By Gina Murray, Co-Founder and Director of Aware Senior Care
Editor's note: Client names have been changed to protect their privacy.
We had a request for an assessment from a nurse in a rehab center saying she needed help ASAP. One of their newly admitted patients had a wife, Cynthia, who could not be left alone. She explained that the patient, Steven, had suffered a massive stroke which left him with near complete paralysis on his right side and unable to speak. Their adult children, Mark and Jeannie, were trying to understand the options for their Dad, when they realized their mother has dementia. They both live across the country and have jobs and children of their own. They were asking the rehab staff who was going to care for their mom during their Dad’s recovery.
I went to the facility and met with Mark and Jeannie. Both had spent the past 5 days staying at their parents’ home with their mother and could not believe they hadn’t known about her memory issues. It had been nearly a year since either had visited with their parents.
“Mom always seemed fine. She would say some strange things at times, but I never thought she had dementia. She won’t take a shower and she’s worn the same clothes all week” said Mark. Jeannie said she regretted ‘brushing off’ concerns that her Dad brought to her attention during her last visit with them. “I just thought Dad was being harsh with Mom. Now I can see what he was trying to tell me."
I explained that our home care agency could provide caregivers in the home, prepare the meals, do the laundry and housekeeping. They could also help Cynthia with showering and dressing. Our caregivers receive training to help them assist clients with dementia. It’s essential to understand the disease and the changes may that occur in order to know how to approach these clients. Cynthia’s whole world was turned upside down and her caregivers needed to know how to support her emotionally as well as help her physically. We explained that the caregivers could be there 24/7 or supplement family and/or friends providing care. They appreciated the flexibility and we worked out an agreement.
I then met with Steven and Cynthia in his room. After just a few moments, it was clear that Steven understood every word that was said. His eyes showed a deep love for his wife as well as frustration. I explained to both of them that we had caring people who would stay with Cynthia so she wouldn’t be alone at home. They could bring her to visit Steven and they would ‘handle the household chores’ so Steven wouldn’t worry about them. He nodded, smiled and then the tears streamed down his face.
As the days became weeks, the family realized how expensive ongoing care at home can be. They decided to hire private caregivers in order to save money. It was just 3 weeks later that we received the frantic call that a private caregiver did not show up. Another one had told the family that if the predicted snow storm actually arrived, she would not drive if the roads were bad. We resumed services for Cynthia, never missing a visit in spite of the ice storms that caused treacherous roads that winter. We even drove caregivers to and from some visits that year to assure our clients received the care they needed.
While the initial goal was for Steven to move back home, it did not turn out to be the best option under the circumstances. Our caregivers helped with the transition as Steven and Cynthia moved into a facility that could meet all of their needs and allow them to be together. As Mark told us “The peace of mind we provided was beyond measure.”
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