Making the Transition to Senior Living

Experiencing Brookdale

After Al’s fall, Brookdale Willowbrook, in Houston, was top-of-mind for Judy and her husband Grady. A few years earlier, Grady’s mother had moved there after her own fall.

“A very good friend who was a social worker said, ‘If I had to take my mother somewhere, I would go to Brookdale Willowbrook,” recalls Judy. “And they were just great caregivers there. It was very hard for her to do any physical therapy because she was just so afraid of falling.”

Though she never regained the confidence to walk, Judy’s mother-in-law enjoyed four years at Brookdale Willowbrook before she passed away at age 97. “All the staff got to know her and I always knew she was in good hands because of the way they handled her, spoke to her and treated her.”

 

Moving to Memory Care

Though Judy knew Brookdale Willowbrook was the best place for her father, moving Al and his wife into memory care was a bit challenging. “I think he understood that he wasn’t going to be able to go back to his house,” says Judy, “but the move was challenging because my father suffers from age-related short-term memory loss. I had to keep repeating things like, ‘This is your room, your furniture, here’s the bookcase with the family pictures. This is your recliner…’ After a certain period of time, he developed a routine and he’s pretty established now, but it did take a while.”

After his wife passed away in hospice care about a year and a half ago, Al faced another move. Since he didn’t need specialized memory care, a staff member suggested that Al move to assisted living, where there were several men around his age. “He’s been doing well there ever since,” says Judy. “All the caregivers know him, he’s always got a smile and waves hello. He’s doing amazing. Even the heart doctor told him, ‘come back and see us next year.’ He’s 97!”

With a sharp mind, Al frequently plays Taboo with his friends down the hall.  And though he’s almost a century old, he’s pretty much unbeatable at checkers. “He’s always strategizing,” says Judy. “He comes up with the right answers to these memory games and brain exercises they have in the morning.”

Al also attends bible study, exercise programs and social hours, where he can be found tapping his toes at concerts. “He’s not real chatty, but he’s always patting someone on the hand or saying hello,” says Judy. “He knows all the regulars and he’s always saying ‘Good morning’ and ‘What’s going on today?’ He has his own little friendships going on.” 

 

Doing Right By Dad

A World War II vet, Al was an avid golfer and a devout Catholic who joined the Knights of Columbus and became a regular at his church’s Friday fish frys. Al even met his second wife at church. “My dad walked me down the aisle when I was married, and I had the privilege of walking him down the aisle,” says Judy, who is quick to praise her father’s generosity and comic timing. “He’s a man of high integrity, who even now sees a need and steps in to offer assistance.”

Perhaps that’s why Judy struggled with feelings of guilt after moving her dad from Houston to her neighborhood 20 to 30 miles away. “You always want to know that you’re doing the right thing,” she says. “My goal is to always try to do the right thing by him. Moving him from his friends, neighbors and church, that was really hard to do, and I had a lot of guilt about it. But I needed to know I could be there in an instant, so under the circumstances, I think it was the right thing.”

Now that he lives close by, Judy and her husband Grady visit Al every morning and evening, and they often take him back to his church in Houston. “We go to services there and he gets to shake hands with his buddies. Reconnecting keeps those cognitive processes up and he just smiles when he visits them.” 

 

Making the Transition 

While Judy admits that her father’s fall forced the issue, both are glad they made the transition. “The people at Brookdale are hard working and very kind — they work with their hearts,” she says. “I always try to let them know they make a difference. I know that they’ll watch over him and call me if anything comes up. That gives me peace of mind.”

When it comes to families facing a similar situation, Judy advises them to vet any potential senior living facility. “Never drop someone off with just a suitcase, especially if it’s someone you care about,” she says. “Research locations, talk to management, take a tour and visit with other families to see what works best for you.”

Every night, as Judy helps her dad get ready for bed, he always says ‘thank you,’ and she never leaves without first exchanging ‘I love yous.’ “We’ve been blessed that he still knows who we are, he’s got a routine and people to watch over him,” Judy says. “There’s never an easy answer when it comes to things like this, but in the end, I think I’ve done right by my dad.”

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