Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Starting at a very young age, I heard this over and over. I give credit to my grandma for raising me, as much as parents did. A favorite memory includes being on their farm during the summer months. The special bond between a grandchild and grandparent is just that…special. We love our family.

Many years later, as an adult, my parents sat me down. They told me she needed to move to an assisted living community. My heart broke even though I knew she wasn’t the same. She repeated herself often. She was spending more alone time in her apartment because her car was removed from her. 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 ‘everything is okay’, is heartbreaking.  More so, because they know.

Fast forward to the move. I called her regularly, out of guilt, to check in and hear about her day. I never want to forget the morning I called to wish her a good day.  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 she was excited to start her day. She had something to look forward to. She didn’t have to get into a car to risk her safety or the safety of others, but simply play a game of pinochle. She also gained weight – in a good way! She made friends. When I visited, she greeted staff members by their names. I knew she was going to be okay. Selfishly, I needed to let go of my sadness.

Since then, she has moved to memory care. Another internal challenge – rattled by guilt and sadness for her.  I watched her suffer from a disease she didn’t ask for. Once again, the move happened, ended by many tears. I went to visit her over Easter weekend. She sat in the living room, watching tv. She was smiling while twirling her hair with her finger, watching Gunsmoke. When she saw my face, she beamed. As I followed her back to her apartment, the sadness and guilt lifted. 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 or be as juicy as she has become? Would she never have moved at all and look wilted and frail because she would forget to eat? Would her COPD take over her life before dementia did?’. So many what-ifs. But, when she got out her key from her pocket and opened the door and shouted, “Come in, come in, and sit down – let’s listen to music!”, I smiled once again. She still had something to be excited about.

Since working at Dow Rummel and having initial conversations about making a move, I can’t help but feel successful at my job. I reassure families and residents about concerns; giving them praise and kudos for starting the process (even if dad and/or mom does not want to move out of their home of 40 years). I also give assurance 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 concerns lift from their faces. They see a clean environment. And I am comforted when folks move into two-bedroom assisted living apartment, finding it to still be a home – especially when their spouse is next to them. At Dow Rummel we try our best to remember each resident’s name – greeting them as we see them –  letting them know, this is their home. I see the joy on their faces when we give families smiles when they visit. They find mom away from her apartment because she’s playing bingo across campus – hoping for a blackout this time. They may get a call from a social worker requesting bigger clothes, because dad is growing out of his due to too many ice cream treats. When allowing a short visit here and there, they leave knowing their loved one will receive meds on time.

It really is adding years onto life, because it all starts with, ‘Treat others the way we want to be treated’.