Cedarhurst memory care resident Shelby Jean hails from Nashville, Illinois, where she enjoyed a phenomenal career teaching math and English after earning her master’s degree in education. Cherished by her daughter, Shelly, and her five grandchildren—ages 13 to 22—Shelby Jean is accustomed to a life full of love and laughter. Although losing both her beloved husband and mother at the young age of 51 was difficult, Shelby Jean had her family, church, and plenty of hobbies and interests to make her life fulfilling.
Plus, in 2002, Shelby Jean moved in with Shelly and loved the change, spending lots of time with her grandchildren. Before memory issues began impacting how she interacted with and communicated with others, Shelby Jean really enjoyed being with her family and friends, and she had many hobbies and interests to keep her busy.
However, as anyone who is dealing with dementia or a loved one with dementia knows, the condition usually gets worse instead of better. When the “worse” started really interfering with Shelby Jean’s enjoyment of life, Shelly knew she had to take action to help her mom.
Shelby Jean once loved activities like aerobics and dancing but hadn’t done them in years. She didn’t mind that she could no longer do these activities because she still enjoyed so many other things, from music and board games—especially backgammon and word puzzles—to reading and watching basketball. Even though her memory issues were getting progressively worse, she was still very much enjoying life.
... Until she wasn’t.
It was gradual, but it still felt sudden. If you’re dealing with a loved one who has dementia, you know how it is. At first Shelly thought her mom was just having a few bad days, but when the bad days started turning into weeks, she got worried.
As Shelby Jean’s memory issues increased, her interest in any activities plummeted. Although Shelly, her family, and her friends tried to help, Shelby Jean lost interest in the things that once brought her joy. She stopped her hobbies like reading, listening to music, and watching movies, but even more troubling, Shelby Jean—a devoted Lutheran—even lost interest in church.
It was when she stopped spending time with her grandchildren that Shelly became truly alarmed—but then Shelby Jean stopped communicating altogether.
Watching a loved one, especially a parent, lose interest in life is devastating. For Shelly, she was watching the woman who had once taught her baton twirling and was her junior high cheerleading coach completely shut down.
Shelly was devastated, Shelby Jean was miserable, and nobody knew what to do. The situation was getting progressively worse, and when Shelly turned to her family, they also had little to offer but hugs and worry. The family hated seeing such a strong, independent woman not enjoying her life; it felt so wrong. Someone suggested a senior living community, but that also felt wrong.
Shelly didn’t know where to turn.
Shelly is a lot like her mom: She doesn’t give up when things get hard and tough decisions have to be made. As much as she hated the thought, Shelly wondered if her mom would actually thrive somewhere else, outside of their home. She loved her mother and wanted to be the one to take care of her, but no matter how much she wanted to solve all her mother’s problems, the progressively worsening memory issues proved that simply wasn’t possible.
Shelly reached the point where she couldn’t deny that she and Shelby Jean needed help. No matter how much the entire family tried, they couldn’t provide everything Shelby Jean needed to live a more fulfilling life.
It was time to turn to Google and start researching memory care communities—but only for respite care. This was just so Shelly could get her thoughts together while also seeing how her mom enjoyed living in a senior living community that also provided memory care services.
The research wasn’t easy. Shelly was surprised by the number of choices and all of the different care terms—it was easy to get overwhelmed.
But Cedarhurst put her at ease. Her conversations with them were easy, and she learned that the Cedarhurst memory care program truly focuses on person-directed care, where the program and staff is specially trained by a Certified Dementia Practitioner and takes continuing education modules focused on dementia. That level of expertise gave Shelly reassurance she didn’t realize was possible.
After only one visit, she was certain that at Cedarhurst, the staff gets to know and work with each resident as an individual, providing them with care that’s as unique as they are. She learned that Shelby Jean would have regular access to a nurse practitioner who would get to know her personally.
Additionally, the community had the first-rate amenities, beautiful environment, and welcoming, safe, supportive atmosphere Shelly knew her mom deserved. It seemed like the right fit for the respite “weekend,” and Shelly made plans for Shelby Jean.
However, Shelby Jean was nervous. Really nervous. And Shelly wondered if she was doing the right thing.
Even though it was just a short stay, Shelby Jean was worried about the reality of life in a senior living community. She’d been living with Shelly for almost 20 years, and even though her memory was getting worse and her needs were increasing, both mother and daughter felt safe with the familiar.
With her mother so nervous, Shelly was also nervous—and guilty and emotional. Was she doing the right thing? Even though it was only for a short visit to respite care, was this the right decision for her mother? Was her mother right to be nervous?
These decisions are never easy. Loved ones—especially adult children—have to make impossible decisions like this every day. It’s difficult for everyone, but Shelly was relieved by the support she and her family got from Cedarhurst, making that first visit and the initial transition as easy as it could possibly be.
All of the nerves and the second-guessing were all for naught.
Shortly after arriving for her first respite stay, Shelby Jean felt right at home. Shelly was surprised by how quickly her mom took the staff and residents at Cedarhurst.
By the end of her first respite stay, Shelby Jean didn’t want to leave—and Shelly couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She had arrived at Cedarhurst with a nervous mother who wasn’t communicating with anyone. She came back to a mother who was having a great time enjoying activities with other residents.
Shelly and the rest of her family can now rest assured knowing that Shelby Jean is in a memory care community that isn’t just fulfilling for their loved one, but that also includes additional security measures compared to standard assisted living communities. These extra measures keep Shelby Jean safe, preventing her from wandering too far away from home.
That respite-care start really made Shelby Jean’s transition to her memory care much easier than Shelly and her family anticipated. When she moved into memory care, it didn’t take long before Shelby Jean was thriving again, which is all Shelly ever wanted. Shelly now feels at ease, knowing that her mom loves her apartment and the caring Cedarhurst staff.
The best part? Shelby Jean is acting more like herself than she has in a long time. Instead of cutting herself off from her family and not communicating as her memory issues escalated, Shelby Jean is now thriving, enjoying activities with friends—especially games!—and having more fun than ever with her daughter, grandchildren, and even her two dogs, Comet and Cupid.
Cedarhurst’s specially trained memory care staff keep Shelly up to date about all aspects of her mother’s condition, informing her how Shelby Jean’s care will change as she ages—and what that will mean for everyone, from what type of additional services or care will be needed, to what to expect in terms of budget.
This is just part of the story. Learn more about Shelly, Shelby Jean, and their memory care journey by checking out their Memory Care Resident Story, and be sure to not miss the video!