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When visiting my aunt in a nursing home a few years ago, I promised my parents I would never put them into one of those places. At the time, I meant it as much as I’d ever meant anything in my life. Many of us make such promises to our loved ones without realizing how difficult it will be to keep those promises.
My dad had been through so many physical ailments since the day he was born. Born with a locked stomach, he had to have surgery before he could eat. Later in life, he was diabetic, had heart disease, numerous back and neck surgeries, two hip replacements, and was a cancer survivor. He’d beaten all the odds and lived to be 84 years old. He loved farming and planted his last small garden in the summer of 2010. By Christmas of 2010, he was telling us he didn’t think he’d live to plant another garden. We didn’t listen because we didn’t want to hear it. He seemed plenty healthy. But he knew. It was only two days after Christmas when he was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night due to hemorrhaging. He almost bled to death. He was given a blood transfusion and sent home on New Year’s Eve. This was the beginning of vascular dementia caused by lack of blood to the brain and anemia.
After returning home, the constant visits to various doctors began. He developed Sundown Syndrome, so called because the mind becomes extremely confused when the sun goes down. No one knows why, but every evening, my dad would become so confused he didn’t know where he was or what was going on. He began calling out for help constantly. Whenever he was in his right mind, he called himself crazy. Bit by bit his memory began to go. One doctor after another told us he would probably never get better. They said once the brain cells die, there’s no way to bring them back.
By February, the round-the-clock care began taking a toll on my mother, his constant caregiver. Although my brothers and I tried to help out, it was the most difficult for her because she was the one who was there at nights when he was at his worst. Most nights she would get very little sleep because he would constantly cry out or try to get out of bed. His legs were weak, so if he tried to stand up without his walker, he would fall, and she couldn’t get him back up. My brother and I were called to go help whenever she couldn’t handle him.
By the end of February, my mother was completely exhausted and we began to worry about her health. Even dad was worried about her. He begged me to get her some help. On one of his good days, he looked at me with clear eyes and told me he wanted to go somewhere else. He said Mama couldn’t handle this anymore. He begged me to get them help.
That’s when my search for a good nursing home began. The first place I checked was a Veteran Care Facility. I spoke to my dad about it, and he said that’s where he wanted to go. Unfortunately, they had no available rooms. I placed him on their waiting list, then proceeded to check into other facilities.
We found all of the nursing facilities to be more expensive than we’d imagined. Money was a big issue since my mother is healthy and expects to live a long life. She would need what little money they’d accumulated to survive. She didn’t want to mortgage their home. They’d worked hard to have it completely paid for so she wouldn’t have to worry as she aged. This had been my dad’s major goal since his retirement; to leave her without any financial worries. To use up her cash reserves for a nursing home would have made all his efforts in vain. We agonized over the money issue more than we probably should have.
It soon became more than my mother could handle. Her nerves were frayed and she was close to having a breakdown. Her patience was running thin as my dad constantly hollered for help. His eyesight was failing, he couldn’t hear, and he no longer wanted to eat or drink anything. He didn’t recognize his home, but thought he was in some kind of care facility. He didn’t understand why he didn’t have a doctor, and why my mother was the only one taking care of him. He accused us of doing this to him, and not helping him. He told my mother he no longer loved her. After almost 62 years of marriage, this was like a knife piercing her heart.
That’s when I found The Haven Assisted Living. I visited a couple of their homes and was greatly impressed with the cleanliness. The caregivers were loved by their patients, and the patients seemed so completely happy. They were obviously being given the best of care. Although the cost seemed frighteningly high, it was less expensive than most of the other places I’d looked into, including the Veteran’s care facility. Then I learned they would also be able to get the Veteran’s Administration to pay for a portion of his care.
On Friday, March 18, 2011, a representative from The Haven Assisted Living came to visit my dad to evaluate his cognitive function. Inasmuch as the facility charges according to how much care the patient will need, she had to see how much he could do for himself. In the less than 3 months since Christmas, my dad had gone from doing everything for himself to being unable to do anything at all. He could tell her his name, but he had difficulty making a sentence. He seemed to understand she was there to help him, and he gave her a big smile. That was the first time we had seen him smile for quite some time.
It was decided he would go to one of their homes the next day. We were to bring him at noon and get him settled in. That night, he began hollering for help all night long, fighting the bed covers and trying to get out of the bed. This was the third night in a row he’d done this. At 2 AM, my mother got him up to go to the bathroom. When she got him back into the bed, he began hollering again. Finally, at 6 AM, he stopped yelling. She thought he’d finally fallen asleep. She fixed herself a cup of coffee and went to check on him, finding he had passed away.
I wonder if we had placed him in a care community where he could be monitored more closely, maybe he would still be with us. Or maybe his last days would have been less frustrating for him and my mother. I’ll never know. But I have the memory of that sweet smile he gave to the representative when he thought he was going to get help.
The elderly deserve to be happy and given the best care we can give them. They don’t deserve to be stuck away in a room and forgotten. The Haven Assisted Living homes give them a beautiful and clean home atmosphere, loving care by a caregiver, and medical care by a licensed health care professional. The cost is very reasonable considering the quality of care the patients receive and the peace of mind the family will have knowing their loved one is cared for. And when they visit, they can have quality time with their loved one. Since that time, I've visited several other communities that give excellent care.
Don’t wait until you and your loved one have suffered from the stress and frustration of trying to care for them at home. Call me today to learn more and take a tour of several excellent senior care community options. I’ll also be glad to tell you about other options available to you so you can make an informed decision. Hopefully the research I've done to help my mom and dad can help someone else.
Senior Care Consultant