Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Russ & Sue and Mike and Lucy

There were two couples at Garden Terrace that I wanted to make special note of.  They are Russ and Sue, and Mike and Lucy.

Sue is a patient at Garden Terrace.  She suffers from dementia, and has some problems with her feet and legs as well.  She stays in a high-back wheelchair most of the time.  Sue's husband, Russ, comes in everyday at lunchtime to help feed Sue.  He often times brings fresh fruit and other foods that Sue is especially fond of.  Like mom, Russ has suffered from his own health problems in the past year.  Yet he keeps coming to be with Sue, day after day, week after week, and month after month.  After lunch, they often will retire to Sue's room and watch a movie together.  They have brought in a big screen TV, and an extensive video collection. 

Russ is a nice guy.  He's quick witted and quick with a joke or funny comment.  We would always exchange greetings when we saw each other.

Lucy is another patient at Garden Terrace.  Lucy has some kind of musculo-skeletal disease.  Her body is crippled up and contorted.  Her mind however, seems to be pretty sharp.  Lucy needs help with doing most everything, including eating.  Lucy's husband, Mike is an exemplary fellow.  He gets up early in the morning, and spends most of the day there with Lucy.  Every day.  He is serving her as best he can, and is totally devoted to Lucy. 

Of all the patients in the Morning Glory Unit of Garden Terrace,  only Sue, Lucy, and dad had family members there each day to help feed them lunch.  We developed a kind of kindred spirits with Russ and Mike, as we shared in our labors of love.  I have to say that both Mike and Russ were upbeat most of the time.  They would laugh and joke around with each other, and with the staff easily.  It would be easy for people in their situation to be glum and depressed.  Yet through it all, they were able to bear their burdens with cheerfulness in their hearts. 

Russ, like us will be needing to move Sue into a care center that accepts medicaid.  He will be moving her around the firs of the year. 

Lucy's room was right next door to dad's room at Garden Terrace.  On the day we moved dad out, I stopped by Lucy's room, and talked to Mike for a moment.  We exchanged our greetings and our good-byes.  I told Mike that he was a great example of love and devotion, and that it has been a privilege to know him. 

I'm proud to have associated with Russ and Mike.  I will miss seeing them.  I wish them well in their journeys.

Garden Terrace -- One Year Later

Dad was at the Garden Terrace Care Center from November 11, 2009 thru November 12, 2010.  He received good care there, and was comfortable.

We eventually worked into a regular routine with dad.  One of us (Usually mom, Mark or myself) would spend lunch time with dad.  Dad cannot feed himself.  He needs help with eating and drinking all of his meals.  The nurses have to grind up his medications, and mix them in with some applesauce or pudding. 

The staff had become quite attached to dad, and were sad to see him leave.  There were many hugs and tears as we readied dad to go.  There were three CNA's who were especially attentive to dad's needs.  Azatui, Kelly, and Val took especially good care of him.   There was also an RN, Jane, who took special care to look after dad's needs.  The staff also complimented us as a family, for our attentiveness to dad's needs.  They tell us that many of the patients don't have much contact with family at all.  We will miss the people at Garden Terrace to whom we have grown close.

I have come to consider the time I spend with dad as sacred time.  In his current state of mind, he is innocent, like a little child.  He still has his same sweet personality (most of the time), even if he doesn't really understand where he is, or even who we are sometimes. 

We hated to move dad from Garden Terrance, but financial necessity required the change.  Dad will soon become Medicaid eligible for long-term care.  Unfortunately, Garden Terrace does not take Medicaid and we needed to locate a new facility that will take Medicaid.

There were some unforgettable individuals who we met at Garden Terrace.  There were two patients that we knew,  Norm Stark and Calvin Weeks.  Norm grew up in Evanston, Wyoming and knew some of dad's family there.  Norm was about 10 years older than dad.  Norm was a geologist, and worked for the the US Forrest Service and various mining interests in Utah and Colorado.  I don't believe Norm was LDS.  He had a buddy that would come in once in awhile, and bring Norm a Beer.  Eventually, Norm started to waste away.  One day I helped him remove the bib that they give the patients to eat meals with.  After I got the bib removed, I patted him on his shoulder, and was surprised at how boney he was.  I understand that Norm broke his hip, and died not long after that.  We missed him.

Calvin was a high school science teacher.  He was from Smithfield, Utah.  Calvin had an easy-going personality and was friendly with everyone.  He ate lunch at our table for awhile.  We had fun talking about science together.  Calvin also grew up on a diary farm.  I had fun talking about cows and ranching with him too.  Calvin could scoot himself around in his wheelchair pretty well.  He would propel himself with his feet.  He would go around and visit with people.  He was a very sweet man.  Last Spring, Calvin's health started to decline. He got so he couldn't move himself around, and he couldn't feed himself anymore.  I noticed that he had a lot of abdominal swelling as well.  Calvin, too, passed away.  

We miss both Calvin and Norm, but we know they are in a better place now.  The sad truth is, that with Alzheimers, the only exit from this disease is to pass through the veil, into the next life.  There they will be able to use their mental faculties at their peak, without the effects of this disease.  They will know who they are, and they will know others around them once more.