Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanks-living: The Gardens

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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I introduce you to The Gardens -or so we call it. Because adding Memory Care Unit to anything sounds so… Dreary. It’s like adding FREAKIN’ TINY before you say apartment. No one wants to own that shit. Thus, we drop Memory Care Unit. 


Popsicle’s new home is at The Gardens. He’s been a resident there for the better part of this year. And it’s a place I never thought I’d find myself thankful for -if we’re honest. Because, really, how are you thankful for somewhere he’s gone from the home he built, the family he loves, and the town he once knew like the back of his hand. 

But, for The Gardens, I am thankful. Because it is places like The Gardens that picks up where we, the family, are no longer capable. You see, dementia is an odd disease. It's a disease that robs the sufferer little by little of their mental abilities. It escapes with logic, with sensibility, with concern for safety. And, as a family the disease goes from manageable and as easy to care for as a child, but then, it progresses. Rules are no longer understood or manageable, safety is nearly impossible, communication is tense and flustered. When, finally, we admit defeat.

We came up short in caring for Dad's dementia. A weakness I will gladly admit and beg for help from those more capable than I. And, on Christmas Eve last year, we, as a family, did just that. Waved our white flag and reached out to those around us that knew more about the next steps. Many tears, a few moves, and two weeks later, we began our relationship with The Gardens: a place that welcomed Popsicle and his disease while promising more than we could manage at home.

For the short-coming and subsequent humility in seeking help, I am thankful.

For The Gardens, I am deeply grateful.

I’m thankful for the safety it promises. He can’t get lost in the streets surrounding the facility like he can at home. He can’t skip a meal because everyone’s got to be in the dining hall at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. He can’t wander out of the warmth of the building into the freezing cold, pouring rain late at night like he did a few times at home. 
I’m thankful for the professionals. Though sometimes their opinions clash with ours, their views with his written final requests, they know what they’re doing. And, as hard as it is to admit, we didn’t. As Sundowners would set in and he’d pack to leave for the night (to go where we don’t know), redirecting him to stay home could be challenging. When a memory would become a fresh, present moment in his sick mind and agitation would surface, calming him and reminding him of today was delicate and tense. 

I’m thankful for the care. Some of the staff does their job and that’s it. Others invest in him and care for him in the same way we, as his family, do. They throw up high fives in the hallways, shake hands with him as he passes, create needs for help because he found value in assisting others. As he walks the halls with his chair at the lead (because rearranging furniture is always a good time), they encourage his movement and giggle at his antics (as we all do). 

The Gardens was a place I never wanted to know. Their lawn, their halls, their sun-kissed patio. Life would have felt just as full and lovely without such familiarity, but, if I had to know somewhere, The Gardens is it. 
Next time you’re in a place that’s one of those places you’d really rather not be (let’s not get to talking about emergency rooms and our frequent flier miles there), look for the promises in it. Maybe it’s the promise of safety or of adventure, the promise of laughter or of uninterrupted sorrow, the promise of family or of friends. Regardless, take away a thankful memory even if memories aren’t it’s strong suit. 

12 comments:

  1. Beautifully written. I can't imagine how tough it is to care for your father, but it's wonderful that you found a place and people who can care for him beyond the scope of what family can provide. (And seriously, The Gardens could hire you as their spokesperson...)

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  2. i hope some of the caretakers at that place get to read this. because it would make them so happy to see that they are bringing value and comfort to your dad.

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  3. I love that you can find the good in such a sad place, and be thankful for it. <3

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  4. It breaks my heart to read this but I'm in awe of you and your families strength. You are a brave, wise, strong soul. I am simply in awe.

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  5. Heartbreakingly beautiful, Amber. You show such courage and strength in these difficult times.

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  6. Props to you, girl. You are an amazing person to be able to view things this way. It will take you far in life! :)

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  7. This is beautiful. My grandmother is in the "memory care section" of her assisted living facility. I understand the sad knowledge that you can't care for someone the way the professional caregivers do. I'm infinitely grateful that there are people who devote their life to caring for people like your dad and my grandmother.

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  8. You have such a great attitude to find the good in a sad situation! You're amazing

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  9. Rachael @ Pretty in PinkNovember 14, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    I'm sure that's extremely tough to deal with and I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

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  10. Lovely - while it breaks my heart, your words ring true and I'm so happy that you've embraced this view because while I know there's lots of pain, I also see positivism. I know your family has been completely broken by all this and there really isn't anything that one can say to "soothe" it over...yep, it shitty sucks, that's for sure! But I'm so impressed at how you and your mom have chosen to walk down this positive path, I know there are days that you want to scream, cry, run, whatever. Hang in there!

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  11. You always remember the good side of this situation and it's admirable. My grandpa had Alzheimer and if he didn't die from a cancer, he would probably be living in a place like The Garden's. It's always a difficult decision to make, it's for the best, for his well being, his safety and yours as well ! ;)

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