things about being here are: staff with mental illness knowledge being here 12 hours a day. Knowing you can have someone you can talk to who understands. Having met my awesome big sister and best friend and Roomate Jess. CNAS and nurses looking out for me to prompt on meals and meds ETC that if I were living alone might be inconsistent. The medical doctor and psychiatrist come right to the building. However I hate the way you don’t know when your doctors are coming in until the night before or day of. This means changing plans and then the possibility of the doctor not coming in. Also an irritating thing is needing to see the doctor every month as a matter of policy rather then if you actually need to see them.
Often I wish the food were better. Lately they’ve been cooking the same stuff I don’t like at all. And of course Jess makes me eat even though I don’t want to. I guess that’s how I’ve gotten to a healthy weight since I’ve been here.
Meeting Jonathan the clinical director. Oh I forgot to mention him in my staff run down. Well he supervises all the PRSCS and insures everything’s going ok. If there’s a crisis with anyone he hears about it and helps make quick decissions. He hires people and trains them. He’s extremely personable and genuine. He’ll work with and talk with any resident no matter the issue or how they act towards him he somehow finds a way to get through and help them meet their needs. My life has changed due to the therapy I’ve gotten from him which I’ll talk about later. But having that long-term unconditional support from someone who’s getting to know me inside out sometimes better than I know me is one of the most important things here. I wouldn’t have gotten so far or be maintaining good mental health without his support. There’s also the assistant clinical director who helps him with stuff since he has to do way too much as it is.
So to summ up this long post I’m putting a video of my review of the place. An audio visual version of what I’ve just written. I’m doing this so people who might be considering or someone is considering you for being in a place like this can know what to expect. I’m extremely curious what other states have to offer for residential long term care that’s affordable. Oh forgot to say they do accept medicaid here. So many long term mental health care places are private pay with no flexibility. Anyone who has lived in similar things like group homes or other arrangements I’d be happy to hear from you.