If You Don’t Think a Small Kindness Matters
I’m here to tell you it does matter.
Case in point? When I got very ill a few years back.
Paul needed to go to a facility but because I was so sick, I couldn’t check them out ahead of time. A friend suggested one, in particular. The administrator and nurse came to our home to interview Paul. I thought I asked all the right questions, such as “Are there other men with whom he can socialize?” They assured me there were.
Feeling confident, I signed him up with that residential facility nearby. He was supposed to be there a month—to give me respite and allow me to build back strength.
But since he has dementia, he was assigned to the locked ward in that facility.
My older daughter, Kerry, came out from Seattle, to take me to the hospital. More importantly, she became my ears and eyes, reporting to me about Paul, while I was limited to phone check-in’s, asking staff how he was doing.
She visited him and took him out of the facility twice.
Here’s how he recalls that: “Kerry took me out twice—once to that restaurant (in Oakland Beach) and another to the beach. I’ll never forget her for doing that because I thought I was going out of my mind.” He has tears in his eyes when he recalls this–tears of gratitude.
When she visited me in the hospital, she told me he didn’t belong there. Told me she was worried about him if he stayed longer. She said he was that depressed and crying all the time.
For that reason, as soon as I left the hospital (day 5), I got his best friend to drive me to see him. I noted the quietness all around. The corridors seemed narrow. Men and women were sitting at a table, eating lunch, but nobody was talking. One woman in the hallway cradled a doll, as if it were a baby. All was painfully quiet. Paul sat alone, in a long hall, dressed in his undershirt and trousers, his lip quivering. He doubtless wondered why he’d been drop-kicked into this place, though I had left a letter by his bedside to tell him I’d be back to pick him up as soon as possible.
I took him out of that facility and arranged for him to go to his daughter’s for a period of time, since I was still unable to care for him, full time. From her house, he would still go to the daycare facility three times a week (not the same as the residential). And after a couple of weeks, he came home to be with me.
Today, he tears up with gratitude whenever he thinks of Kerry’s support of him at a time he was most desperate, and I am stunned with the fact that this particular memory looms so important since Alzheimer’s disallows most memory.
I am not suggesting that putting one’s loved one in a facility is wrong. I recall my mother when we moved her out of her home and into an assisted living facility in East Greenwich. She was angry with me for approximately 2 weeks and then she adjusted. But she had lots of opportunities for social engagement at her new home. That made the difference. She’d fought the change in the beginning but then flourished. I realized she’d had probably been lonely, for years, in the home she had shared with my Dad, after he passed on.
But I do know this: It is vital to match the facility with the resident.
So my advice? Check these places out. You, alone, know your partner best; it is you who can determine what facility will be best. But do the checking ahead of time–before the crisis hits.
Colleen Kelly Mellor writes on her experiences as a 10-year caretaker to a partner who has Alzheimer’s.
Picture is of Colleen’s older daughter, Kerry, who lives in Seattle, Washington.