At the moment, I can only wait patiently and repeat my heart felt goodbyes to my 91 year old mom as she lies in a semi coma on her 10th day of hospice. Although I am so sad to lose my mother, I am at the same time so grateful for the time I have had with my mother after moving her to Southern Oregon; I had no idea how much the difference in health care systems would change her last year and a half on earth.
My mom’s decline began in the SF Bay Area; she suffered from a constant foot ulcer. In California, this small wound on the bottom of my mother’s foot mandated she move from her senior apartment to a skilled nursing facility. She was in one of the nicest skilled nursing facilities in the area. However, it was more like a hospital room with a roommate who required loud equipment, and many of the residents had severe dementia. Each time I would visit my heart sunk with grief. This led me to research health care in Southern Oregon. This is when I began to understand how vastly different Oregon Health Care was and we moved Mom to Pioneer Village in Jacksonville. Here, she was allowed to stay in a private apartment and was visited by home health care nurses to dress her wound. There is no mandate to stay in a skilled nursing care facility in Oregon. I also learned that Oregon was a pioneer for both Senior Foster Care homes and Home Health care.
Next, we took my mother to a local podiatrist, Dr. Patrick Code, and explained that Kaiser would not operate on her because she was too old. He disagreed with this assessment and explained that it would be a simple procedure. Just like that, after more than a year of convalescing, he operated on her and she had a full recovery, even going back to walking with a walker. Again, while recovering, she returned to her apartment and Home Health Care came daily to dress her wounds.
As my mom aged, her teeth were failing and our options were dentures or implants. At 90, my mom did not need to go through this drastic procedure. Her dentist, Dr. Wooton, also worked some magic and managed to allow my mom to save her teeth until the end.
Like most 90 year olds, my mother’s hearing was going. We often had conversations the whole neighborhood could hear because I had to yell so loud to be heard. We were discouraged by Kaiser and were told stories that often older people do not adapt well to hearing aids; but, the next miracle came from Dr. Elizabeth Tangel of Imaginears who outfitted her with hi-tech hearing aids that she adapted too instantly and regained her hearing. This alone was an amazing change for my mom. She could now be a part of family and friends’ conversations.
And so began my mother’s new life in southern Oregon. She made fast friends with two women that were seated at the same dining table. Jean (my mother), Marilyn, and Hazel quickly became known as the “Go-Go- Girls” at Pioneer Village. No, they were not dancers, but they signed up for every event and trip that Pioneer Village offered. A few times a week Pioneer would take these three to Oregon Shakespeare Festival plays, Wildlife Images, Seven Feathers, Wine socials, Jacksonville Parades, Wineries, Crater Lake and more. She had a lot of time to make up from those days in a California Skilled Nursing facility where she sat alone in her hospital bed.
Pioneer’s staff both entertained and cared for my mom with a great deal of love. She made lasting friends and some of her care givers will miss her as much as I will. I would often go visit and a care giver would be visiting mom and holding her hand. When my mom was lonely or couldn’t sleep,
Ashley at the front desk would keep a book that belonged to my mom in her top drawer and she would read to her. My mom also had Zara Lowery, from a local salon, who came to Mom’s apartment once a week to style her hair and keep her feeling and looking her best for all those Pioneer events.
Her principal doctor, Rachelle Roulier, a PA, gave mom such loving care and tried to slow the advance of dementia but she finally lost the battle. My mom had to move to an adult foster care home. Yes, another miracle; the day we called Jacksonville Home Care they were moving a resident out. My mom got to live in one of the nicest resident care homes I have ever seen. It is owned and operated by Rebecca and Paul Sandu. She was lovingly cared for and Rebecca slept in her room for the first couple of nights to make sure she transitioned well; unfortunately, it was only a matter of days when we had to call in Hospice to help keep her as comfortable as possible until the end.
It does take a village. I was so impressed by Providence hospital, Rogue Regional Medical Center, Jacksonville’s and Mercy flights’ EMTs, Signature Home Health Care, Accent Health, Right At home, Pioneer Village, Jacksonville Home Care, Medford Medical Clinic, even 5th Street Salon, and the myriad of care givers that lovingly cared from my mom.
I have learned a lot in the short time my mom has been taken care of by an army of health care workers; but, my greatest lesson is learning that Southern Oregon has one of the most extensive and caring Health Care Systems and they are so equipped to take care of the ones we love. We also have some of the most loving care givers who dedicate their lives to caring for the elderly.
Thank you again, all of you, for all your love and care that you gave to my mom and for making her last years of life ones filled with love and joy.