by Elizabeth Cossick
Many of us – 34.2 million Americans, to be exact – provide care for aging loved ones, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Caregivers and seniors alike often experience a tangle of emotions at the idea of transitioning into a senior living community. While images of growing older at home seem idyllic, delaying support can also be dangerous.
For Gail Gullett, the primary custodian for her Aunt Jo, 83, and Uncle Cliff, 84, she admits that their delay was nearly tragic. “For years, my aunt and uncle have had a paid caregiver in their home three days a week. Aunt Jo has Alzheimer’s, but Uncle Cliff really wanted to keep her at home. What we didn’t realize, though, was that taking care of his wife had actually taken him down, too. One night, Uncle Cliff fell and stayed there for over four hours until he was found,” says Gail. “Then, he fell again the next day, this time requiring a hospital stay. The hospital staff agreed that he could not be alone anymore.”
Gail began researching nursing homes but struggled to find a fit.
“I was so upset, I didn’t know what to do. Then, my son suggested I look into Westminster Memory Care in Dallas. I had assumed that a gorgeous place like that would be way too much, but my son encouraged me to just call.”
The next day, Gail went for a tour. “When I talk about it, it still absolutely brings tears to my eyes. When I went into Westminster, the experience of that place was unreal,” she says. “They were so caring, so kind-hearted. They said, ‘You stop worrying. We will help you coordinate everything.’”
Gail was shocked to discover that Westminster was significantly less expensive than the nursing homes she had been considering.
A NEW LEASE ON LIFE
Soon after the tour, Gail moved her uncle and aunt into Westminster. “Uncle Cliff grumbled at first, but after two weeks, he loved the place. We walk together in the garden, and he says, ‘I have some old coins, and I want you to show them to Sarah [the Wellness Director]. She is just so special,’” recounts Gail. “The other day while I was at work, I received a picture of Aunt Jo sitting in her wheelchair bowling. And recently when I went in, they had Aunt Jo playing badminton! They were pitching the birdie, and she was hitting it! This is their life every single day at Westminster.”
Gail now has “100 percent peace of mind” that her aunt and uncle are cared for. “Everyone in this place is a miracle to my family,” she says. “More than that, they’ve become family.”
“When it comes to your aging loved one, everything matters,” says Kara Marinko, executive director at Westminster Memory Care. “We feel like our role is to become an extension of our seniors’ families. Yes, our residents receive top-notch physical care, and our staff are all trained Certified Dementia Practitioners. But, we realize the deeper need is emotional. Our purpose is to love our residents, plain and simple.”