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Ask Helen

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating The Palace Group retirement communities for nearly 30 years. If you have questions about the lifestyle changes that go with aging, or if you'd like to be invited to a social event at The Palace, please send a note to Helen Shaham, 11377 S.W. 84th St., Miami, Florida 33173, call her at 305-270-7020, or email helen@thepalace.org.

Questions & Answers

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Q. My mother has a friend living at the Palace Suites and is interested in joining her, but I understand that the population is mostly not Hispanic, and I'm concerned she will be uncomfortable.

A. Seven years ago the Palace Suites was only about 5 percent Hispanic. Today it's 25 percent. Why the big change?
We sat down for lunch with a dozen residents of the Palace Suites, mostly Cuban women in their 80's, to find out. We expected to learn that the culture had changed. Where once it was unthinkable for a Hispanic family to put their parents in a "home," even though it was the best thing for Mom and Dad, today they are thinking more like other Americans and find this an acceptable alternative. Or that's what we thought.
We were wrong!

Instead, we find out from these Hispanic residents of the Palace Suites that the change has come from the parents. They are the ones who want to come to the Palace! They don't want to live with their children anymore!

"I visit my daughter for a weekend and she wants me to stay the whole week," said one of the women. "But I say no, thank you, I love to visit you, but it's time to go home."

"I do not want to live with my daughter and her family," said another woman. "It's their life, and I feel like I get in the way. While they love me and try hard to make me feel welcome, I always feel like I'm intruding. It's not my kitchen, not my furniture, not my house. Here, I have my own apartment, sleep when I feel like it, watch TV when I feel like it, entertain friends whenever I want without having to check with anyone. This is my home."

We learned that the word has gotten out as one person moves in, and then their friends come to visit, and soon they are moving in, also. While in the beginning we were concerned that the relatively few Latin residents were having trouble making friends, now they have friends everywhere.

The residents love the independence they find at the Palace Suites, which is our residence for Independent Living in Kendall, where each resident has their own apartment and comes and goes as they please. Some still drive, others take the Palace shuttle bus to shopping. Many use the Palace limousine service, a spacious Cadillac which, for a modest price, takes one or more residents out to a favorite restaurant or perhaps a movie.

Breakfast and a gourmet dinner are provided daily at the Palace Suites, as is nightly entertainment. When something in the apartment needs fixing, the job is done by a familiar staff person, not a stranger.

"We feel safe here, and our families don't worry so much," another woman said.

Also interesting, as we went around the room learning about the participants, almost every one of these residents arrived in the United States in 1960. If you want to know what happened to the cream of Cuban society after the Revolution, they are all here, living at the Palace!

Doctors, engineers, college professors, all had to uproot their lives 46 years ago and flee to the United States. All of them at the time already were adults in their late 30's and early 40's, all with successful established lives. Each of them has interesting stories to tell about how their lives changed, and how they were welcomed to the United States. We are so happy to have them living with us!

Q. My mother lives in an assisted living residence about an hour's drive from my home. I work full-time and can't get there as often as I would like. My sister lives in Chicago and obviously is too far away to help. Should I move my mother closer to me or let her know that cannot visit her very often?

A. When caregivers and relatives shop around for the right place for a parent or elderly relative, they usually look for a location convenient to where they live. However, it's more important to choose somewhere that suits the parent or relative's individual needs. As your mother is already living in a residence you must be guided by whether she has adjusted and seems happy there.

Check out the following: Does your mother like it where she is? Are the staff caring and the healthcare professionals attentive to her needs? Is she friendly with the other residents and does she participate in activities? Is the administrator sensitive to problems that may arise and willing to give you the contact numbers for top decision makers if you should need to discuss your mothers well being?

If mom appears comfortable and settled in a well-run residence, then by all means keep her where she is regardless of the distance from you. Moving to unfamiliar surroundings can be very unsettling for elderly people.

It would help if you can face up to your conflicting feelings. I think you are troubled by your inability to visit you mother often and have to cope with the guilt that many children feel when a parent moves to a senior residence. You may also feel ambiguous about your sister's role and unhappy that she is letting you shoulder the entire burden. Practically speaking, your sister is not doing her part, but from my experience, responsibility for a parent inevitably falls on one child, and you're "IT!"

To resolve your concern about visiting, I suggest you look at the big picture. Like all elderly people, your mother doesn't want to feel neglected or forgotten so, besides visiting whenever you can, you have to work out ways for her to get the attention she craves.

Make the telephone your first link and call her as often as possible. Why not set up a routine to call at the same time every week, say Wednesday evening after dinner & Friday morning before breakfast? At those times you can find out if anything is troubling her or needs action from you. At other times during the week pick up the phone whenever you have spare moment for an "I just called to say hello"

Discuss the phoning routine with your sister and let her set her own time to call schedule. If your mother hasn't got her own answering machine, then you and your sister might want to get her one and if necessary, show her how to retrieve her messages. Keeping in touch also means actively involving the whole family to call Grandma whenever they can (put her number on speed dial - we're not counting phone bills here, its their grandmother.) Give her phone number to other members of the family and ask them to keep in touch with her too.

Don't discount the importance of snail mail. Older people love to get letters and cards.

If your children are young, have them draw pictures and mail them to Grandma along with photos for her to display in her room. If they're teenager, invest in a pack of stamped postcards (just like summer camp!) and insist they send one to Grandma each week, even if the message is very short. If you have adult children they should be reminded to pick up the phone sometime in their busy schedules.

The point is that your mother should feel wanted even if you cannot visit as often as you would like. Take comfort in the fact that she is being cared for in a manner that meets her medical, social and emotional needs. Her quality of life depends on her being safe, comfortable and connected.

Q. It took a year for my mother to finally get comfortable in an independent living community. Now at 83 years old, she has deteriorated to the point where she really needs assisted living, but she is frightened to move again. Can you give me some advice?

A. There are two elements at play here. First, change is difficult at any age, and becomes increasingly difficult as we get older. Familiar is comfortable. Change is scary. Your mother has settled into a routine, made new friends, and now faces the prospect of doing it all over again at age 83.

Second, there is the desperate feeling that she is deteriorating. Each new move is one step closer to the end, and therefore must be fought at all costs.

At the Palace, we try to make the transition easier by offering the full continuum of care on our Kendall campus. We have the Palace Suites for those who can live independently but just want the security and comfort of having everything done for them, so they can just relax and enjoy their lives. Next is the Palace Royale, what we call "catered living", for seniors who need assistance but are still mentally sharp. Then there is the Palace Renaissance, a traditional assisted living community for those who need a great deal of physical assistance or who have mental impairments such as Alzheimers or Dementia. The fourth building, the Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, offers both skilled nursing care and a rehabilitation program where people with injuries or strokes may recover and get back to their lives.

The idea is that people can move from building to building as needed, always staying on the same campus, in familiar surroundings, so transition is easier. After all, when the time comes to move, you are just moving Next Door!

But we find that moving next door provokes the same feelings of terror in residents as if the building was 100 miles away. Physical proximity doesn't matter much to them. What's important to them is that moving means leaving friends behind, and is an admission of physical or mental deterioration.

We have done focus groups with the residents to explore ways of overcoming the problem, and they've had good suggestions. (They usually do have good suggestions. When you live to be 80 or 90 you learn a few things!)

As a result of the focus groups, we now offer scheduled tours of the other buildings to any residents who are interested, well before they need to consider moving. We now have a golf cart shuttle going from building to building so people can visit their old friends after moving, perhaps even keep up their card games together. Even though the buildings are on the same campus, it can be a long walk if you're 85!

We can do all of this because the buildings are on the same campus - a continuum of care - and because we control the situation. That's a big advantage over what's generally available elsewhere.

Now, back to your mother. Let her know you understand her fears and relate to them. Try everything you can to help her set them aside. Maybe the assisted living residence you're considering can offer to have your mother as a guest for a few days, so she can see what it's like. - that it's not so bad or so different - before she actually gives up her home in the independent living community.

As with many of our residents, your mother may have resisted moving to the independent living community originally because she feared that she would give up her independence. Then she probably was surprised to find that she actually gained independence by moving in. With meals provided, transportation and entertainment, maintenance and utilities, and friends across the hall, the life she was losing by living alone was restored.

Let her know that by moving to assisted living community, she once again will find her independence restored. She will get the help she needs to live life to its fullest. Good luck!

Q. Since my 88-year old mother moved to an assisted living community she won't go out with me when I come to visit. I offer to take her to lunch or to the mall and she always refuses. Should I be worried or let her be?

A. Before I answer your question, I would like to understand why it's important for you to take your mother out when you visit.

Do you feel it's for her benefit to get her out and about? If so, please bear in mind that many older people no longer crave outside activity (some find it simply too tiring) and prefer the comfort of familiar surroundings. If the purpose of your visit is to spend time with her, then you can do it just as well in the lounge or garden of her community where she can "show off" her visitor.

However, if you think that her reluctance to go out indicates something serious, then by all means check out her behavior in general.

Ask staff members how Mom is doing. Is she cheerful and does she come down to the dining room for meals? Does she talk to her tablemates during meals? Does she associate with other residents? Does she participate in activities and group outings? Is her apartment well kept? Does she complain a lot, if so, what does she complain about?

I've seen many cases where parents behave one way in front of their children and another way when the children are not there. They may want to exercise control by laying on the guilt, or get extra attention with the complaints like, "I haven't eaten in days", when in fact, they're gaining weight... or "there is nobody here to talk to" (when, in fact, they are the last ones to leave the dining room because they keep on talking...

I would be concerned if mom stays in her room more than other residents; is she keeping to herself or seems sad, nervous or angry? If you believe that she is not adjusting well, speak with the administrator and share your concerns. The administrator is very motivated to help your mother with her adjustment period, and all good facilities have programs to promote residential adjustment such as "new residents welcoming lunch", and "new resident welcoming committees"; "adoptive manager"; "new residents family conference"; and more. If all these do not help, ask the administrator to arrange for a psychological evaluation.

If taking Mom on an outing means a lot to you, I suggest you make plans for a special occasion- a birthday, a visiting grandchild or holidays such as Mothers Day or Thanksgiving and talk it up. Give her a few details on what's in store and go over what she might wear, but don't overdo it. Then make plans to pick her up at a specific time.

Of course, you can always arrange to take you mother to a doctor's appointment; the bank or shopping for something special and have lunch while you are out. Try to be as understanding as possible if she doesn't like traffic or crowds. If she is well cared for and settled into her assisted living community, then I don't think you have cause for concern.

Q. My dad is a very independent person but he is getting on in years. He will be 83 next month and has some health problems. I can't look after him properly because I work full-time and I have a very busy lifestyle. I also cannot bring him to live with me because it will probably break-up my marriage (my husband had a fight with him years ago and they have not spoken since...) His doctor advised an independent living community as a possible solution. Can you tell me what to look for and what questions to ask?

A. Like any child, you want to do what's best for your father. In this case, find Dad a place where he will be comfortable and have a stimulating social life. You will also need to reassure him that by going into an independent living community, he will retain much of his independence and won't have to worry about the daily chores of life such as shopping, preparing meals, doing laundry, cleaning and such.

I recommend applying the following eight criteria in the order most important to you and your father.

1. Compatibility: Will the community be a good fit for him?
* When you tour communities, ask questions regarding the other residents backgrounds, previous occupations, languages, religions and average age. Also ask and look for the type of residents' limitations. Are most residents walking on their own? Using canes, walkers, sitting in wheelchairs? Start a casual conversation with a few, asking how they like living here and see if they seem alert. This info will help you feel either more or less comfortable regarding how compatible is your father to residents in this facility.

2. Care: "Do they offer the care and services my father needs?"
* Independent living communities cover a range of services. Residents, even though alert mentally, may need some help in activities of daily living such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, getting around town (transportation) or even taking medication. If your father needs (or will need in the near future) any of these services then you are in the right place. On the other hand, if the facility offers many personal care type services, then you are not in the right place.

3. Activities: "What is there to keep my father busy and stimulated in both body and mind?"
* Check if there is a full time activities director. Ask to see the current monthly activity schedule. Select an activity your father may be interested in and go to observe what's going on there. How many residents participate? Do they seem to enjoy it, or are they just sleeping in their chairs? Find out if they provide exercise classes, discussion groups, current affairs, computer classes and outings to shows and other cultural events. Visit their library, exercise room and theater. Find out if the facility has a bus (preferably they have more than just one!) and ask to see it. Does it have an elevator?

4. Food: "Will they be sensitive to Dad's nutritional needs and special diets?"
* Look at menus and see if the food meets your fathers taste. Is the selection broad enough for him to find something he wants, and are they willing to make something special when he doesn't like the meal du jour? Do they have an "always available" menu? Normally, if you indicate that food is an important factor in your decision making process, they will invite you to be their guest for dinner. This way both you and your father can experience their culinary level first hand. Visit the dining room during mealtime and simply look at some plates. Ask a number of residents if they like the food (but remember that with food it is impossible to please all the people all the time, so be sure to speak to at least 4 or 5 residents.) Ask if the staff and management personnel also eat the same food. You can also ask the person who is showing you around about the food.

5. Staff: Are the staff warm and caring?
* Watch the interaction between residents and staff. Do they greet residents by name and respond warmly? Do they smile? Are they patient and treat residents with respect? Ask about the ratio of staff to residents; their level of experience and how long they have been working there.

6. Management People: Are they experienced and are they accessible to residents and family members?
* Ask how long senior managers have been operating the retirement community, and if they are working on site daily? If they are on site, are their offices in close proximity to the residents or are they sitting in their own, isolated "ivory tower"? How do they respond to calls and questions? Ask for the beeper or cell phone numbers of top management "just in case" for emergencies. They should be willing to give you. Also ask for referrals and get a few phone numbers of residents' families so you can speak with them. This is important.

7. Facility: What will best suit my father's needs? A small place or a large place?
* A small home like a facility with limited amenities may be fine with your father, but those of us who work with older people day after day know that a larger facility with a high level of staffing and amenities provides a higher quality of life.

Decide on a place that is appropriate for Dad's state of health and personality, and get him moving!

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My Dad has Alzheimer's and Mom takes care of him without any assistance.
They are not wealthy but own a nice apartment and have modest income. My mother is in her 70's and is feeling stressed. I don't know how much longer this situation will work. What do you suggest?


A. It sounds as if you are struggling with one of the more challenging situations with aging parents-one parent, willingly or unwillingly, has taken on the role of caregiver and is feeling the strain. For the sake of your mother's health and strength, and your father's well being, I suggest you plan a three-part strategy for the present and near future.

The first thing to figure out is financial aspect. You should speak to a trusted financial advisor about selling their apartment and then determine what will be the best way to use those funds to supplement their modest income. At the end of this process you will know your budget and how much you have to work with. I believe the best possible solution for your parents would be if they went together into the same residential community, one that has both an independent living building for your mother and an Alzheimer's care unit for your father.

They would be together in the same campus, but each would get services appropriate for their special needs. Your mother would have independence and a better quality of life and she could spend time with your father as much as she wants, but without the stress associated with being the sole caregiver. Also, the interaction with other people like herself, many times in similar situations will do her a lot of good. People like to share their problems with others who truly understand them and are going through similar experiences.

The next thing is to go around looking for this suitable community. Your mother must be a part of this process (unless she tells you that she trusts your judgment, and it is OK that you go alone, and take her only to see the ones you think are appropriate). But it is usually better if she goes with you. I suggest getting your dad some practical help at home (for a short time) while you both go to look.

Find out what other resources are available. First for help, there are agencies who offer a variety of "at home" services covering all aspects relating to in-home care. All you seem to need at this point is companion care for the time your mother is out with you. Remember that your mother may first resist having help because she somehow sees it as a reflection on her caring abilities, so it's important to reassure her that there is no merit in being a martyr and it is alright for her to ease up and consider her own health too.

Once you have organized help for your mother, then move onto the next stage.
Look in the Yellow Pages or on-line under "Retirement Communities" to which communities are in your area. It is a good idea to go without a scheduled appointment. You'll get a more realistic picture this way. Remember that when you shop for a senior community, look out an array of amenities, activities, and services such as minimum of two meals a day in an independent living environment and three meals a day in the Alzheimer's care unit. Housekeeping and linen service should be weekly and daily, respectively. A concierge, full time director of activities, 24-hour security and monitored Emergency Response System are also a must. A relocation assistance program that manages the entire move is a definite plus and will make both of your lives much easier during this difficult time.

As you know, Alzheimer's is a devastating disease with special demands, so check the accommodations and activities and observe how the staff handles patients. Is there assistance in the dining room and is it generally a caring atmosphere? Also, find out if there are support groups for families. You will find this very valuable, especially in regard to your father.

After you have found the place that suits your budget, be sure to ask around for references. Ask your doctor or contact your local Alliance for Aging. With this approach, I'm sure you will find the right community for your parents, one that lets them be near one another, yet meets their individual needs. Good Luck!

(Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.)

Q. My mother has slowed down a lot in recent months so we got her a home health aide who comes in four hours every day. We thought she would be overjoyed, but instead she seems very upset. However, when we suggest trying a different aide, Mom says she doesn't want to change. Can you give us some insight?

A. Put yourself in your mother's shoes and see this from her perspective. She hates the thought that she needs this aide, but she knows how dependent she really is on the help. If the aide quits or just doesn't show up one day, your Mom is trapped, a prisoner in her own home.

She fears being without the aide. As a result, she does everything possible to keep the aide happy, even though the last thing she wants is entertain someone.

The aide listens to her own radio programs, watches the TV shows she likes, buys and cooks the food that she likes, and spends a great deal of time talking to friends on the phone, perhaps in a foreign language. The elderly person worries that if she says or does anything to offend the aide, there might be retribution.

While there are situations where an elderly person and an aide get along fabulously and become friends, even in these situations there is an uncomfortable difference both in age and in cultural and social background. In most cases, for the elderly person, this is an unpleasant way to live.

I experienced some of this with my own mother. She had a full-time live-in aide, and whenever I came to visit there was always this stranger around. I felt like our privacy was being invaded. But when I suggested to my mother that we send the aide away for awhile so we could be alone, my mother refused. She was afraid that the aide would be offended.

Would you want to live this way?

As we age, we tend to need help with what is known as Activities of Daily Living. These are such things as bathing, dressing, cooking and cleaning - things we have taken for granted our entire lives. Imagine if suddenly you could not bathe or dress yourself anymore, and the person responsible for helping you doesn't show up for a day or two?

A good alternative to at-home help is moving into an Assisted Living Facility (ALF). This is a level of care between Independent Living (where people are basically healthy and can care for themselves) and a Nursing Home (which, these days, has become sort of a step-down hospital for people who need a great deal of nursing care or rehabilitation).

Assisted Living communities vary greatly in the services they provide. In some, as in our Palace Royale, you see only canes and walkers. In others, such as our Palace ALF, there are many residents in wheelchairs. In some you will find Alzheimer's patients, in others you will not. Some are very plain while others are luxurious.

But what all Assisted Living communities have in common are nursing assistants on staff so you don't need one of your own (although some people do have private aides, as well). The nursing assistant on staff means that you can have privacy in your own apartment, but there is always help right outside your door, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whenever you need it. Even if you have a private aide, you still know that the ALF's staff nursing assistants are available if your aide doesn't show up or goes home for the weekend (as most do).

You have to shop around to find a community that is right for you - where you get an "at-home" comfortable feel -and which fits your budget. To give you a place to begin, our Palace ALF and Palace Royale in Kendall start at about $1,800 per month for a shared living arrangement, and about $1,400 per month at our Palace Gardens in Homestead. These prices include pretty much everything a person needs, including meals and assistance with Activities of Daily Living. When you consider that a home health aide is about $100 per day, such prices are very reasonable.

At the point people begin to need help with the Activities of Daily Living, they often become hermits. They don't want to go out because it's simply too difficult. Yet, for the most part, these folks are still mentally sharp and capable of enjoying life.

They fear that going into a retirement community will take away their independence, but the truth is that an Assisted Living community allows people to retain much independence and gives them relative freedom. It also puts them in touch with others like themselves where they can regain their "zest for life." Can you still have fun at 80? You bet!

So if it appears that your Mom is in this situation, living in fear of losing her aide and therefore sacrificing her privacy to keep the aide happy, then look at an Assisted Living community as an alternative. Your Mom probably will resist. But if you point out that she can have her privacy again and still have the peace of mind that her needs will be met, you may have a winning argument.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My mother has lived in her big old house for the last 45 years. We all grew up there, and there are happy memories in every corner. We know it means a lot to her (and to us), but she is all alone there. The neighbors have moved or died and she no longer can take care of the house anyway. On top of everything, she is very lonely. In fact, at times she is so lonely she even thinks about moving to a retirement community, but then she thinks about all the THINGS she has, and she finds it overwhelming. We know at some point she has to make the move! Do you have any suggestions?

A. One of the reasons most often given by older people about why they can't move to a retirement community is that they have too much accumulation of furniture and memories to fit it into a one- or two-bedroom apartment.

The ashtray you made in kindergarten is probably on a table in the livingroom. The walls are covered with artwork she and your late father bought on some fabulous vacation, and certainly there are pictures of you - your school graduation, your wedding, the first picture of you and your baby. There are memories everywhere.

"I've lived in this house for 50 years," parents tell their children. "What am I going to do with all of this? How can I move?" It's a monumental, overwhelming job.

The children usually offer the practical suggestion that the parent take what she needs, put the important mementos in storage in the closet in a child's home, and throw the rest away. The parent finds that offensive.

Yet retirement communities are filled with older adults who have made this very decision to give up the big house or condo. In each case, they found a reasonable solution that made it possible. We can gain helpful insights by listening to their stories.

The best I've heard recently is from Grete Cofino.

Maybe Grete is unique because she's used to leaving things behind and starting fresh. She fled Austria with her parents to escape Hitler in 1939, and they moved to Cuba.

In 1972 she fled again, this time with her Cuban husband to escape Fidel. "We left with nothing," she remembers. "Absolutely nothing."

Nevertheless, in 27 years of living in her three-bedroom condo in Kendall, Grete managed to accumulate a lot of furniture and memories.

She has two grandsons living here in Miami (her daughter and husband passed away during one terrible three-month period 11 years ago), and she has a large family in Houston - two stepdaughters and their families, including seven grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Grete, who was always self-reliant and independent, decided on her own to move to a retirement community. "I told my grandchildren I didn't want to be a burden on them," she says. She chose a nearby retirement community and waited for the right opportunity. One of her local grandchildren was getting married, and the whole Houston family flew in for the wedding. That was Grete's big chance.

"I gathered the family together in my apartment and I put everything on display. I had an 'Inherit from Grandma Party' while I'm still around to enjoy it!'" she recalls.

For several hours the family chose their favorites from her lifetime of memories. She says: "It was such a wonderful experience. They would pick up something and ask what it was and where it was from and what it means, and I would tell them the story."

When it was over, Grete was ready to move. Except for the few items she chose to keep with her, everything else was safely in the hands of loved ones. Grete now knows that every time a family member looks at something they took that day, they are thinking of her and the story of how the item came to be in her possession.

Everyone who hears Grete's story is inspired. So if you have a parent who really should be in a retirement community but is using the "full house" excuse to avoid the issue, maybe Grete's idea will work for you! Plan an "Inheritance Party" the next time the family is together.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. Mom just can't live alone anymore. She shouldn't be driving, and we worry about her falling at home and being unable to summon help, or someone breaking into her home. Yet she absolutely refuses to discuss the need to move to a retirement community. What can we do?

A. You are expressing the frustration that is so common among children with aging parents. You have to view this from the parent's perspective. Reflexes are slowing, friends are dying, health is failing, and they desperately want to hang on to their independence.

There is no one right answer to your question. Eventually, most children find an argument that works. Or some event happens that causes the parent to change her mind. For example, we heard one story about a woman sweeping up her patio after a hurricane, and saying to herself: "That's it! I'm too old for this!"

But often it's the children who keep at Mom until they wear her down. One method is "tough love" - make Mom feel guilty that she is being a burden on her children. If there's one thing parents hate, it's the thought of being a burden on their children!

This strategy was used successfully by Steve Liedman and his sister, Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Gwen Margolis. Their Mom, Rose Liedman, who was 87, was really enjoying her life at Innverary in Broward County. In her 20 years there, Rose had developed many friendships and a quality lifestyle. Despite a few auto accidents and a self-made "security system" that involved opening the closet door to block the front door from opening, Rose was absolutely set on not moving.

The kids attacked her with what Steve now laughingly calls the "Selfish Kids' Strategy." It consisted of simply being honest - saying things like: "Mom, we spend all our time worrying about you. How can you do this to us?"

At the same time, Rose's best friend, Bess Sorkin, lived in the same development. Rose and Bess are in-laws. They became friends 37 years ago when Steve married Bess' daughter, Marilyn.

Bess decided at age 79 that when she turned 85 she would give up the car and move to a retirement community. As the time approached she gently encouraged Rose to come with her, even as she was having some second thoughts of her own. That's another good strategy - moving with a friend makes it much easier.

Rose and Bess moved to the Palace Suites in Kendall. "Bess always wanted to come to a place like this. I never wanted to," Rose says. "We and the children looked at a lot of places before choosing the Palace Suites. We wanted to be in this area, close to the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and there is simply no other place like it in this area."

Nevertheless, Rose was very unhappy the first few months. "In the beginning, I really missed my friends and lifestyle. But I got over it."

"Mom found bridge players, and after that she was happy," says daughter Gwen. Rose still visits her friends in Inverary, and they occasionally visit her.

Are her friends going to join her at the Palace Suites? "They say they are not ready to move yet!" Rose laughs.

People who move to a quality retirement community find, to their surprise, that they gain rather than lose independence. Transportation becomes much less of a hassle, residents dine on gourmet meals, housekeeping and maintenance is included, and there is a safe and secure environment.

The children really do worry less now that Rose and Bess are living at the Palace Suites. "All the children love this place," Steve says.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My father retired last year at 68 and he seems very bored. My mother has her friends and organizations, but my father just sits around all day & drives my mother crazy. I'm worried about him.

A. Buy him a computer! Your father is the last generation which thinks "spider" when they hear "web" and "catching fish" when they hear "net." When people his age - and even older - get comfortable with a computer, a whole new world opens to them.

When we first built the Palace Suites three years ago, we had some thoughts that the residents might like to learn the computer. So we took an area and put in two computers and hired a part-time teacher to offer computer classes.

The "Computer Lab" didn't get much use at first, but as some residents began trying it and reporting back to others, it has become the most popular activity. About 100 of our 180 Palace Suites residents - aged mid 70's to mid-90's - actively take half-hour classes each week. Each resident has a private password so no one else can access their files or read their e-mails. Because of its' popularity, we now have our computer lab open 24 hours a day.

Since residents are welcome to use the computers when there are no classes going on, our lab would be overwhelmed except that so many residents have now bought computers for their apartments. We were proactive enough to wire the building so that each apartment has Internet access (included in the monthly rental fee), but we never expected there would be so much demand. With basic computers now available for around $500 and printers for $100, any resident can afford their own.

David Padron is the young man who teaches the classes at The Palace Suites. He has been adopted by the residents as the "grandchild who actually shows up and visits every week." David teaches them new things every week, and then they go up to their apartment and practice what he teaches. He is full-time here now. He helps residents set up the computers in their apartments, and occasionally goes up to help them when something goes wrong.

"The first thing to teach people is that no matter what button they push, they can't break the computer," says David. "They're very afraid at first, but they pick it up easily. The Internet is a very scary thing, but once they learn the basics of navigation their whole world changes."

More than anything, says David, the residents use the computers to stay in touch with family, receiving messages and pictures of children and grandchildren and printing them out. David has convinced me to buy him a digital camera so he can take pictures of the residents that they can send to family members in return.

"Many also keep track of their portfolios on-line. That's a very popular activity," David says. One resident has even progressed to the point where she is producing newsletters for her organization. "They play solitaire and other games, explore the websites of their children's businesses, look up their family tree and visit family websites, send e-mail jokes, research subjects of interest, and generally have a good time," he said. "Some of them were secretaries in their younger days, and they still type well, even faster than I do."

If you or perhaps one of your teenage children want to take the time to teach Dad the computer, that will be a wonderful bonding experience for you. If not, hire someone like David to come in once or twice a week to teach your father the basics. Once he sees the potential, he will be hooked.

All of us get mesmerized by the Internet. It's addictive, isn't it? We begin to explore one area, and one website leads us to another, and we can spend hours and hours learning new things, until finally we have to quit so we can get back to our jobs and our lives. Wouldn't it be nice to be retired and have all the time we want to "Surf the Net"?

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. At my children's request, I stopped driving and sold my car. I'm in my early 80's and my daughters were concerned about my safety, especially when I drove at nights. Although they're relieved by my decision, I'm starting to have second thoughts. I live in a condominium that doesn't provide opportunities for social or cultural interaction. This isn't my idea of retirement living. Will an independent living community be a better solution?

A. According to research, the key to successful aging is remaining active, so it's important to be in an environment that allows you to continue activities you enjoy.

Although some residents at independent living communities still drive, it isn't necessary for participating in activities or local outings. Usually, the community offers numerous intellectual, recreational, social and cultural events that can all be enjoyed within a few steps of your front door.

Independent living communities allow you the option to be as active as you want. You'll be able to determine your level of involvement. Whether it's an exercise group or joining a book club, there's always an activity designed to meet your needs.

At our community, The Palace Suites, the monthly activity calendar is filled with a variety of interactive programs. A typical week allows our residents to participate in approximately 50-70 activities incorporating exercise, lectures and classes, excursions and parties.

Our full-time activity director, Pam Parker, and her staff draw upon the experiences, interests and abilities of Palace Suites' residents when planning events instead of assuming that all older adults have the same preferences. Each month during the community's resident council meetings, Pam reviews new activities with the group to get their feedback and interest.

Activities at The Palace Suites reflect the lives of our residents prior to moving to the community. We try to eliminate "I used to" and "I would like to" from a resident's vocabulary. Residents were well-traveled and often involved in numerous social activities so we make it a priority to help them continue that lifestyle at The Palace Suites. Whether it's a weekend getaway or tickets to the latest Broadway show, our residents' social calendar usually expands when they move to the community.

Typical weekly activities at The Palace Suites include:

-Tai Chi -Spanish class
-Gourmet happy hour -Current events
-Musical concert -Computer
-Water aerobics -Crafts
-Poker club -Line dancing
-Bible study -Bridge club
-Tea party -Intergenerational activity
-Nightly social -Weekend outing (Naples, cruises, etc.)
In addition to activities at The Palace Suites, many of our residents continue their involvement with the neighboring community by volunteering or fundraising for local organizations. Recently, a group of residents knitted hats for newborns at a nearby hospital and the knitting club is donating baby sweaters to migrant workers later this year.

Intergenerational programs which bridge the gap between youth and older adults are held throughout the year at The Palace Suites. Residents share their wisdom while learning from the younger generation. Special projects include holiday services with local universities and entertainment by local schools.

Your safety and well-being is the main concern of your daughters. Lack of transportation shouldn't prevent you from partaking in your favorite hobbies and interests. Moving to an independent living community is a great way to meet new friends who share your interests. One of the typical responses we receive when we ask our residents when it's time to move to a community such as Palace Suites is "to move while you're still able to enjoy and participate in all the activities".

Most independent living communities' special events are open to residents' families and friends. Your daughters will be thrilled to see you getting involved in community activities and it gives them peace of mind knowing that you will be safe.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. Each year my siblings and I gather at our parents' home for the holidays. This year, due to work and scheduling conflicts my brothers and I are unable to visit. We're especially worried because this will be the first holiday season our parents will be without us. Mom and dad are in their mid-80s and have few friends in their condominium. I'm considering talking to them about moving to a retirement community but I'm unsure if this will be a better solution. What types of activities are scheduled at senior communities to help residents who may feel alone during the holiday season?

A. Moving your parents to a senior living community is a great way to beat the holiday blues-for both you and your parents. Mom and dad will be in a community surrounded by new friends and a caring staff. You and your siblings will have the piece of mind knowing that your parents are not alone.

As families face increased demands on time and longer distances from loved ones, gathering together for holiday festivities may become more difficult. The most important thing, however, is to discuss the change in holiday tradition with your parents and look for signs of a holiday letdown which may include agitation, anxiety, headaches or changes in appetite.

At The Palace Suites Independent Living Community, our residents' families know that there are numerous activities scheduled throughout the year, especially during the holidays so residents never feel alone. We realize that not unlike the reasons you mentioned for being away this holiday season, many families are unable to visit their loved ones so we schedule a wide range of events. There's always something for everyone.

For example, after enjoying the traditional Palace Suites Thanksgiving Day Brunch, The Crimson Dames-our community's version of the Red Hat Society-will be participating in a huge community service project. Care packages containing personal hygiene items will be packed and delivered to Camillus House for distribution.

In December, The Palace Suites celebrates Chanukah with Chanukah Happening, featuring klezer music and treats. The community's menorah lighting is another great way for residents to gather with friends and neighbors. Residents will bring their personal menorah for daily lightings helping to celebrate the spirit and warmth of the season.

A wealth of activities scheduled by our Entertainment Director Pamela Kalis Parker eliminates loneliness as an option. Residents who look forward to intergenerational activities will be in for a special treat when 50 students, ages 3-16, participate in our Christmas Celebration. Santa Claus also will make a special appearance, bringing gifts for the young and old, as residents enjoy cookies and eggnog.

Our holiday season ends and New Year's kicks-off with a bang as the community's playhouse is transformed into a Las Vegas showroom. "Viva Las Vegas" features showgirls and the comedy of Andy Corridori. A special guest star is sure to have residents breaking the "what happens in Vegas...stays in Vegas" rule as they excitedly tell family members about the magical evening of fun.

The holiday season can be an especially lonesome time of year for everyone. For older adults living in a senior retirement community, the support of others who may also be away from their families and loved ones offers reassurance and support and makes the holidays less stressful.

Once mom and dad move into the new community, they will still miss the joys of having you and your siblings at home for the holidays. But if the senior living community is anything like The Palace Suites, you might have a hard time catching up with them to hear them say it.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have een operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens ssisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. We have recently moved my mother into an assisted living community but she has not yet adjusted. How long does this transition usually take, and how can we be sure she will take to her new environment?

A. Normally it takes anywhere between 14 to 21 days for a resident who is aware he/she is moving to a community to adjust. If your mother is paired with other residents who share similar lifestyle interests and is in a similar cognitive mental state to her peers, she should be well on her way to acclimating to her new surroundings.

Communities often go to great lengths to socialize new residents with orientation programs, assigning them an adoptive manager and keeping them busy in the first couple of weeks. The community may also ask you to avoid calling in the beginning to give your mom a physical and emotional break. If all these measure are in place but you don't yet see results, give it a bit more time.

To speed up the adjustment process and help your mother settle in, it might be a good idea to provide the community director with a list of her likes and dislikes. This can be distributed among the staff that tends to her needs on a daily basis. This way, your mother will feel comfortable that the employees relate to her and want her to be happy. Bring memorabilia from home to create a familiar setting, and detract her from all the novelty.

Referring your mother to a staff psychologist is another way of addressing her adjustment issues. They are trained to address precisely these concerns and often bring family members in on the meetings so all parties are kept abreast of your mother's progress. Additionally, a psychologist can detect deeper rooted issues, if there are any, such as depression or withdrawal.

Remember, family members are often the ones who have a harder time coping with the change. Recognize who is having the adjustment issues. Be patient, be attuned to your own feelings of losing control and missing your mother, and don't be afraid to ask the community for assistance.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens ssisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My husband and I realize the importance of moving to an independent living community while we're both still able to enjoy the activities that are offered. We're both in our late 70's and have started comparing senior living communities. Among our top three choices, there is hardly a noticeable difference. What's the key to selecting the best community?

A. Though there is no exact time formula for determining the best time to move into a senior living community, residents often say they wished they had made the move sooner than later. You and your husband are to be commended for realizing that your quality of life will improve significantly by moving from living alone to a community setting.

Most likely, your list of three finalists have similar amenities and services such as a pool, dining room, library, activity areas or 24-hour security. But what differentiates one community from another? The soul.

The soul of a community can be felt from the moment you enter its doors. It's the laughter between neighbors, the love of a couple and the sincerity of the staff. The soul determines the spirit of the community.

At The Palace, people make up the soul of our communities. When someone moves in or is selected for employment, he or she becomes a part of The Palace family thus adding to the community's spirit. It is the Palace philosophy to maintain a family atmosphere so it's only natural that their loved ones become a part of our extended family.

With over 800 residents and over 1,100 employees, The Palace makes it a priority to schedule unique special events and programs that involve family members of our residents and employees. Studies show that older adults who interact with their families on a regular basis have heightened self-esteem levels and a more positive outlook on life. For employees, the role of their families is key to helping them achieve the support needed for achieving professional goals.

Each month, we invite the families of our residents to participate in numerous activities. In February, events ranged from a Valentine's Day party at The Palace Gardens in Homestead to a family dinner at The Palace Suites in Kendall. Also, the families of our residents in The Palace Nursing and Rehabilitation Center were invited to share a special, heartfelt Reaffirmation of Commitment Ceremony as 15 couples, with over 900 years of combined marriage, renewed their love!

For family members needing a forum to discuss emotional issues, The Palace -Family Support Groups meet monthly. Topics include coping with guilt, dealing with stress, and managing finances. The sessions provide an opportunity for families to address concerns with others who may be dealing with the same problem or have found a proactive solution.

We understand that our employees often extend themselves beyond a traditional 40-hour work-week, often giving 110% of themselves, so it's important for them to feel appreciated. We keep enthusiasm levels high by involving their families in many of The Palace's activities.

Staff, as well as their loved ones, is invited to celebrate holidays at our communities. The 4th of July holiday is our biggest celebration every year. It's not unusual to find mom or dad completing a shift while the children mingle with stilt walkers and Uncle Sam while enjoying fireworks. Company-wide picnics and outings also re-emphasize the importance and pleasure of family.

Several Palace traditions involve the loved ones of our employees. For the past three years, employees have received free turkeys in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday. Additionally, the spouses of the prestigious Manager of the Year Award winners are invited to share an all-expense paid trip with the company owners and Board to Las Vegas.

Each community defines it soul differently. Our luxurious rental apartment buildings, rich social and entertainment programs, and gourmet dining rooms-though they are important-do not completely reflect The Palace difference. The residents calling our communities home; the warmth of friendly smile; the embrace from a staff member; a rediscovered love; a caring employee and the many hugs and kisses-These are all the characteristics that differentiate The Palace communities...what defines our soul.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have een operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. I am an 85 year old widower who is extremely independent and active. Since the death of my wife, I've considered moving into a senior living community. I have great reservations about the move since I thought of losing my independence is overwhelming. Are my fears justified? What can I expect in a senior living community?

A. Your question about maintaining your independence is not uncommon. Research shows that the greatest fear of many older adults is losing their independence, so your fears are indeed justified. You are not alone.

The best way to ease your concerns is through education and research. A senior living community offers a variety of accommodations and programs to help older adults remain independent and continue to be active members of their communities.

At the Palace Suites, independent living is a way of life for our residents. They've worked hard throughout their lives and deserve freedom, value and stability along with quality care.

One of the ways we allow our residents to maintain their independence is by allowing them to choose from among our seven style and sizes of apartments as well as the optional services they desire such as dining, daily maid service, private limousine service and personal shopper service.

At the Palace Suites, our residents live the Suite Life, choosing their own desired amount of privacy and social interaction. Whether enjoying a book in their roomy studio residence or traveling to the west coast of Florida for a weekend of fun and shopping, residents continue the independent lifestyle they enjoyed before moving.

If you're unsure about what to expect at an independent living community, try asking if you can live there for a weekend or a few days "to experience life in the community" before making the big move. If there is an available apartment, they will probably let you do it. Many communities have a guest suite where you can stay for a few days. This is an invaluable first hand experience!

A typical day for residents is filled with a variety of events and cultural activities designed to fit even the most discriminating resident.

Remember the carefree living you enjoyed while staying at a resort hotel or the tranquility you experienced on a luxury cruise ship? Now imagine never having to check out or disembark. That's the lifestyle our residents live everyday.

If you were a resident at The Palace Suites, after enjoying a continental breakfast at our elegant dining room, you could participate in a number of exercise classes including yoga, tai chi, water aerobics, a group exercise class or a personal work out session in the state-of-the-art health club.

If you prefer a more social activity, one of our more than 300 monthly activities is sure to peak your interest. Onside activities include care games, ceramics, crafts and discussion groups.

For lunch, your option may include joining your neighbors for lunch at one of the hottest new restaurants in Miami as a group activity. Maybe you have family visiting or an old friend stopping by. Our accommodating staff and concierge will help with arrangements.

Afternoons are filled with numerous activities. Outings and shopping at Bal Harbour and trips to the Art Museum are just a few events coordinated by our Entertainment Director. You can even learn Spanish, computers or continue your education at The Suites University.

Meet friends at the lively, daily Happy Hour, featuring live entertainment before enjoying a dinner of filet mignon with beamaise sauce or grilled chicken kabob in a pineapple glaze. If you are calorie-conscious, you'll enjoy our delicious heart-healthy, low-fat items from the Spa Menu.

The Palace Suites offers independent living for older adults who want an enjoyable lifestyle free of the worries and troubles of home maintenance. The community offers secured, private landscaped grounds and 24-hour security along with hurricane shutters on all windows.

Our Kendall campus also provides the peace of mind that should the need ever arise, our full continuum of care includes catered living, assisted living and nursing and rehabilitation care-all available at The Palace at Kendall campus.

The decision to move into a retirement community is one of the most important decisions you'll ever have to make. By researching the community and assessing your needs, you'll soon ease your fears and learn that independent living means exactly that...independence.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have een operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens ssisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q: I have noticed changes in mom and I am concerned that soon she will require more care than I can give. She is still functioning fairly well right now, so when is the right time to consider a senior community? And with that consideration a looming reality, how do I deal with my own emotions?

A: First of all, I commend you on your ability to detect changes in your mother that may require care beyond your sole capacity. Many children are in denial over the fact that they cannot manage care for their parent alone, which is very detrimental. While you are clearly feeling pangs of guilt over the thought of a senior community or at the least, additional assistance, you have made the first step to helping her - and bettering the situation for everyone involved in the decision of her long-term care.

The next thing to do is remain proactive. Talk to your mom and explain to her that it is getting increasingly difficult for you and you are concerned for her well-being. Make her realize that times have changed and busy work schedules prevent you from giving her as much attention as she may need. If she was open to outside care, a community would be able to provide much more adequate care around the clock, so the time you would spend with her would be enjoyable and focused on quality time, instead of worrying about her medications, doctor's appointments, etc. Once the discussion has been opened, start to research communities and alternatives to you being the sole provider of her care.

With regards to your own feelings of guilt and attachment, the worst thing you can do is agonize over the prospect of a senior community. You know logically, it is important to make the right decision for your mother, regardless of how painful it may be at first for you. Safety should be the primary concern. You may be surprised to know it is normal for families to take longer to adjust to the change. Residents of senior communities average a two-week transition until they feel comfortable, while it may take families two months to adjust.

The longer you waiver over when, where and how to let go, the greater the potential for her to get worse. God forbid, you will end up in a situation where an emergency forces you to make a decision that isn't well thought out. Of course, you have to feel comfortable with the type of care you will be handing her over to, but recognize the difference between your feelings of guilt and finding the right solution. Go with your gut.

Finally, I suggest you join a caregiver support group where you will be able to communicate your feelings in an open environment share by others in similar situations.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My Mom can't be alone much longer. She's having trouble dressing, and she's becoming forgetful. We really don't want her living with us. We considered having someone come in to help her, but that was very expensive. We probably need to put her in a home, but she has little money and we can't afford to help much. What are our options?

A. First of all, don't feel guilty about not wanting your mother to live with you. That option almost always sounds better than it really is, and it often turns out badly for both elderly parent and the family. Second, let's talk about the "can't afford" part of your letter. "Expensive" means different things to different people.

There are basically three levels of care for the elderly who want or need help. "Independent Living" is for folks who basically are healthy but just don't want to bother any more with the chores of daily living, like driving and cooking. "Assisted Living" (ALF) is for people who need some help with the "activities of daily living" like dressing and bathing. "Skilled Nursing Facility" (SNF) is the traditional nursing home, a step-down hospital for those in need of nursing care or rehabilitation. As you probably guessed, the more care a person needs, the more it will cost. It sounds like your Mom needs an ALF.

ALFs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are so beautiful you'll think you died and went to Heaven. Others are so depressing you'll think you went in the other direction. The basic rule is the same as with everything else in life: you get what you pay for. In an ALF, that means the more you pay, the more square feet you will have to live in, the more services you'll receive, and the better the amenities will be.

If you are reading this and are still young, think about your old age. As medical care gets better and we live healthier lifestyles, more of us are going to get to the point where we will live in an ALF. So save, save, save, and -if you can - take out a long-term care policy with an inflation clause that will let you choose a high quality retirement community when the time comes. Once you get older and get sick, you can't get these policies anymore.

Enough sermon. All ALFs today, regardless of how nice they are, have certain things in common. All are state-licensed and they provide the basics of living - a place to live (either a private apartment or a less expensive shared living arrangement), and three meals a day, housekeeping, laundry, assistance with medications, and around-the-clock assistance whenever a resident needs help. The amenities, of course, vary widely.

A private apartment in a luxury ALF will cost about $3,500 per month (actually, you can pay much more if you try). You would pay about half of that - about $1,800 - for a shared apartment that still included all of the other amenities and services. Considering what you get for that money, considering that having an aide in your home costs about $100 per day, $1,800 a month is not expensive. Unless, of course, you can't afford it.

Since I am not an expert in "can't afford it," I turned to someone who deals with the question every day. Jeanie Bledsoe, LCSW, is manager of the Department of Social Work at Baptist Hospital.

"First of all," Jeanie says, "you can find perfectly nice ALFs in our area for $900 to $1,000 per month for a shared room." You can choose either a large hotel-like facility with a couple of hundred residents, or a small group-home atmosphere, a house in a residential setting. "There could be one on your block and you wouldn't even know it," she said.

If that's too expensive for the long run but your Mom can afford to pay the monthly fee for only a couple of years, many ALFs will agree to accept her Social Security check as payment after her money runs out. If your Mom is now living in a house or condo, selling it may provide money to pay the monthly fee for a few years.

There is also the Medicaid Waiver Program for Assisted Living that is available in ALFs that qualify and are approved by the state of Florida as Medicaid providers. This program may pay up to $28 per day for people who need assisted living and who qualify for Medicaid. For details, call the Alliance for Aging for Dade & Monroe Counties at 305 670-6500.

Finally, there are ALFs that accept a Social Security check as full payment from day one. The problem is that the need for these beds is far greater than the supply.

Another option often overlooked, says Jeanie, is for your Mom to move in with a relative other than her children, or even with a friend.

She may even be able to continue living at home - "aging in place," Jeanie calls it. There are community agencies that will send an aide to the home if the person qualifies for Medicaid, however the waiting time for these services can be up to a year.

Finally, Jeanie says there are three resources you can look at. There are listings of services and facilities offered by the Florida Department of Children and Families and the State Agency on Health Care Administration. Also, there's an excellent website that lists South Florida facilities, where you also can get a directory mailed to you. The address is www.newlifestyles.com. If you don't have Internet access, you can call 1-800-869-9549.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000

Q. It seems that in every column, your solution is always for the elderly person to go into a retirement community. Isn't that self-serving, since you own a retirement community?

A. Actually, my husband and I own five retirement communities - four in Kendall and one in Homestead. They include the Palace Suites, which is an Independent Living facility for people who are basically healthy; three levels of Assisted Living facilities, and a nursing home.

In answer to your question, there may be a time when it is best for someone to live at home with the assistance of a home health aide, or to move in with their children, but those times are rare. In almost every case, a retirement community is the best choice for someone getting on in years. I'd like to take you through my reasoning, and hope I can convince you.

We are living in an age of the "Graying of America," where through a combination of medical advances and healthier lifestyles people are living longer than ever before. Not only that, by and large they are in pretty good shape, mentally sharp and able to do many physical activities.

Entrepreneurs such as ourselves have responded to this. The stereotype of awful facilities of decades ago are rare today. For the most part, today's retirement communities are bright and cheerful, and the people living in them are happy, energetic and full of life. They range from plain to luxurious, but you can live in relatively luxury for less than you think. A luxurious retirement is not just for the rich.

We have nearly 1,000 seniors in our facilities. I believe that every single one is better off with us than with any other option. If you ask them, most will tell you three things:

1. They wish they were still young and capable of doing all the things they did in their youth.

2. Given that they are in their late 70's, 80's or even 90's and that their reflexes have slowed, they are pretty happy to be in a retirement community.

3. "I wish I had done this sooner." Almost every one says that.

In our society the car is our passport to independence. As we age and our reflexes slow and our eyesight isn't what it used to be, driving becomes dangerous. As people get older:

a. They give up the car voluntarily.
b. They know they should give up the car, but stubbornly refuse.
c. They have a few accidents and the state takes away their license.
d. Worried children steal the keys and sell the car.

A person without a car has limited options living in their own home. They can walk to shopping and friends (but walking any distance is becoming more difficult), spend money and time waiting for cabs, become an impossible burden on their children, or just sit at home and wait for visitors.

Increasingly, they sit at home. The other options become just too troublesome. Friends die or move to retirement communities. Maybe the neighborhood is changing. So people sit at home and watch TV or look out the window, waiting for children and grandchildren to call or visit. That's a sad picture, isn't it?

Then the children suggest that an aide come in every day to help. Maybe the elderly person begins to have trouble with some of the basics of life - even minor problems like no longer being able to bend over to put on socks or shoes, or an inability to step in and out of the tub without assistance, become terrible obstacles.

Now the elderly person is faced with having a stranger intrude on their privacy, touching breakable treasures. Maybe she will even steal something! Or that's the common fear.

Since Mom is still unhappy, next the children suggest that Mom come and live with them. Everybody is smiling, but in all probability:

a. The child and his or her family really worry that Mom's presence will upset the family's daily hectic lifestyle. As much as they love Mom, they may be uncomfortable with the thought of the "good old days" where three and four generations shared a roof. Will Mom forget to turn off the stove and burn down the house?

b. Mom isn't happy about the prospect, either. She may have grown up in a house with grandparents under the same roof, but she has been running her own household for a long time. Moving in with her children represents a loss of privacy and independence. She has to live by her daughter's (or, worse, daughter-in-law's) rules. Besides, the one thing every older person hates more than anything is the prospect of being a burden on his or her children.

So, really, when somebody is 80, no longer can drive, and needs help putting on his or her shoes, what are the options?

As I said in the beginning, I believe that the retirement community is the only viable option in almost every situation. You can choose, if you wish, to consider it the "best choice among distasteful options," but I would argue that it's not a distasteful option at all.

Think of the people wasting away in their homes, staring out the window. Or living with their children in a fancy neighborhood, miles from any other 80-year-old, dependent on the children and grandchildren for mobility. That's terrible! There's no need for that!

In a retirement community they can have:

a. Privacy in their own apartment.
b. People to talk to and interact with just by stepping outside their door (and even romance, if they're in the market for that.)
c. Activities to keep them mentally sharp and physically in shape.
d. Meals, housekeeping, maintenance, utilities, etc.
e. Entertainment.
f. A safe and secure environment.
g. Help in their activities of daily living available just outside their door.
h. Access to prompt assistance in a medical emergency.
i. Transportation to malls, supermarkets, doctor's offices, and planned outings to such places as movies, theaters and restaurants.

They can be close enough to their children for regular visits, weekend stays, and spending holidays together, but not living under the same roof.

The people in a good retirement community, even the ones in wheelchairs, are very much alive. They are having fun, and they look forward to the future. These people in their 80's and 90's are laughing and telling jokes. (Not all of them clean, by the way!) They are very different than the stereotype of old people. They may feel they have to act mature around the children, but not among themselves!

Yes, most have some physical limitations, but they live life to the fullest. They are as independent as it is possible to be, and they are pleased and proud that they are not burdens on their children. They all say: "My children don't worry so much about me anymore!"

So why is it so hard to convince an older person to move to a retirement community? Why do people like you think of it as a last resort rather than the best option?

Part of it, I think, is the terrible reputation that "old age homes" used to have. We try to find new words to describe the new reality. We call these "retirement communities" today. But still I think it will take years for the public to understand that it's very different today.

When you hear people say, "I don't want to live with old people," they just haven't seen how young at heart old people can be. Once they experience a quality retirement community, it makes an impact.

But we have great difficulty in getting people to even come and look. We try to work through the children. If we can get an elderly person to visit, they see that the people who live here regain some of their youthful spirit.

Then when the visitor goes home, the contrast of what they've experienced compared to the life they are living starts to wear on them. It may takes months, but once they experience a quality retirement community, eventually they will want to be a part of it.

So if you are struggling with trying all the alternatives to keep an aging parent from going into a retirement community, stop struggling! You're keeping your parent from the best option!

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My mother is now 80 and no longer can drive. We are really worried about her being alone. The family feels it's time for her to sell the house and move into a retirement community. But she gets angry whenever we suggest it, and she refuses to even discuss it. How can we get her to understand that it would be for the best?

A. What you are feeling is very similar to almost everyone else in your situation.

In fact, for anyone out there who has parents in their late 70's, early 80's, or even 90's, this is how I see you:

You are worried about your parents. You worry about their safety and security. You worry about their driving. You worry that they will have a health emergency and be unable to summon help. You feel guilty that they are not living in your home, but you really don't want them and your family under the same roof.

This is how I see your parents:

They don't feel "old" and don't want "to live with old people." They are sure that nothing is wrong with them. They don't want to move, and they certainly don't want to live with you. They are frustrated that age is robbing them of their reflexes and their ability to be independent. They fiercely want to be independent.

It is true that many people living in retirement communities have left behind friends and a great social life in exchange for living in a safe and secure environment close to their children and grandchildren. But it's also true that many others no longer had much of a social life at home. They say: "All my friends are gone," and they find themselves sitting around alone in big houses, watching the days go by, waiting for the next call from a child.

But no matter how full or empty their life was before, most residents at a retirement community were reluctant to give it up. Even an empty life is familiar. Change is frightening. Families need to understand this when trying to encourage a parent to move to a retirement community. The decision to move, usually, is one made gradually, over time.

The management of any retirement community should understand this and work with families to bring about a gradual change in a parent's attitude, devoting months, sometimes years, to the process if necessary.

When considering retirement communities, therefore, look for many social activities where potential residents and their families can experience the lifestyle. The residents should be enjoying themselves - really having fun - and demonstrate to your mother that even people in their 80's and 90's can still have a real zest for life. Your mother should see that while the residents may have lived long lives, they are far from "old."

Look for a place that is appropriate for your mother's state of health. If she gets along fine without a wheelchair or walker, for example, find her a setting where that's the norm. Look for the opportunity for you and your family to interact with the children of other residents, to learn from them. Don't hesitate to ask management to give you telephone numbers of others who went through the process and are now very happy they made the move.

The message you want your mother eventually to understand is this:

Rather than losing her independence when she moves in, she actually will became more independent. With food, transportation, housekeeping and entertainment provided, she no longer will have to worry about the little bothersome details of life, and she will be able to just enjoy herself and do what she really wants.

The years melt away in an environment where there is music and dancing, good food and good friends, lots of laughing and sometimes even a little romance. You can't tell her that, but she will believe her own eyes and the testimony of others her own age. "Seeing is believing." Nothing is more true, especially in this case.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. We're about to embark on a search for a retirement community for my Mom. We're not looking forward to it. Can you give us some clues about what's important and what to look for?

A. What do you think is the most important thing in the minds of seniors?

The answer may surprise you. It is not the food, or appearance, or activities, or anything like that.

About 90% of our residents, when asked in a survey, list "the staff" as the best thing about living in one of our Palace retirement communities. I'm sure it's the same elsewhere. Why?

Because the staff takes care of the residents. The staff becomes like a part of a resident's family. The staff becomes surrogate children. Better than children, actually, because they never say "no!"

And the staff always has time. They are not busy with anything else - they have nothing to do except taking care of the residents. Very much unlike children!

So as you make your rounds, the most important thing is to closely watch the INTERACTION between residents and staff:

1. Does the staff know the residents by name?
2. Do residents recognize the staff and respond warmly?
3. Do residents respond warmly to the person showing you around?
4. When residents approach the person who is touring you, does he or she respond warmly or just wave them off?
5. Is everyone smiling?
6. Does the staff seem to genuinely care?
7. Are the seniors treated with respect?
8. Ask for a few phone numbers of the children of some of the residents so you can speak with them. This step is very important! Don't skip it! The children won't mind at all if you call.
But ultimately, you are looking for a place that's a good fit for your mother, where your mother will feel at home. And that's different for each person, depending on what her life has been like.

So see if the food meets her tastes. Is the selection broad enough so she usually can find something she wants? Are they willing to make something special if she doesn't like the daily selection?

Who else lives there? Are they "her kind of people?" Not just the same age, but the same background? Is the place large enough so there is enough of a selection of other residents to assure your mother will find friends there?

What are the activities? Are they the kinds of things your Mom likes? Most seniors love cards, and residents are always looking for new players to add to their games, so if your Mom is a card player, that's always a plus. Are there activities that stimulate both body and mind? Look for activities such as exercise classes, adult education, computer classes, current events and discussion groups.

Is it clean and well-maintained? Is transportation provided so you don't have to drop everything and "jump" every time your Mom needs a toothbrush or has a doctor's appointment?

Is there enough staff so that "fresh" employees rotate every eight hours, rested and refreshed so that they can provide the best care and service for your Mom and the other residents? Is there is a "no tipping" policy, so residents don't hesitate to ask the staff for assistance?

The least important consideration, yet the one which most families dwell upon,
is the size of the apartment where their parents will live. Since the parent is usually coming from a house or condo with several bedrooms, there is always concern about whether Mom will feel "trapped" with only one or two bedrooms.

Well, it's a logical concern. However, we all know that seniors tend to be reclusive if left alone, and that's where you can see the benefit of a retirement community at its best!

The whole concept of a retirement community is to give the residents an environment which encourages them to socialize. If a retirement community is functioning properly, there should be constant activities to draw your mother out of her apartment. She will be sleeping in the apartment, maybe taking an afternoon nap and watching occasional TV, and maybe having a snack. But most of her life will be focused outside. From breakfast in the morning to afternoon trips to the mall to dinner and a show at night, everything will be aimed at getting her out of her apartment.

Want proof? Our apartments have kitchens and dining areas, but most of the residents don't use them much. They come to the lobby to meet other residents and don't entertain much in their apartments. So apartment size is not really what it's all about!

This is a big decision. Take your time. Ask if the retirement community will let your Mom live there for a few days to try it out, to see if she likes it. Sometimes you can get on a "future residents" list by posting a refundable deposit. That allows you to bring Mom occasionally for dinner and a show and maybe get into a card game. The more your Mom experiences the place before she moves, the more likely it will be a successful move.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. We've been shopping for an assisted living facility for my father, and it's pretty easy to tell the good ones from the bad ones. But we are confused. Some require big upfront payments -even more than $100,000 - and others ask for nothing up front. We have received a lot of fancy sales material, but I'm still confused. Can you explain the pros and cons?

A. The ones that require a large initial fee are called CCRC's, or "Continuing Care Retirement Communities." The concept is interesting, at least in theory, and it may be just the thing you're looking for. Or maybe not.

Here's where the concept comes from. Number One on the list of things that frighten an elderly person is getting a painful illness that causes loss of dignity. Number Two on the list is generally running out of money.

What happens if you are lucky enough to live a very long time; inflation eats into your savings; prices keep going up, and suddenly you no longer can afford the Assisted Living Facility that has been your home for 10 years? Or say you get sick and have to spend years in a nursing home, where the cost is way beyond your means, and you end up worrying that you might end up in one of those hellholes we keep seeing exposed on TV?

The concept behind a CCRC is that in exchange for your big initial payment, you are buying a guarantee that you can stay in their system for as long as you live, no matter what happens to you, no matter how your financial status deteriorates. Doesn't that give you peace of mind? That's what it is intended to do.

For many people, this is a fine arrangement. There are many thousands of happy people living in CCRC's around the country. But, on the other hand, ask yourself, "What if you don't like the place after a few months?"

Depending on the fine print in your contract, you may be able to get back a percentage of your up-front payment. Some places keep 10%, others keep 50%, and some keep everything. There's no set amount. It varies from place to place and it could even depend on their census and how eager they are to get you to sign. In any case, if you leave after a few months or even after a few years, you are likely to suffer a significant financial loss.

Also ask yourself, "What is the monthly maintenance fee and what are your guarantees about future increases?" You would think that if you put down $100,000 to $500,000 the monthly maintenance fee would be quite low, like if you put a large down payment on your house. But that's usually not the case. The monthly fees generally are similar to rental communities where you pay a monthly rent and put nothing up front.

Personally, I prefer the model that is the antithesis of a CCRC - a Rental Retirement Community - a place where there is NO UPFRONT PAYMENT.

My advise is to look and see if you can find a situation where the rental retirement community has a full range of services on the same campus- a continuum of care. From independent living to assisted living all the way through a high-quality nursing home, you get the same benefit as the CCRC without any big payment. Here, the management has a great incentive to keep the place up to date and to keep residents and their families very happy. Because if the residents become unhappy, there is absolutely nothing to keep them from leaving!

You need to have frank discussions during your tours about what happens if the money runs out. There will be a careful assessment of your Dad's financial situation during this time. If there appears to be enough money for the long run, you should be given comfort that he will be welcome for the rest of his life. It's a good-faith deal on both sides.

No quality retirement community would normally evict a long-time resident who happens to outlive his money. We've cared for more than 10,000 seniors in more than 20 years in this business, and we have always tried to help families make arrangements for when they run out of money. First of all, people seldom outlive their money. It just doesn't happen very often. Second, these long-time residents become part of the family, and it would be like putting your own father out on the street. Most of the time, we utilize one of the various government programs (like the Medicaid Waiver) to help families through this.

So do your homework carefully! Read the fine print, have frank discussions about money, and eventually you will find the choice that is most comfortable for you and your Dad.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. Hurricane season is nerve-wracking. We are here in New York and Dad is in Miami, and every time a hurricane approaches we worry about his safety. We pay a handyman to put up the shutters for him, but who knows whether he will show up in all the craziness that goes on as a hurricane nears? What can we do to assure his safety and our peace of mind?

A. Hurricane season is a great time to convince parents that it's time to give up the house and move to a retirement community. There's nothing like a scary hurricane to make someone crave a safe and secure environment!

As Hurricane Debby headed toward Miami last month, we all watched the TV stories about the long lines at Publix for food and water and at Home Depot for plywood and screws. Just about the only people who weren't worried were those in retirement homes, where residents watch TV, play cards, and party as the staff puts up the shutters, takes in extra food, checks the emergency generators and does all the work.

Here are some real comments from real residents at my retirement community, the Palace Suites:

"There's a lot of togetherness here. The owners, management, and staff - and even some of their family members - secure the building, and we spend our time playing cards and enjoying our activities." - Gwen Nesslein

"This is the first time in my life I wasn't worried. Before I sold my house and moved here, I was worried all the time during hurricane season. Being here I don't have to worry because everything is taken care of." - John Davis

"Every Monday morning at 9:00 a.m., when I hear the emergency generator being charged, I know we are ready for hurricane season." - Eve Zinner

"I felt secure. My children are not worried. They know I am safe." - Ana Miguel

Esther Perlman, a resident who moved into the Palace Suites just a few months ago, specifically decided to give up her house while sweeping up her patio after a hurricane blew through. Now, she says, she feels safe and secure not just during hurricane season, but all the time.

Esther has volunteered for 17 years at area theaters as an usher and ticket taker. "My children would wait up for me," she says. "I would have to call them every night when I got home!" Now everyone is stress-free.

"My children are so happy they can sleep nights and not worry about my welfare. They never asked me to sell my house, but I can see how relieved they are now that I've done it!"

If you worry about a parent being alone, especially during hurricane season, this is an excellent time to visit retirement communities in your area. Most of them have promotional events to introduce seniors and their children to their very special lifestyle.

If your father has hesitated about giving up his house, you may find that he is more receptive to the idea of a retirement community during Hurricane Season than at other times of the year!

Have a question? Write to Helen Shaham at the Palace Suites, 11377 S.W. 84th St., Miami, Florida 33173. For information about the Palace Suites, please call 305 270-7010.

(Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob, together with CEO Avi Bittan, have been operating facilities for older adults since emigrating from Israel 20 years ago. The Palace Suites is a luxury apartment building for active seniors with lots of services and amenities design with seniors in mind. Also on the Kendall property are two assisted living facilities and a nursing home. They also operate the Palace Gardens in Homestead.)

Q. My elderly mother is very lonely, yet she refuses to do anything about it. She's still pretty healthy, but she wastes her life. She sits at home all day. She doesn't drive anymore, most of her friends are gone, and yet she refuses to consider a retirement home. She says she isn't ready. What can we do?

A. There are common themes in people's lives as they get older. One of them is loneliness.

This is particularly true for the woman who has devoted much of her life to housekeeping and raising a family. Typically, the children grow up and move away - sometimes very far away. Then the spouse dies. The woman is left with her home - often a big, old house - with memories in every corner.

She may fill her days with friends and social activities, but the evenings and nights are very hard. This is especially true at dinnertime, when she was the focus of family attention, and when everyone gathered around the dining room table to share the events of their day.

Eve Zinner recalls what it was like for her. It's a story we've heard many times.

Eve, a resident of the Palace Suites, previously lived alone in the big house where she raised her family.

Despite her many friends, despite 40 years of community service, Eve couldn't stand the hours of 5 to 7 p.m., when she used to make dinner. Her husband, Dr. Doran D. Zinner, director of dental research at the University of Miami Medical School, passed away young in 1976. Later her children grew up and moved to distant cities. She could cope with being alone most of the time, she said, but it was dinnertime that truly depressed her. "I would get in the car, drive around for two hours, just to avoid being home alone during dinner time."

Now, as a member of the Palace Suites family, Eve smiles a lot. "I have a big family now," she laughs. "People around me all the time!" Each night she gathers with other residents at the Piano Bar in the Palace Suites plaza for wine and music, followed by an elegant dinner in the formal dining room. "There are so many widows out there who are alone and it is so lonely," she says. "There is no reason for them to be like that. Being with people is so important for a widow."

Eve, who, several times was president of Menorah Hadassah and of the Cedars Medical Center Auxiliary, recently celebrated her 80th birthday with her children and their families flying in for the party - Son Michael, chief of surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital, from Boston; daughter Karen, who works in the public health service, from Salt Lake City, and son Donald, who is relocating to Islamorada, coming from Detroit.

Like many of the Palace Suites residents, Eve still drives. But, after two hip replacements, she often leaves her car parked to take advantage of the Palace Suites bus and limousine transportation system to local shops and physician offices. "It's so much easier to be dropped at the front door than to look for a parking space and walk from the parking lot," she says.

The Palace Suites is Miami's only luxury rental retirement complex for active seniors. Located in Kendall, the Palace Suites offers apartments ranging from studios to 2 bedrooms with a den and 2 baths. The monthly rental package starts at $1,875 and includes a continental breakfast, elegant dinner, local transportation, housekeeping, a full social schedule, hotel amenities, a secure environment, access to emergency medical service, and a great family-like atmosphere.

After 20 years of working with older people, we see so many women like Eve who would be so happy at the Palace Suites but who just won't let themselves try it. It frustrates their children, who worry about their parents' living alone. Yet the subject of "Mom, why don't you come and live with us?" is something that neither parent nor child really wants to discuss. The parent dreads being a burden and the child and his or her family, much as they love Mom, really don't want her moving in with them, although they never say it out loud.

But when the subject of moving into a retirement community comes up, Mom has a million reasons not to move. We've heard them all a thousand times.

While younger people look at the Palace Suites lifestyle and say, "Hey, that's for me!" it's rare that an older person will pack up and move right away. It's a process, sampling the lifestyle and getting to see that the "old people" who live here really are very young at heart and have fun, and it's easy to make new friends and keep busy day and night. We've come to understand that, and we work with the parent and the family to overcome the objections. It's kind of funny to hear from someone 95 years old that she "doesn't want to be with old people."

As Eve learned, the best part is when that terrible dinner hour rolls around. Instead of facing an empty, quiet house, Eve now joins her friends for a glass of wine and to enjoy the music in the Piano Bar, then into the formal dining room for dinner, then to the Palace Suites Theater for a movie or live entertainment - a show, or perhaps a discussion of a current best-seller, or maybe bingo.

There's a lot of talking and a lot of smiling and laughing, making plans for the next day, and the residents say to each other: "I wish I would have done it sooner!"

The residents are our best salespeople! If you'd like to meet Eve and her friends, give us a call at 305 270-7010.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My father just went into an assisted living facility. Mom just couldn't care for him anymore. Now they're separated and it's terrible. Mom doesn't drive and we take her to visit as often as possible, but we have our own lives to lead and we can't do this day after day forever. Any ideas?

A. Those of us who work with older married couples day after day wonder which is worse - to be parted by death, or when one spouse needs to enter a nursing home or assisted living facility while the other spouse is still healthy.

The death of a spouse after 50 or 60 years of marriage is, of course, a very traumatic event. But I think there is nothing worse than the "split couple," when one becomes unable to continue living at home.

It's hard to imagine the horror of that, isn't it? Imagine that you've just celebrated your 60th wedding anniversary - 22,000 nights of going to bed together, and 22,000 mornings of waking up together. This is the person you count on to be there for you, the one you depend on to care for you when you're ill, to call 911 in an emergency. Suddenly you are forced to separate. Not only are you alone, but you also have the burden of worrying about your spouse.

The nursing home or assisted living facility may be a mile away or 10 miles away. It hardly matters, since you don't drive anymore and getting there to visit is a difficult chore. Either it becomes a terrible burden on the children, having to drive you to visit each day, or it becomes an expensive proposition, taking taxis to and from the facility.

This is a dangerous time for both spouses. For the one forced into a new living arrangement, the visits by family and especially the spouse are vitally important. Being suddenly thrust into a new environment is very difficult at any age, especially when you're sick.

For the spouse left at home, this often is the time when they start to go downhill. The separation, being alone, and the daily stress of visiting (or the guilt of not visiting) can get to be overwhelming.

Ask yourself this question: if they can't be together, what's the next best thing?

In my opinion, the answer is to have the healthy spouse in a setting very close by, where he or she can visit regularly without having to burden family or take a taxi.

Unfortunately, there are only a couple of places around that offer the option of multiple levels of care from independent living through assisted living to nursing home and rehabilitation center.

For example, Max and Hannah Klezmer, married 65 years, are residents of the Independent Living. When they were suddenly separated recently by Hannah's need to spend a month in nearby Baptist Hospital, Max was taken by shuttle bus or limo to visit each day, which is part of the service that goes with his monthly rent. When Hannah was released and needed three weeks of rehabilitation, she moved to the Nurisng Home on campus, in the building right next door to her husband. So Max, a retired attorney, walked over and visit several times each day. Now they are happily reunited in their apartment.

Many of the residents in Independent Living have family permanently living in the other buildings. They feel less apart since they are so close. It's more a feeling of "separate bedrooms" than "separate lives."

One of those residents is Gordon O'Gara, whose wife Elizabeth has been in Assisted Living with Alzheimer's for 61/2 years. Gordon first tried commuting to visit. After three years he sold his house in Coral Gables and took an apartment nearby. Now he lives in Independent Living facility to be even closer. While his wife's condition has worsened, she still has a good disposition and recognizes and greets him.

But he regrets that the burden of commuting in those early years meant he spent too little time with her when she was still able to really interact with him. Now he spends a great deal of time with her. "I feel guilty," Gordon admits. "I guess I'm trying to make up for it now."

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. Ever since she turned 80, my mother talks frequently about her death. She's very matter-of-fact about it, telling us what kind of funeral she wants, who should take the jewelry, antique pieces, and pictures, etc. It makes all of us very uncomfortable. She's healthy and her mind is sharp. How can we get her to change the subject?

A. A while ago, we put together a focus group of Palace Suites residents between the ages of 80 and 90 who are in good health, like your Mom, and asked them their feelings about death. They assured us that what your Mom is doing actually is very normal and healthy for people who have lived a full and happy life. "We owe God a death," Shakespeare said. Your mother understands that at 80, she is nearing the end of her life. She is grateful that God has allowed her to live a long and fulfilling life in good health, and she is comfortable with the fact that death probably isn't far away. She wants you to be comfortable, also.

The old myth that we have to feel sorry for the people of that age who are terribly frightened of death, because there is probably something important that they have missed in their lives, something left undone that they know they will never get to do, is just that- a myth. In reality, people of all ages have a strong will to live, but that does not mean that they are afraid of dying. They just want to make the most of every day, for as long as God gives them another day.

The members of our focus group all were older than your Mom, in their mid to late 80's. They moved to the Palace Suites because they want to spend their remaining years having fun among others like themselves. They no longer want to drive. They want a safe and secure environment. They don't want to waste any of the quality time they have left on the hassles of daily living, like cooking, shopping and housekeeping. So we do all that for them.

They wake up every morning grateful for another beautiful day of life, and they make the most of it. They appreciate each day far more than we do when we are young.

While the subject of death may be uncomfortable for those of us who are younger, it wasn't at all uncomfortable for these older residents at the focus group, who think and talk about it a lot. They gave us these insights:

* They have "had their turn," done everything in life that was important to them, and "no longer had to worry about dying young!"

* They have taken care of the necessary arrangements to make their deaths as easy as possible on the children and grandchildren. Wills are in place. Lists kept in the safe deposit boxes of who gets what. Personal notes in the safe deposit box to each child and grandchild. A health care surrogate appointed in the event they can't make their own decisions. Making sure everyone knows they don't want to be kept alive by artificial means. Some even have preplanned and paid for their funerals.

* Each day they wake up saying, 'Wow! Another day! Thank you God!" and they enjoy it to the fullest.

* They do think a lot about death, but are not particularly afraid of it. They are afraid of pain, and they do want to die with dignity. They are terrified at the prospect of an illness that brings loss of dignity.

* They recognize that their children are no youngsters, either, many are in the 60-70 age range, and they do not want to outlive their children. They do want to make sure their children will cope well with their passing and go on living a full and normal life.

We, in our various Palace retirement communities, have been caring for seniors for more than 20 years. We have more than 1,000 people in our care at any given time, and yes, older people do die. But what did our Focus Group residents tell us about that?

* Don't make a big deal about it. Dying is part of life.
* Just place a tasteful note on the bulletin board so everyone will know.
* Provide transportation to the funeral for anyone who wants to go.
* Periodically (quarterly), hold a memorial service for those who have passed.

Far more than her death, your mother now fears that you won't cope well when she passes. And of course you won't! There is nothing like losing a mother. Life without her won't be the same. But she needs to hear from you that you are OK. So talk to her. Don't change the subject!

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for over 20 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury apartment building for active seniors. In addition, the Kendall property is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center. They also operate the Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead.

If you have any questions about the lifestyle changes that go with aging, or if you'd like to be invited to a promotional event at the Palace Suites, please send a note to Helen Shaham, The Palace Suites, 11377 S.W. 84th St., Miami, Florida 33173, call her at 305 270-7020, or e-mail askhelen@bellsouth.net.

Q. My parents are in their early 80's and are considering moving to a retirement community. Both are very well-traveled and enjoy fine cuisines from around the world. Mom recently became ill and was in the hospital for two months. After complaining daily about the poor food quality, she is convinced that the food at the retirement community will be just as bad, if not worse. What's the best way to ease her fears?

A.Your mother's fears about food quality are not uncommon. Meals are a major concern for many older adults considering a move to a senior living community. Dining provides an important opportunity for social gathering and sharing and often times can become the high point or low point of a resident's day. Some residents even experience a loss of pleasure associated with dining, such as the sharing of meals and the traditions involved in the preparation of food.

To better understand your mother's apprehension, try placing yourself in her position. Imagine eating the majority of your meals in the same restaurant for an extended period of time. It may be your favorite restaurant but if the menu doesn't allow for a wide selection of quality choices in a friendly atmosphere, you will soon grow tired of the dining experience.

Here, at The Palace Suites, we understand that making the transition from home-cooked meals to those served at a retirement community is a concern. We also recognize that when older adults move to a new community, their first complaint is often with the food. Under the culinary skills of our executive chef, Rolf, our residents enjoy fine dining which rivals some of the best gourmet restaurants.

Chef Rolf's passion for creating exciting cuisines begins with the search for the finest ingredients. "I make everything from scratch and avoid canned products," he said. "I always start with the best cuts of meat and the freshest produce."

The dining experience has to be both enjoyable and healthy. Chef Rolf understands the need to compensate for residents' need for limited sodium and sugar intake, so he imports a low sodium substitute from Switzerland and has created extensive sugar-free desserts for residents. His specialty is a sugar-free baked apple pound cake.

As people age, they experience a natural decline in their senses of taste and smell. Chef Rolf, who has studied in Germany, Belgium and France, helps residents to enjoy their meals by increasing the intensity of the dish's flavor and aroma with fresh citrus juices or garlic and herbs. "I'm very aware of each resident's food preference," he added. "For example, if a resident requests additional spices on his dish, we'd be happy to make the necessary changes to meet his needs."

Throughout the month of April, menu highlights included veal parmesan on bowtie pasta and light marinara with broccoli; little neck clams on scarlet snapper with sun-dried tomato pesto on linguini; medallions of steak sirloin wrapped in applewood bacon; and chicken fricassee with white rice and garden vegetables.

For residents who wanted a low-fat menu, The Palace Health Club meals were just as appetizing: grilled shrimp skewers in a lemon pepper mango glaze, grilled chicken kebob atop mixed vegetables and brown rice and New England sole topped on a fat-free red pepper coulee and baby spinach.

Once a menu item is served, Chef Nettesheim makes it a priority to not serve the same meal again unless requested by residents. "Although it's a little challenging to not have a menu that rotates continuously, I want to make the dining experience exciting for residents," he said. "The biggest secret to pleasing everyone is keeping the excitement level high. They look forward to eating so why should they be disappointed by a mediocre meal."

In addition to the actual meal, Chef Nettesheim and the dining room manger take other steps to further maximize resident dining satisfaction. White linen tablecloths adorn each table and are accented by fresh flowers. Residents also enjoy freshly baked bread (baked at the community) with meals. Wait staff is educated daily about the menu and how it should be served.

To ease your mother's fears, schedule a reservation for dinner at the community. Most communities shouldn't hesitate to allow your parents to dine with residents. Eating at the community will also be beneficial because they'll be able to meet their potential neighbors in a social environment. If the chef at the new retirement community believes in our chef's motto of keeping the lines of communication open between himself and residents, she'll soon call be calling to invite you over for dinner!

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. I have lived in my home for almost 45 years. My husband passed away recently and my family is in another state. My daughter suggested moving into a retirement community, but I think that will mean giving up my independence. I've started to visit a few communities, but I want a first hand account of life in a retirement community from the residents. How can I do it?

A. We value the opinions of all our residents and feel that they, along with their families, are our biggest supporters. The decision to move to a retirement community requires a lot of homework and an open mind.

In addition to visiting the community, it is imperative to talk to residents, and even to their family members. Ask the manager to supply you with a list of satisfied customers, and call them! You will find these conversations to be the most beneficial. You will get a far better feel for the community and an idea if you will be comfortable living there.

You can also ask if you can come for a weekend or a few days "to experience life in the community" before you make the big move. If there is an available apartment, they will probably let you do it. Many communities also have a guest suite where you could stay for a few days. This is an invaluable first hand experience!

Recently, we put together a focus group of Palace Suites residents who have lived at the community between five months and five years and asked them to share their feelings about moving to a retirement community.

The consensus among the group was that it was better to move to a retirement community while you were still able to enjoy the many amenities and activities that are offered, than to wait until you are frail and are really in need of assistance.

Moving to a retirement community should not be viewed as "giving up your independence," but rather the opportunity to start a new stage in your life, where you will receive some help in whatever it is that you need, and enjoy the companionship of friends, start new hobbies and attend community outings.

Helen Rubinstein, 92, has called The Palace her home for almost 3 1/2 years and says that these years have been the best in her life. She enjoys the people around her (in addition to her new boyfriend!) as well as attending the community's dance classes, flower arranging or going to the movies. Marcel Chaessegne, a five-year resident, looks forward to the weekly outings and especially enjoys trips to the beach while Mercedes Martinez prefers singing at the happy hour and the exquisite dinners she shares with her new friends.

Moving to a retirement community not only gives the individual peace of mind, but family members also feel more relived by the decision. "My children don't have to worry about my safety anymore," said Lee Hersh, who also has been a resident for five years. Taz Marumoto, originally from Los Angles, agrees. "My daughter often worried because I was still driving," she said. "I don't drive anymore, but now my daughter says she can never catch me at home because I'm always busy."

Each resident enjoys living at The Palace for different reasons. "You can compare the community to living on a cruise ship, except there is no water..." says Lee Hersh, and Louis DeMartinis adds, "It's delightful that everyone knows your name." She is particularly impressed with the community's elegance and staff's helpfulness.

Making the transition from your home to a retirement community can often be overwhelming. Our focus group participants offered the following advice:

* Just remember that almost all the people who live in a retirement community say "I should have done it sooner!" (Now that should tell you a lot ...)
* Think about the long-term benefits.
* Think about the long days and nights filled with loneliness...and, sometimes, even fear of being alone at home...
* If your children are hesitant, you must impress upon them that you want to try this. And if you will not like it you can always return home.
* Maintain a positive attitude! It will help you deal with the adjustment period.
* Remember that every beginning is hard and keep thinking about the positives!

The process of leaving a home you shared with your spouse and raised your children in is very emotional. Living alone since the death of your husband and without family close-by is also a very lonely experience. Moving to a retirement community doesn't mean a loss of independence. On the contrary, the support system provided in such a setting will help maintain everyone's independence for a longer period of time. By talking to residents you'll soon realize that they all lead independent lifestyles. One of our residents said it best, "I'm independent. It's not how old I am. It's that I'm still independent."

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My parents, who are in their late 80's, are looking for a home for their retirement years. For years, they talked about retiring to a dream home in the western area of the country. But now that retirement is at hand, they are considering a community near our home so they can be near their grandchildren. We think they ought to follow their dreams and head west. However, they think it's important to be close to their grandchildren so they can keep up a close relationship. Are close relationships between grandchildren and grandparents important?

A. What a wonderful question especially since Grandparent's Day is Sunday, September 12th.

First, let me compliment your parents for realizing such relationships are important and for their willingness to make decisions that maintain the relationship between them and their grandchildren. While most grandparents want to be close to their grandchildren, today's mobile society often creates wide geographic distances between family generations.

The relationship between a child and grandparents is a unique and special one. For starters, the job of primary care giver/parent is a difficult, multifaceted one. Parents have to be concerned with a child's education, discipline, health, security 24/7. Grandparents, one the other hand, really only have one agenda: love and nurture. They don't have to be concerned with all the daily issues to the same extent parents do. It is a critical distinction because it eliminates the emotional conflict that comes with the parent-child relationship. The child-grandparent relationship has little conflict and lots of love.

Second, grandparents don't have many of the time constraints and stress that parents face on a daily basis. When a parent is spending time with a child, thoughts of work, finances, committee meetings, groceries and social obligations are close at hand. As a result, the quality of the time is often hindered. Because they are often retired and more financially settled, grandparents are less likely to be distracted or experience interruptions while engaged with grandchildren. And, grandparents just have more time to spend with the grandchildren so a grandparent's lap is always welcoming.

Grandparents also offer children a sense of history and family. A strong relationship between a child and a grandparent teaches the child that family is a larger, more supportive concept than just Mom, Dad and siblings. Often it is during time spent with grandparents that children begin to learn about the family's history because grandparents are often more conscious of the family history and have more time to talk about it. The grandparents are the ones who are typically working on family genealogy. Here, at The Palace Suites, we have a number of residents who have undertaken family genealogy research as a hobby.

Some of the happiest times for our residents are the times spent with grandchildren who visit regularly. We understand the importance of this relationship and we encourage grandchildren to visit as often as possible. We even plan special family events to encourage activities between grandparents and their grandchildren. Our computer labs are busy with grandparents communicating with their grandchildren via e-mail.

Grandparents and parents need to make a special effort to celebrate Grandparent's Day. More than just a "Hallmark moment," Grandparent's Day should be about real connection and a real celebration of the role grandparents play in the lives of grandchildren.

Even older adults who may be far away from their own grandchildren can have a big impact on children through various "Adopt-A-Grandparent," or "Adopt-A-Grandchild" organizations around the country. A quick search of the internet will reveal a multitude of sites designed to link older folks and younger folks in a grandparent/grandchild type relationship.

These relationships also benefit the grandparents. It keeps them active and involved. As the children grow, grandparents get a flavor of what's new and exciting in a child's or young adult's world. At The Palace Suites we often find grandchildren teaching grandparents how to use the computers or showing them the latest dance steps.

I find it interesting and fitting that National Assisted Living Week follows just a week behind Grandparent's Day since both are so closely linked to grandparents. Today's active adults have great opportunities to live full and vital lives as active grandparents thanks to the variety of professional assisted living facilities available to them.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens ssisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My family and I are considering moving dad to a senior living community. We know that it's in his best interest but we're hesitant about making a final decision. He's in his late 80s and is very active. Our main concern is his well-being. Will he be in capable hands at a community or is it better for him to move in with family?

A. You've made the first step in maximizing your dad's retirement years-realizing that it is in his best interest to move to a senior living community. Now the next step begins-selecting a community that best meets his needs.

Though it's common to think that dad will be in the most capable hands by living with family, statistics prove otherwise. Often, the family becomes burdened by the additional responsibility of mom or dad. From getting settled to running errands, family relationships may be strained. And there are few opportunities for dad to enjoy companionship with others of his generation.

At most senior communities, staff training emphasizes resident wellness and health. This is especially true of our Palace communities. Employees at The Palace aren't simply hired, they are selected. Only the very best become a part of our family.

From the moment an employee joins The Palace, he or she becomes one of our greatest assets. We realize the significant role they play in the health and well-being of our residents so we take additional steps to ensure superior training with emphasis on customer service.

The Palace management team, with guidance from Ritz-Carlton hotels, spent more than a year developing and refining a mandatory three-day training session. Each week, new staff members enter our training program, Pal-Tec, which is taught by Juanita Baiamonte, Corporate Director of Training and Education.

Throughout the first day of the corporate orientation, new employees learn The Palace's history, mission statement and principles-the cornerstone of the program. During the second day, employees learn the residents' bill of rights as well as general and fire safety procedures. Day three of training focuses on dealing with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders and risk management.

The three-day orientation lays the groundwork for successful employees but they cannot meet out residents' training. For two months following their orientation, new staff members complete a supervised training program. It is during this time that they learn how to implement The Palace principles and mission statement into their daily responsibilities.

Training isn't limited to new members of The Palace family. We require our managers to learn the changing dynamics of the senior housing industry. We have expanded training to include a continuing education program requiring 35 hours of customized training for each manager. After one year of employment, all full-time employees receive tuition reimbursement should they want to further their education.

Training is critical to the success of The Palace communities because properly trained employees deliver excellent service. Our Pal-Tec program emphasizes often overlooked success factors which ultimately differentiate The Palace communities. Whether its addressing residents by name or noting their meal preferences, we ensure top-notch and relentless customer service for residents.

Though it may seem that living with your family is the best alternative for your dad, please keep in mind most senior living communities have trained staff. To ease your fears, try scheduling a visit to the community. By observing the residents and employees, you will be better able to make an informed decision based on your dad's needs and level of care. If the community shares our commitment to employee training, you'll soon realize that your dad will be in good hands.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have een operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens ssisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. Mom and dad have decided to move to an independent living community. Although I agree with their decision, I think they should move to the community that is opening in a couple months instead of the more established one they are considering. The owners, though new to senior housing, have promised residents great care and numerous activities. How can I convince them to move to the newer community?

A. Selecting a senior living community is one of the most important decisions they will have to make. Why entrust that care to someone "new to senior housing"? A community with a solid reputation for resident and family satisfaction is best for mom and dad.

This is a business of service and care. Senior housing is a fine-tuned business that requires well-trained employees and an experienced management team. We're more than just hospitality. It's a service business that requires 24-hour care.

We take great pride in the family atmosphere of our communities. Residents and their loved ones enjoy the peace of mind knowing that we are one of the most trusted names in senior housing while enjoy a variety of recreational, social and cultural activities. In addition to the elegant ambiance and luxurious amenities, our communities' atmosphere is reflected in the warmth of resident/staff relationships.

Our philosophy and founding principle, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you", is at the heart of our success. We are committed to providing older adults with an exceptional level of personal service within an upscale environment by exceeding the expectations of out residents, families and employees.

The Palace also applies the founding principle outside the walls of its communities. We view The Palace as a community within a community. It's important for us to play an active role in surrounding neighborhoods. Whether initiating community-wide hurricane relief efforts or partnering with a local school to provide students job-training opportunities, we strive to be good neighbors.

Since opening our first 21-bed adult congregate living facility in 1980, we have been setting higher standards for quality and care as well as marking major milestones. Now celebrating our 25th anniversary, The Palace is known as South Florida's leading company specializing in senior housing and care.

Our reputation has been one of the biggest keys to our success. We find that most families considering a senior living community hear about The Palace from friends and neighbors. To us, that speaks volumes.

During the 25th Anniversary Block Party on April 9, from 11a.m. to 2 p.m., we'll be celebrating the residents, families and employees who have played a part in our success. We invite you visit our Kendall campus during the festivities to learn first-hand the importance of selecting a senior living community that has a defined philosophy of care and a solid reputation.

It takes more than a few promises to guarantee adequate care so mom and dad should have reservations about the newer community. An established senior living community allows an opportunity to examine their track record and reputation. Try talking to your parents about your concerns. It may also be worthwhile to visit the community together.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have een operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens ssisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.

Q. My aunt and uncle's daily activities and social interaction has gotten much narrower in recent months. Both are in their early 80's and still active. Their circle of friends has gotten smaller so now they hardly leave the house. My wife suggested a senior living community may be an ideal solution. With all the different acronyms and terminology, I'm having a hard time understanding my options. Can you provide a glossary of common terms?

A. I commend you and your wife for realizing the important role a senior living community plays in increasing and maintaining social interaction among residents. As someone who has more than 25 years of experience in the senior housing industry, let me assure you that the initial research can be overwhelming to most people. Here are a few of the most common industry terms. They will help in understanding terminology and in selecting a community that best meets the needs of your relatives.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): General term used to describe the basic day-to-day activities of life such as bathing, toileting, eating, dressing and mobility. Used to determine an individual's level of functional impairment.

Administrator: Person licensed to run a nursing home; one who has received training in fiscal, legal, social and medicals aspects of running a community

Aging in Place: Popular concept in senior housing expressing the preference of most older adults to continue aging while residing in one place, as opposed to being moved between communities as needs change.

Alzheimer's Disease: Degenerative age-related disease that impairs one's cognitive ability. Symptoms may include forgetfulness, wandering and inability to recognize others.

Ambulatory: Ability to walk around.
Assisted Living: State-licensed program offered at a residential community with services including meals, laundry, housekeeping, medical reminders and assistance with ADLs.

Assisted Living Facility (ALF): A community, licensed by the state, to provide assisted living care.

Congregate Living: An assembly of a variety of facilities, services and people under one roof or community to provide facilities and services that otherwise would not be available in total independent living such as dining facilities, health care programs, pharmacy, bank, etc.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC): Communities that provide a full range of housing and serves from independent living units to assisted living and skilled nursing. Community guarantees living accommodations and health care services throughout the life of the resident.

Continuum of Care: Describes the degrees of services offered by a particular senior living community. A continuum of care can range from independent living to full-time nursing care and include any and all stages in between.

Home Health Agency (HHA): Public or private agency certified by Medicare that specializes in providing skilled nurses homemakers, home health aides and therapeutic services in an individuals home.

Independent Living: Senior living community designed for those able to live easily on their own, encompassing a wide variety of housing styles and often incorporating additional amenities such as meals and leisure activities.

Long-term Care: Includes a wide range of medical and support services for people with a prolonged illness, degenerative condition, or cognitive disorder.

Non-ambulatory: Describes those with the inability to move independently due to being bedridden or hospitalized.

Nursing Home: Type of senior community offering the most advanced level of resident care, including 24-hour monitoring and full-time supervision.

Personal Care: Care that involves help with eating, dressing, walking and other personal needs but very little or no nursing supervision.

Retirement Community: Communities developed with a continuum of housing available to residents from total independent living to long term health care services.

Skilled Care: Institutional care that is less intensive than hospital care in its nursing and medical service, but which includes procedures whose administration requires the training and skills of a registered nurse.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF): Facility certified by Medicare and/or Medicaid to provide skilled care.

Once familiar with these terms, your research should be much easier. If you have additional concerns, contact the Director of Sales at a nearby senior living community. Don't forget to include your aunt and uncle's input. Ultimately, they are the ones who will be moving to the community so it's important for them to also understand the senior housing industry's jargon and make sense of the alphabet soup.

Helen Shaham and her husband Jacob have been operating retirement communities for nearly 30 years. The Palace Suites in Kendall is a luxury Independent Living Community for active seniors. In addition, The Palace at Kendall campus is home to two Assisted Living Residences and a Nursing & Rehab Center. They also operate The Palace Gardens Assisted Living Community in Homestead, Homestead Manor Nursing Home and The Palace @ Home, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency. Their two newest projects are The Palace at Weston - luxury living for those 55 and over, and The Palace Tel-Aviv, a continuing care retirement community in Israel. They have two communities under development - The Palace at Weston Senior Living and The Palace at Coral Gables. More information can be found on the company website, www.thepalace.org or by calling 305-270-7000.