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Thu, 30 May 2024 17:40:53 -0500
2021-08-18 Print

Assisted Living: What You Need To Know Before You Make A Decision - Choosing A Retirement Home Involves Deciding The Kind Of Living Situation You Want Says Frances Fuller, Award Winning Author Of 'Helping Yourself Grow Old'

Multi-award winning author Frances Fuller offers a unique outlook on aging based on her own experience. Her insights are penetrating and deal with issues that many seniors and their families are concerned about.


What is it like to live in an assisted living facility? Frances Fuller offers us an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of retirement home advertising and hearsay advice, in that she is currently a resident of an assisted living facility. She is also an award winning author on aging. This finally gives us a chance to get an unbiased, factual and objective glimpse into the day to day experiences of life in an assisted living facility. Her goal is not to make specific recommendations or weigh the pros and cons of such a life changing decision, but rather to draw our attention to lesser known considerations that may have escaped our notice at first.She recently posted an article on her blog entitled, "Choosing A Retirement Home". That article reads in part:

Some homes are designed for “independent living.” This is for people who are still able to take care of themselves in certain basic ways.

Such a community is meant to provide its inhabitants with the basic needs of home: an apartment (or room), three prepared meals a day, heat, cooling, electricity, television, internet, laundry facilities, trash disposal, etc. (This list varies a bit from place to place.) There should be nurses on duty who will come if you signal, and they will get help for you in an emergency. There may be some transportation to medical appointments, a little shopping, a pleasure trip now and then.

In this kind of facility you will find your own doctors. You may have a car and take yourself wherever you want to go. You will need to be responsible for your bank account, unless you have named someone else to handle your finances.

Then there is “assisted care.” This kind of facility is for people who need help with some basic functions of living. These needs vary greatly. Many elderly people are at risk for falling to the extent that showering and dressing alone are difficult or risky. Some people get their medicines mixed up so can’t be relied on to take the right drug at the right time. Other people can’t walk well enough to get from their apartment to the dining room alone or have problems remembering basic information like which floor they live on. In an “assisted care” facility skilled workers take responsibility for the well-being of all residents, providing very personal assistance.

And then there are other retirement homes that put all of these people and functions together, defining themselves as “Independent Living/Assisted Care.”

In my decision-making process, this arrangement seemed ideal. First of all, it meant that I would never have to move again. My apartment would be my home. I could decorate it, get comfortable in it and consider it mine. If I should decline to the point of helplessness, I would still be at home in it.

And secondly, the pricing was advantageous. Assisted care is very expensive, so the difference between the cost of independent living and the cost of assisted care can be huge. But when the two are combined, you get as much or as little help as you need, maybe off and on, according to your situation, and you only have to pay for the help you need. You can get help after surgery, for instance, get on your feet again and not need it. This seemed to me appropriate to my stage of life.

On my door there is a little sticker to inform anyone who needs to know that I am here in “independent living.” At the same time the nurses’ station is only a few yards from my door. According to a schedule one of these uniformed people takes and records my “vitals” periodically, taking note of abnormalities. And, because of covid, one of them pops into my room and takes my temperature each day. Other than that they leave me alone until I push the help button, which I am encouraged to wear around my neck. The presence of these trained servants adds a lot to my sense of security.

But, as one might expect, I didn’t think about everything before I chose. For instance, it didn’t occur to me that the “independent/assisted” arrangement inevitably results in people with varying physical and mental abilities living all together . . ."

The full piece is available at her site at

There are many great books on aging available. However, many of them were written from an academic point of view. Most are penned by sociologists, doctors, gerontologists, even the CEO of AARP, and one by a Catholic nun, Joan Chittister. Chittister's book, 'The Gift of Years' is beautifully written, focusing on spiritual values and finding meaning in life. Chittister admits in the preface that she was only 70, which is the front edge of aging, and her book is somewhat abstract.

Atul Gawande’s book, 'On Being Mortal', relates medicine and old age, It enjoys high Amazon rankings, in the category of “the sociology of aging.” It contains a great deal of valuable scientific information and shows understanding of the physical and emotional needs of the elderly.

Frances Fuller’s book, 'Helping Yourself Grow Old, Things I Said To Myself When I Was Almost Ninety', is an up-close and very personal encounter with aging. It is an uncontrived and firsthand look at her own daily experiences: wrestling with physical limitations, grief, loneliness, fears, and the decisions she has made about how to cope with these and keep becoming a better person. She faces regrets and the need to forgive herself and others and is determined to live in a way that blesses her children and grandchildren.

Frances deals with many common, universal but sometimes private issues in an open, conversational tone. Her confessions and decisions invite self-searching and discussion. She tries to make sense of her own past and to understand her responsibility to younger generations. In the process she shares her daily life, enriched with memories from her fascinating experiences. Her stories and her voice — fresh, honest, irresistible — keep the reader eager for more. The end result is a book that helps create a detailed map through the challenging terrain of old age.

The result of this intimate narrative is that readers laugh, cry and identify with her mistakes and problems. Reviewers have called the book, “unique,” “honest,” “witty,” “poignant,” “challenging” and “life-changing.”

For these reasons it is a book unlike any other book on aging you will ever read. The book can serve as a primer on what lies in store for all of us, from someone who is working through many of these issues. While the book is a perfect fit for book clubs, there are many other individuals and groups who could benefit from the information and ideas in the book:

Those approaching retirement
People who are currently retired
Children of aging parents
Those who have lost a spouse
Retirement community discussion groups
Life coaches
Church groups (men and women)

and a host of others. For group discussions, Fuller has made a set of discussion questions available at her website at

Readers have lavished praise on the new book. One Amazon review stated, "I find myself thinking,'I need to read this again and take notes!' It’s full of wisdom, humor, and grace. I also have committed to rereading it annually - it’s that important!" Another said, "There is valuable life experience in this book. Helping Yourself Grow Old is truly is a book for all ages, and one not to be missed." Another stated, "Beautifully written book telling timeless truths, for both the old and the young. Highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to laugh, cry, and learn wisdom from someone who has lived so much life."

Frances' prior work, 'In Borrowed Houses', has taken three industry awards. Frances Fuller was the Grand Prize winner in the 2015 '50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading' Book Awards. It received the bronze medal for memoir in the Illumination Book Awards in 2014. Northern California Publishers and Authors annually gives awards for literature produced by residents of the area. In 2015 'In Borrowed Houses' received two prizes: Best Non-fiction and Best Cover.

Critics have also praised ‘In Borrowed Houses.’ A judge in the 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards called 'In Borrowed Houses' “ . . a well written book full of compassion . . . a captivating story . . . ”. Another reviewer described the book as “Wise, honest, sensitive, funny, heart-wrenching . . .”. Colin Chapman, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut said, “ . . . western Christians and Middle Eastern Christians need to read this story…full of remarkable perceptiveness and genuine hope.”

Frances has shared stories about her life in an interview with Women Over 70, and a recording is available on their Facebook page.

Frances Fuller is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below or by email at The full text of her latest article is available at her website. Fuller's book is available at Amazon and other book retailers. A free ebook sample from 'In Borrowed Houses' is available at Frances Fuller also blogs on other issues relating to the Middle East on her website at

About Frances Fuller:

Frances Fuller spent thirty years in the violent Middle East and for twenty-four of those years was the director of a Christian publishing program with offices in Lebanon. While leading the development of spiritual books in the Arabic language, she survived long years of civil war and invasions.

Contact Info
Frances Fuller
PO Box 1613
Shallotte, NC, 28459

Phone: 910-842-9248