Posted: April 20, 2020
Stephanie had a special relationship with her mom. Not only were they close like many mothers and daughters, but they also worked together in senior living. Watching her mom use her wit and work ethic to care for residents, families and team members inspired Stephanie to choose senior living as a career. As colleagues, they would brainstorm ideas on improvements that could be made in the industry and how to better support residents and family members. Although she dedicated her life to seniors living in communities, Stephanie’s mom had one request: If the time came that she could not care for herself, she wanted to be cared for at home.
The time did come, and it came in the form of multiple mini-strokes that left her mom unable to walk. The family arranged for in-home care which helped, but the strokes continued and the situation began to take a toll on Stephanie’s dad who was the primary caregiver. It became clear that Mom needed more care than the family was able to provide. A decision needed to be made, and quickly.
In spite of her years of experience in long-term care, education, and connections with providers, Stephanie could not think of what to do next. Whom should she call? What should she tell them? She helps families with these decisions every day, yet suddenly she was stuck. The emotional toll was almost too much, but Stephanie knew she had to take the hard steps of letting go in order for her mom to move forward and get the care she needed. She had to let go of control, and be okay with the profound sadness that comes from feeling as though she was letting her mom down. She had to let go of the guilt of not being able to follow through with her mom’s desire to be cared for at home, she needed to stop feeling sorry for the loss of what was and become a care advocate for her mom.
Stephanie also had to grieve the loss of the mom that took care of her and her brother, the mom that was her hero, colleague, and friend. Of course, her mom was still Mom, and they still had great conversations and enjoyed spending time together, even though it looked a bit different.
One day, I was sitting with my mom during lunch, and I saw her change before my eyes…I knew she was having a stroke. We brought her to her room and waited to see what would happen. She was able to say a few words. The next day, mom could no longer talk and she was having a hard time opening her eyes. She could no longer eat. I knew she was making her transition to becoming an angel. We called our family so they could spend time with her and say their goodbyes. A week later, her angel wings were ready; it was time for her to go to heaven. We told her it was ok to go be with her dad and other family members that had gone before, and to tell everyone we said hello. We told her we would be ok, even though we would miss her terribly. We gained peace by knowing we did everything we could to make those last days the best we could.
Stephanie Chambers is an Executive Director with Capella Senior Living. She writes a blog, “Insiders Insight” for families, providers, and advocates of those in long-term care. She is a doctoral candidate in healthcare leadership at Ashland University.