I knew I would get THE call one day. My mother, Edith Hansen, moved into the Croasdaile Continuous Care Retirement Community at age 88. She had come from Connecticut to live near me in North Carolina and she knew no one in Durham. Mom lived in an independent apartment in Croasdaile. For ten years, she managed very well, despite her multiple medical conditions, including congestive heart disease, multiple urinary tract infections, and arthritis. She participated in various community activities by using her walker and with the support of the wonderful friends and clinical health professionals. She said “Everyone is friendly here. I may not know their name but that’s why we wear name tags.”
Then I got THE call. “Your mother fell and is at the Emergency Room.” At age 98, she fell and broke her hip. The hospital Emergency Department doctor explained that people who break their hip at her age (98) rarely live more than a year. Mom wanted the surgery and was not ready to give up. At least temporarily, she could not walk or take care of herself and this meant moving to the skilled nursing Pavillion post-acute long-term care.
Due to the gentle and competent rehabilitation staff efforts and my mother’s persistence, she learned to walk and move around some. Despite the staff’s wonderful work, and Mom’s efforts, she never fully regained the ability to dress herself or go to the bathroom alone. Thus, she became a permanent resident of the Croasdaile Pavillion skilled nursing care facility. This was what I had dreaded for Mom - being stuck and probably bed-ridden.
The reality of care at the Pavillion was so much better than I feared. Due to this great care, Mom was not stuck in the bed, but up and dressed and happy to have a meal when I would come visit. One of the first discoveries was that Mom had the same the nurse practitioners and doctors who she knew and liked from the outpatient clinic – a little bit like home. The nursing aides were respectful and kept her spirits up. The LPN’s respected my mother’s requests to know exactly what medicines she was taking and why. Mom was one of the few residents that actually knew what was happening and could communicate her wishes. I think the staff appreciated Mom’s interactions, even though occasionally Mom made insistent requests that the staff could not always meet at once. As Mom got a little more forgetful, I put together a small book of photos of the staff who cared for her so she could keep them straight. She would point to some of them and say, “that’s my Mary…. there’s my girl.”
The nursing staff - NAs, LPNs, nurse practitioners and the doctors, especially Dr. Heidi White, were respectful of Mom‘s opinions and wishes, listening to her complaints patiently and following through on her requests as well knowing the broader medical picture. At the same time, they kept me informed and involved in decisions. There were so many different staff members that had to coordinate care for Mom from the nursing team to dietary to the rehab team to housekeeping, the Chaplin services, even security. I tried to connect with each of them and keep up with what was happening so that I felt I was a part of that team. Our family was so grateful that even though Mom ran out of money, the social workers at Croasdaile helped Mom to get Medicaid so that she could remain in that facility. The welcoming of the staff made it easier to visit and encourage Mom in her treatments.
The most important part of Mom living in the Pavillion was that I knew she was as safe and cared for as could be. As much as I may have wanted to care for her myself, with Mom needing help on so many of her activities of daily living, I knew I could not have done what the Pavillion staff did 24/7.
The other very fortunate part was having the skilled nursing unit in the Continuous Care Retirement Community. While Mom was in her independent apartment, she made friends. She was able to keep up with them when she went down the hall to the nursing home. Visits from these friends were an integral part of the nursing home day for Mom.
Mom died January 10, 2017 at age 101. When Mom died, I so appreciated how many of the staff were loving and gave me hugs – the aides, nurses, and even the support staff – secretaries, food services staff. They all told me how much they appreciated Mom – her spirit, her ability, and her sense of humor. In fact, I think it was this caring and comprehensive care that kept her going to age 101 - defying the statistics on longevity. Thank you Croasdaile staff – all of you for your care of Mom.