Stories

I could write in support of St. John’s new Living Center from a variety of vantage points, like the analytical, having co-authored a report on the housing crisis and its effects on every age strata in our community. Instead I’ll share a personal frame of reference — as the daughter of a dad with Alzheimer’s disease. My dad lived in the valley for more than a decade — his happiest years. He loved this community and all of its layers. He felt at home in Jackson.

But when his brain began to fail him my family was forced to face the reality that there was no place for him here anymore. We knew an otherwise healthy, mobile man would not do well in the medical model of the current Living Center. Ours was a painful, prolonged process of acceptance.

My dad now lives in a memory care facility 2,200 miles away from us, back on the East Coast. We take turns returning to be with him, but no amount of visits can bridge the hurt of having him live so far away.

If you met my dad today you wouldn’t know anything was wrong: He would greet you with a warm smile, make a joke and talk about the weather. But his fierce intelligence is gone. Now attuned to the signs of cognitive decline, I see the same shadow cross some of our most respected residents. I hear from other family members who are distressed by the limited options in our valley and are weighing the same difficult decision. I don’t want them to face the same specter of exile that my dad did.

Last week I visited my dad and witnessed him thriving in his new world — happier, healthier and calmer than I’ve seen him in years, all thanks to the highly skilled care and highly calibrated environment of the memory care center. Unbidden, he offered this assessment of his situation: “Life here is really quite terrific. If my family were here I’d never want to leave.”

By supporting the Campaign for a New Living Center, you are making it possible for my dad to come home to his family.

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