Our Dad has worn many hats, figuratively and literally, all of his life. He was a son, brother, soldier, husband, father, friend, neighbor, farmer, Legionnaire, butcher, town treasurer — and the list goes on. Over the years his head has been crowned with a Marine Corps hat, fedoras, a variety of stocking caps (even while sleeping) and baseball caps, but all accompanied by a smile.
Physically, our father is a bull of a man, extremely strong even now in his declining years. But he is known for his gentle side, especially to those weaker in mind and body than himself. After our mother died in 1997 we started to notice small tasks that Dad could no longer handle, but he was unafraid to ask for help. Simple things like writing checks and banking were given to daughters to handle. Driving had to stop, health care and household tasks were given to others to oversee, yet he was still friendly and smile.
Our lives changed as we now became advocates for the man who had protected us. We found that not all assisted living facilities are created equal. With Dad’s accelerating needs he went into a variety of facilities, but as his Alzheimer’s progressed he required more intensive care. In 2006 Dad was put in the Crisis Unit at North Central Health Care (NCHC). During that year we felt he was safe, watched over by a very professional and caring staff in the Crisis Unit; he became the “grandpa/mascot” with a smile.
At first, we were concerned when a new administrator took over the Crisis Unit and changes to staffing were made. These changes came from the top down so at times we were anxious about what would happen to our father. Was he being looked at as a person or just another body? We were relieved to see that the changes in staffing and administration resulted in invigorated and rejuvenated care.
In September 2007 Dad was transferred to Lake View Heights, where he stayed until October 2008 when he was moved to Evergreen Place specializing in late stage Alzheimer’s. Throughout, the NCHC staff has been helpful and caring — they’ve made these transitions, which become more difficult for Alzheimer‘s patients as the disease progresses — seamless. Dad trusts his caregivers at NCHC. He is content and comfortable with his caregivers and fellow unit mates.
We have learned that when we take the time to make introduce our father to the various agencies and staff as a unique and distinctive person, his reception is better. He reacts to a friendly face, a happy voice, a gentle touch — and staff reacts to his smile.
We like the changes that are happening at NCHC — they are benefiting our Dad, the other clients and their families. We feel the staff is committed, dedicated, enjoy their work, and stand out from staff at other facilities. They interact with the families as well as the clients and go above and beyond their duties to make sure the residents maintain their dignity. As taxpayers, we feel it is money well invested in those who can no longer care for themselves. It gives our family peace of mind knowing that Dad’s care givers really see him as the person he was and is, not just an older body and mind that are deteriorating.
Although our father has Alzheimer’s disease, we do not see him as a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. We have watched him spiral down for the last 12 years. It has been difficult at times, but there have been rewards. He has his ups and downs, but we are grateful when we see that smile, see the twinkle in his eye and hear his chuckle. He will always be remembered as a friendly, happy man by everyone who has known him, worked with him or cared for him. It is the slow goodbye. NCHC staff receives Dad’s seal of approval “Holy Smoker Cats!”