This article originally appeared on The Piedmont Lifestyle.
For most people, the decision to place a loved one in assisted living is the hardest thing they will ever have to do. The guilt they feel over “letting go” is ever present, and the sense of loss and impending loneliness hangs over them like a dark cloud. “I’m not ready,” they say. “We just want to stay together.”
Unfortunately, many people wait too long to finally admit that they just can’t do it alone anymore. They wait until there is a crisis, like their loved one wandering away from home, a bad fall, or the primary caregiver having a health emergency.
That is exactly what happened to Carol as she attempted to continue caring for her husband after surgery. Michael, who suffers from dementia, returned home from rehab in early 2016. By May, exhausted and stressed, Carol suffered a heart attack. When she came home from the hospital, Carol knew she had to make some changes. None of the nearby assisted living communities with memory care units had empty beds. So she contacted the Poet’s Walk community relations director, Cindy Murphy, here in Warrenton; the facility was still under construction at the time.
Carol inquired about the opening date and said, “Cindy was so kind and perceptive. She drove me down for a tour of the Poet’s Walk in Fredericksburg, where Michael could stay until the Warrenton community opened. She has truly been my guardian angel.” She also said, “I am always so pleasantly surprised by the dedication of the staff here at Poet’s Walk in Warrenton. Everyone seems to have a passion for helping the elderly. Even the cleaning ladies are extremely thorough and detail-oriented. Michael isn’t sleeping as much as he did at home because he’s engaged in activities. He likes it here a lot.”
“I am so grateful that Michael is being well cared for, so grateful that he will not become a burden to our kids if something happened to me. I realize now that it is OK for me to take care of myself, that I have to. Now, when I come to see him, I can truly enjoy him, without being responsible for his care. When I eat lunch with him, or just sit with him, it feels like we are on a date.”
Cindy Murphy, agrees most people wait until there is an emergency to make a change: “The primary caregiver should be asking themselves if they are suffering from lack of sleep, their own health has declined, or if their loved one is no longer safe at home. It may be time to start looking for appropriate placement.” Murphy also explained, “Poet’s Walk is the only stand-alone memory care assisted living community in our area. We focus on caring for people with dementia – it’s the one thing we do, and we do it extremely well. We have a home-like atmosphere that doesn’t feel like a secure environment.”
Having come from the home health care industry, Murphy loves her one-on-one interaction and relationship-building with the families. “This is the most meaningful job I’ve ever had,” she said. “It is so rewarding to see the changes in the family relationships now that they are no longer care-provider and patient and are simply free to enjoy each other’s company.”
A 24-hour staff of care partners ensure every client’s personal needs are being met. They help with such things as bathing, toileting, dressing, or simply a walk or a chat. JoAnn Gaines, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) for over 30 years, said,, “I want to make sure I am the best that I can be in caring for the residents. I work hard to help them feel good about themselves and show them that they are still people who are loved and cared for. I thank God for putting me here at Poet’s Walk where I can serve.”
Executive chef, Andrew Nicholson, has a passion for culinary arts and he uses his military background and culinary skills to provide nutritious high-class meals to the residents. His personal mission is to make a difference in an Alzheimer’s community and he takes it very seriously. “Providing meals and interacting with the residents is the highlight of my day,” he said. “Knowing that I am able to use my skills to make an impact on others’ lives and give back keeps a smile on my face.”
The innovative technology employed by Poet’s Walk also sets them apart from other health care facilities. Director of environmental services, Mark Frazier, explains the way the safety system works. “First there are pull cords in the residents’ rooms and bathrooms, which call the nursing staff’s phones, showing the resident’s room number. We also employ motion sensors in each room and a sensor in the toilets, which help us monitor sleep patterns. If someone is deemed a fall risk, a new technology safety device is installed on the bed which sends a message to the same phones whenever the resident has gotten up.” With over 10 years of experience working in much larger buildings, Mark now enjoys the time he gets to spend with the residents; really listening to them and meeting their needs.
Executive director, Terra Brown commented, “I was intrigued by the company’s motto ‘caring with a commitment to quality’because it’s hard to find a place where you get both. The community promotes independence, dignity, and compassion from the top down. I hand-pick each staff member with care, seeking out individuals who will show extreme patience with the residents and their families. We want each staff member to convey a positive message about Poet’s Walk, that this is a workplace they are proud of.”