By Ashley Anderson, Marketing Sales Associate
“Treat others the way you want to be treated,” is something my grandma would say to me over and over starting at a very young age. I give credit to my grandma for raising me just as much as my parents did. My favorite memories in life are being on the farm with my grandparents during the summertime months, as many people do with their own. That special bond between a grandchild and grandparent is just that…. special. We, as family members, want the best for them.
So many years later as an adult, when my parents sat me down and told me she needed to move into an assisted living community, my heart broke. I knew she wasn’t the same because she would repeat herself often. I knew she was spending more and more time in her apartment alone because her car was removed from her possession. Every so often, she would flush her medications down the toilet because she ‘didn’t need them’. I knew the time had come but in reality, it hurt so much. Seeing the ones you love lose their ability to make sure that ‘everything is okay’ for you, is heartbreaking and more heartbreaking to watch because even they know. Fast forward to the move, I would call her regularly out of guilt to check in and hear about her day. I hope I never forget when I called one morning to wish her a good day and she was quick to let me go. I asked what she was in a hurry for, “I gotta get down for breakfast then bingo! I have such a busy day, everyone is waiting for me!!”. It brought the biggest smile to my face knowing that she was excited to start her day, she had something to look forward to. She didn’t have to get into a car and risk her safety and the safety of others to play a simple game of pinochle . She gained weight, in a good way! She made friends. When I would visit, she greeted each staff member by their name. I knew she was going to be okay and selfishly needed to let go of my sadness.
Since then, she has made another move to memory care. Another internal challenge rattled by guilt and sadness for her, watching her suffer from a disease she didn’t ask for. The move happened, ended by many tears once again. I went to visit her over Easter weekend and there she sat in the living room watching TV, smiling while twirling her hair with her finger, watching Gunsmoke. When she saw my face, she beamed. As I followed her down the hall back to her apartment, all that sadness and guilt lifted as I thought ‘if she hadn’t moved, would she be able to walk with a walker or would she be wheelchair-bound from having a bad fall without enough supervision? Would she have meals and be as juicy as she has become? Or if she never moved at all, would she look wilted and frail because she would forget to eat? Would her COPD take over her life before dementia did?’. So many what-ifs and wonders, but when she got out her key from her pocket and opened the door and shouted, “Come in, come in and sit down – lets listen to music!”, I smiled once again because she still had something to be excited about.
Since working here at Dow Rummel and having those initial conversations about making a move, I can’t help but feel successful at my job as I get to be the one reassuring their concerns; giving them praise and kuddos for starting the process (even if Dad and/or Mom does not want to move out of their home of 40 years), and also giving that assurance that their loved ones will make new friends and will eat three times a day (or more)!
As I show families our beautiful new enhanced building, I watch the concerns lift from their faces as they see our clean environment and the business that residents find themselves in. When new folks move into a two-bedroom assisted living apartment and find that it will still be a home as long as their spouse is next to them. I, and many others, try our best to remember each resident’s name and greet them as we see them, letting them know – this is their home. I see their faces when we give families those smiles when they visit. They find that Mom is not in her apartment because she’s playing bingo across campus, hoping for a blackout this time. When they get a call from the social worker requesting bigger clothes because Dad is growing out of his, due to too many ice cream treats. Or when allowing a short visit here and there but leaving knowing their sister will receive her meds on time.
It really is adding years onto life because it all starts with, ‘we treat others the way we want to be treated’.