“Her quality of life, I hate to admit this, I think it's better than living with me,” Garry explains as he glances over at his wife, Marcia. “When she was living with me, she was just seeing me. We were going out to lunch or doing other things, but it was always with me.”
Marcia had always been a go-getter, working out at the gym as much as five days a week before she got sick. When she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in her late 50s, Garry and Marcia made the same decision that many people in their situation often make — for Marcia to stay at home as long as possible.
Garry realized that as Marcia’s needs increased, professional help would be necessary. Still, he didn’t fully appreciate how much pressure it would relieve until Marcia actually moved into Villa at Terracina Grand, an innovative memory care community in Naples, Florida.
Now, Marcia has a much larger support system, and Garry notices the difference. “Here, she's around not only the other residents, but the staff,” he says. “She's around countless people, so she's having those little interactions on a continual basis, and I think her quality of life is definitely improved.”
Understanding the Journey
While every family is on their own journey, there are still many experiences that all families have in common and can find encouragement in. Garry hopes other families will find comfort in his words.
“When you do move your loved one, it's a huge relief to know that it's not ‘100 percent on me right now,’” he says, “because even when you have (in-home) caregivers, it's still 100 percent on you.”
Garry says that moving to Villa at Terracina Grand removed a kind of pressure that other caregivers will easily understand. “When someone’s at home and you have to take care of them, you have to say ‘no’ a lot. I was saying, ‘no you can’t do this, no you can’t do that.’ Here, no one’s saying ‘no.’ If she wants to walk around here, all day long, all night long, she can do it.”
“It makes me feel good to know she's being taken care of not only physically,” he says. “They’re providing her meds and all of those things, but you can actually see how people care about people here.”
Learning from Experience
Garry already had plenty of experience with Alzheimer’s disease after helping Marcia care for her mother, who passed away years ago, so he knew what to expect when Marcia started developing symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He brought in full-time caregivers, but admits the responsibility still fell completely on him. “When you take care of somebody,” he says, ”in your mind, nobody's going to do it as well.”
Now that she’s 67 years old, Marcia is reaching the late progression of Alzheimer’s. When it became clear that she needed additional care, Garry turned to Villa at Terracina Grand. He was already familiar with the property because Marcia’s father had lived nearby at Terracina Grand, another senior living community that is also managed by The Goodman Group. “We had Marcia’s dad right next door,” Garry said. “He passed away several years ago, but his care was top-notch.”
Besides the quality of care, Garry says he was drawn to the innovative activities and even the physical beauty of Villa. “The buildings themselves sold me right away,” he says, “especially the part about the courtyard and the freedom that the people have.”
For Marcia, both were an ideal fit. “This is a woman who still went to the gym five days a week. I was still taking her for walks two miles a day. And the fact that she would have a community like this where she could still walk as much as she wanted, having the freedom to do so without being told ‘you can't go here, you can't go there,’ that was a real selling point.”
Garry is also convinced that the quality of the surroundings helped with her transition. “The physical building is very important,” he explains, “because my wife is coming from a place where she was around nice things. It's nice to be around nice things.”
Ask The Most Important Questions
Still, his advice for other families is to focus on the people, and how they engage residents. “You've got to go there and actually see the people working day to day and how they're reacting. Are they just ignoring people? Are they interacting with them? Are they calling them by their first names? Are they treating them like friends as opposed to somebody they've got to take care of?”
“Watch their interactions with the residents and that will tell you all you need to know. They actually care about the people here. You can see it every day."