Not only the CEO but a customer as well

By Dwayne Clark, CEO on June 2, 2008 3:54

I have worked in the senior housing industry for nearly 22 years. My mother faithfully followed my career, starting as a Marketing Director, then an Executive Director of multiple communities, then into the corporate office and finally starting my own company. She would come and visit me at whatever community I lived in or worked in. I remember her coming and playing bingo in her 70’s and saying, how cute those old people were.

My mother never considered herself aging, she would never tell people her age, she chose to color her hair and tell people it was natural. Youth was her friend. As my mother crept into her 80’s her memory started to slip. First, little things were lost in time, then more significant memory loss started to occur. My sisters and I tried to ignore the obvious – she couldn’t possibly have Alzheimer’s, after all, she still had black hair and joked with us about finding the right man. I was a professional, a person who had studied Alzheimer’s nearly half my life, I would know if my own mother had the disease. Still, I was in denial about what lie ahead. The doctors confirmed the symptoms and diagnosed my mother with Alzheimer’s, we later went on to find out it was Parkinson’s. Still, I thought our family could handle her care. My sister Edweena bore the brunt of the condition, my mother had lived with her for 27 years, they were best buds. Edweena was a licensed social worker, she could handle it with a little outside help. My sister Linda offered respite help and emotional support since she lived hundreds of miles away. But the disease is the disease, the manifestations are what they are.

My mother never wanted to go to assisted living or a retirement home, she told me that on many occasions. We all thought she would live to be a 100 and be in her home with my sister. But as Mom’s conditions began to worsen, and I saw the toll it took on Edweena, we made a family decision to move her into Aegis.

I surprised myself, I had spent my whole adult life convincing family members that this was the right decision for their parent as well as themselves, and yet, I was skeptical. The first 100 days were extremely difficult not only for my mom, but all our family as we each took turns being with her. The feelings of guilt and abandonment were beyond extreme.

When we moved Mom in she was 82 years old, her condition so depleted that in my mind, I was mentally preparing for her passing within a year. But after that first 100 days, I saw a change. The nursing staff noticed some systems that promoted a medication change, they started to get her walking, she was more talkative being around a group of people, she even started reading to elementary school kids. My mom was actually progressing! I never thought we would see this much progress, but we did. All the things I have been so proud of since starting Aegis 11 years ago were now benefiting my own mother.

I know now that we made a great decision about placing Mom at Aegis. In two months she will celebrate her 85th Birthday. When I asked what she wanted to do for her birthday, she said, “how ’bout we go dancing.”

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