When Kathy McKinney and her siblings found a memory care neighborhood at Episcopal Church Home, it lifted a heavy weight from Kathy’s shoulders.
After the family became alarmed with the increasing memory challenges of their mom, Betty McKinley, Kathy became her primary caregiver – including shopping, cooking, and cleaning. She eventually quit her job to care for her full-time.
Betty McKinley, an ECH memory care resident, and her two daughters, Kathy McKinney (left) and Cherie Marshall.
A joy, but also a major challenge
Caring for her mother “was a joyful thing for me to do,” Kathy said. “First of all, I was the only one of all the siblings that was able to take care of Mom and Dad.”
She also wanted to do it, and dedicated her life to doing it. She even quit her job to do so.
It wasn’t until about a month after her mother had moved into a memory care neighborhood at Episcopal Church Home that Kathy realized how onerous the caregiving was for her – not that she didn’t love spending time with her mother.
“I had that ‘aha’ moment that I didn't realize how much I've been burdened. I didn't realize how worried I had been. I didn't realize how it had worn on me and how it affected me and my relationships with everyone.”
“I was – I hate to say relieved – but in a way, I was blessed that we had found a wonderful place for mother, and that I no longer had to have that burden on me.”
“I felt blessed that that we found Episcopal church home,” Kathy said. “ And we believe that this was the right place, and were prayerful about it.”
“As I’ve come to see her here, I have been able to focus more now on me, and doing what's right for me in the remainder of my life,” Kathy added.
“Everything has been falling into place, as it should.”
Kathy’s sister, Cherie Marshall, and their mom, also feel blessed by the move.
“Oh, it’s lovely. It really is lovely,” Betty said. “I’ve enjoyed everybody. They’re very friendly, and accepting. And we have a good time together.”
From alone at home to surrounded by friends
When Betty first arrived, Kathy was vigilantly checking to make sure she was being cared for as well as at home, “and I realized I don't have to do that anymore. I can just come visit Mom and just Mom and Cherie and me, working a puzzle together.”
Both daughters have been impressed by the loving, tender care provided by Episcopal Church Home team members.
ECH recently changed its model for the way it cares for residents, making it more personal for residents and their families. The addition of ‘versatile workers’ – individuals who provide not only nursing for their residents, but also housekeeping, daily enrichment activities and serving of meals – has increased the quality and depth of relationships between team members and residents.
Kathy could let out a big sigh of relief, and go back to mainly being Mom’s loved one, rather than focusing so much on caregiving.
“Now we can just enjoy Mom for Mom,” Kathy said.
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It’s a pleasure for Kathy and Cherie to visit their mother, who had been lonely at home – often with the TV and cat, and occasional visitors – enjoying chatting with her new friends at Episcopal Church Home. Even though Betty is on the introverted side, she admitted to her children she was lonely at home.
Nowadays, she leaves her apartment when she feels like it, and is surrounded by friends. She can sit in a common area and be comforted simply by hearing others chatting nearby.
“She doesn't necessarily have to be in the conversation,” Kathy said. But Betty feels pleasure from hearing “the hum of human voices and knowing that you’re right there, present with them, and you move into their conversation, and you can also sit there and work on that puzzle by yourself and feel a part of it," Kathy said.
“I feel she was able to come in here and just slide into the place,” Cherie said. “And the staff knows exactly where she’s at, and what she needs.”
Betty also loves the food, and enjoys the playful conversations over meals, in which residents interact just like family members.
“She said she went to the birthday bash a couple of days ago and she said it was the best cake and ice cream, and everybody was having such a good time,” Kathy said.
“This is good. This is good,” Kathy said. “She’s home.”
Some lessons from the family’s experience
Here are some things to learn from the family’s experience:
Planning in advance can avert significant missteps. “Mother had been going downhill for about the last six months and we were alarmed at how quickly it was happening,” Kathy said. “Normally, she would go down and she would plateau for a long time.”
“We knew that we needed to have someplace lined up in the event that something happened that she had to go quickly somewhere.”
The family learned about that when their father went through a similar situation. That “was an alarming time, and things didn't go smoothly,” Kathy said. They wanted to make sure things went more smoothly for their mother.
Social workers, financial planners and other experts recommend planning for such crises before they happen, because without such planning, families often find themselves having to make decisions rapidly, and ones they may come to regret.
It’s important to find a community that fits your loved one. “It boiled down to about two places,” Kathy said about a search for her mother’s next home. “And my brother was married to a woman whose mother had been here. And so we knew that they had had a really good experience, and then my sister knew somebody else that he had also been here and she had been able to tour this community.”
When a family has time to explore retirement communities before there’s a crisis, they can find a place that’s perfect for them.
“You have to find the right fit,” Kathy said. ”I don't think every place is meant for every person. And I think we had to feel comfortable with the home as well as my mother, or we wouldn't be at peace.”
“We would have that same burden on us that I had when we were living together. And so finding Episcopal church home and falling in love, literally, with it, and the people here it's been a true blessing and my other siblings feel the same way.”
Click below to learn about Memory Care at Episcopal Church Home.
To schedule a tour of other parts of the Episcopal Church Home retirement community, contact Gry Seymour at (502) 396-8987 or by email at email@example.com..