People Rise to the Occasion….If You Let Them

I am excited to share some thoughts today, because they are driven by a question I received from a colleague of mine. She asked, “I remember when we worked together, your mom was in that skilled nursing place in San Diego. What made you move her to assisted living?”

My answer: People rise to the challenge.

To be fair, this isn’t my quote. I heard these words for the first time after visiting many, many facilities. The source of the quote was a woman by the name of Andrea, and she was the admissions director where my mom currently lives. It is to Andrea that I owe an enormous debt of gratitude for making my mom and my life all the better. (If you’re reading this, Andrea, thank you!)

Rewind back to December 2005. My mom had been in skilled nursing for more than five months. For those that don’t know, skilled nursing is a mix between a hospital and an apartment. Patients usually share a room, and nearly all require treatments from a registered nurse. While my mom was there, one of her roommates passed away and several others were taken to the hospital. They did not return.

After driving 120 miles round trip, 4-5 times a week, usually after a full day at work, I decided to move my mom closer to me. I asked the head nurse for a care recommendation. She recommended skilled nursing.

She went so far as to tell me that my mom would likely be permanently bedridden and that I should explore hospice. Having been young and inexperienced about any of these things, I started looking for skilled nursing facilities closer to my home in Orange County.

By chance, I called one assisted living facility and a woman answered the phone. It was Andrea.

She convinced me that my mom had no medical necessity for skilled nursing. Sure, she had problems walking, but that was a physical therapy issue. She told me something repeatedly, and I’ll always remember the words.

People rise to the challenge. You just have let them.

So I reviewed my mom’s medical records with her doctor, the assisted living facility, the physical therapist and Andrea. It was a go! My mom was going to need a lot of help, but I was convinced that she would rise to the challenge. She had her whole life.

I’ll always remember the ride there. Since my mom needed to be lifted (yes, lifted) into a wheelchair, driving my car was not an option. So I rented a shuttle, and my mom and I rode a little over an hour in the back of a wheelchair-accessible Super Shuttle (yes, the ones you take to the airport).

She was scared. I was scared. But in my heart I knew she could do it.

When she first entered assisted living, she couldn’t walk. In fact, she couldn’t roll herself out of bed. She needed two people to literally pick her up and put her in a chair.

Within a year, she could walk the hallways with a walker, walk to dinner, come over to my house for BBQs, get in and out of a car, and resume some normalcy in her life. In fact, last month she got featured in her physical therapist’s brochure. I guess she’s a testimonial for hard work and good P.T.

Why the long story?
The details of the story are important. It’s human nature to fight, struggle and be determined. And regardless of your age, most people respond to the challenges they face. In the case of my mom, it was walking. In the case of your parent, it may be something else.

Even when you feel least in control, sometimes you just have to let go.

I learned a good lesson that with a little support, people rise to the occasion…if you let them.

I’ve love to hear you, if you’d like to share.

  • Julie

    This was really helpful to read at a time when my parents are in a very similar situation. This sentiment is so true for all of us-but sometimes we forget that it applies just as much to older people and we choose to place them in a situation that we think makes life easier for them, but that ultimately does not improve their condition. Thanks for giving us such great words of wisdom to consider.