“My Dad is still living at Dodge Park Rest Home. He has been there for 16 months. I’m grateful that I didn’t opt for an assisted living facility. Dementia and COPD are progressive diseases. I have friends that put a parent in an assisted living situation only to have to move them 6 months later to skilled nursing. When Dodge Park accepts a patient into their care, it is their intention to provide care until end of life, if that’s what you wish. They can provide whatever is needed for that resident.

I’m going to share as many details as I can, while still being respectful of my Dad’s privacy. There have been times right from the beginning when Dad’s behavior has gone well beyond what would be tolerated at any other place. Yet, at Dodge Park he is seen as no trouble whatsoever. When his dementia causes him to lash out either verbally or physically, they try new ways to approach him without agitating him. When his breathing troubles flare up, they provide instant treatment and monitor his response. When his legs get weak they provide him with a walker, then a wheelchair. All of these things are done under the supervision of their team of professionals. They have a primary care doctor, a nurse practitioner, a psychiatrist, a podiatrist and a social worker. All of these experts make regular visits to Dodge Park, and can also be summoned on an emergency basis. In addition, they have a pharmacy that sends over medicines, an x-ray technician with portable equipment to take x-rays right in the patient’s bed, a physical therapist for fitting walking aids, and I can’t leave out Lucy the hairdresser! One time my Dad broke his eyeglasses, they escorted him to Lenscrafters that same day and stayed with him for an eye exam and for new glasses to be made up. I would say that was out of the ordinary, but I’m so grateful to Dodge Park for helping to this extreme.

One thing I find amazing about Dodge Park, and the psychiatrist they work with, is their philosophy of avoiding the use of psychiatric medications. I’m certain that Dad would be much easier to deal with if he had some major tranquilizers in his system! But they have ways of resolving the most difficult situations through human interactions. It’s not that psych meds are prohibited, just they don’t go that route unless it is very clearly necessary. If Dad puts up a fight about taking a shower, they start by visiting him an hour beforehand, talking with him in a friendly manner about other things, and then approaching the shower issue. If I hadn’t witnessed this with my own eyes, I would have said it wasn’t possible. I suspect other places might say “we can’t use up a worker’s valuable time when there is a pill that will get the same result”. Yet, my Dad and I both benefit from the Dodge Park philosophy. When I visit him he is “himself”. He’s not groggy from drugs. He’s not at risk of falling because a pill made him drowsy. They follow this principle even if it means that a resident needs one-on-one attention during every waking hour. I’m not joking! They have an army of compassionate caregivers that work as a team to accomplish this mission.

These are the real folks that deserve my applause. I’m talking about the caregivers that help Dad throughout the day and night. They are extraordinary professional people that love their work. They provide “routine” tasks, like helping him select what to wear and getting him dressed. Or accompanying him to the bathroom. Or searching for his lost hearing aid. Or changing his soiled bedding during the night. They also do things like trim his fingernails, “fix” his electric shaver, coax him into attending whatever party is about to start, offer him beverages and snacks, and sit with him for a while. They do all of these things with a smile, sometimes while being verbally assaulted. And they do it with total respect for Dad’s own personality and dignity. Dad does have a favorite. It’s Patty. She’s the floor manager. He goes to her with some pretty wild stories and she listens to every one. She has a way of knowing just what to say, assuring him that she will take care of it. Patty is the secret weapon that the others call in when Dad refuses to cooperate. If Patty tells him it’s okay, then he’ll go along with anything. These are the kinds of skills that only come with patience and experience. Dodge Park has an atmosphere of nurturing these skills in all of their people. Even the ones that handle the laundry and clean the floors. They know my Dad by name and greet him with a smile. They greet me with a smile.

And for me, I am at Dodge Park regularly. My visits with Dad are relaxed and friendly. I can take him out to Wendy’s for lunch or just sit and look at old photographs with him. We enjoy each other’s company in a way that could never happen if I had to coordinate his care. Perhaps this is what makes me the most grateful of all.”

Deborah Martin