Monday, June 30, 2008

A PLACE FOR MOM

It seems as if, just when we’ve turned our independent children out on their own, we welcome two new family members back into the flock—our grandchildren and our parents. Like many others of my Baby Boomer generation, my husband and I are seeing our once vibrant parents age, fall ill, and become dependent on us like we once were on them.

When Tom’s mother became bed-ridden, we didn’t have a clue what to do to help her. She was eager to return to her own comfortable and familiar home, so we hired an LVN to come in every day to see to her needs. But when that became too much for even the experienced worker, we moved Mary to a nearby care facility with a home-like setting. Eventually, due to her increasing health issues, she had to enter a full-care nursing facility. The whole process was confusing, overwhelming, expensive, and heartbreaking. We simply weren’t prepared for this stage of our lives and our parents’ lives.

Luckily, we’ve discovered A Place for Mom, thanks to Maureen Johnston, a woman who seems to have been born with a smile on her face. Maureen had worked in real estate for years before deciding she wanted to do something more meaningful with the second half of her life. Like us, she and her husband Rob had been through a similar experience with Rob’s mother, Bobbie. “Bobbie suffers from a form of dementia,” Maureen said, “so I began by hiring caregivers. But none of them lasted long because she couldn’t get along with them. Plus, it was eating up her bank account.”

They moved Bobbie from home care to assisted living, but when she broke her hip, her dementia worsened and she was moved from the hospital to a lockdown rehab facility. “That was a shock,” Maureen said. “She kept saying ‘Get me out of here!’ We finally found a residential care home in Danville. After I learned about A Place for Mom, we found out about hospice. Now she has weekly medical care, RN visits, a social worker, and a spiritual adviser, all free from Medicare.”

Through her experiences finding the right place for her mother-in-law, Maureen also found she enjoyed working with elderly people. “I love talking with them. They just come to life. And the stories you hear are amazing. One 93-year-old lady was a Holocaust survivor who kept talking about her baby. Her neighbor said she’d had an eight-month-old baby that was taken from her then. One day I bought her a baby doll and she hugged it with tears in her eyes. Now she sleeps with it.”

Once Bobbie was settled, Maureen trained for a position at A Place for Mom. She now has a list of services in the Valley. After finding out what the needs are—everything from how much money they want to spend to what kind of facility they need—she tries to match them with the right place. “I do get personally involved sometimes and it often affects me. But there’s as much joy as sorrow, and I get a lot of nice emails from the families I’ve helped.”

It’s not too late for us to call Maureen at A Place for Mom and see what else might be available for Mary, such as hospice care. And if you need her help with finding eldercare options for your aging parents, you can contact her too. She’s especially good at putting a smile on a face that’s been missing one.

Maureen Johnston can be reached at A Place for Mom, 866-633-7856 or at maureenj@aplaceformom.com.

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