Incredible Relationship Inspires New Community
Morton Kondracke’s esteemed career as a journalist includes his current position as the Executive Editor and columnist for Roll Call, the “hometown newspaper” for Congressmen. He also appears regularly on Fox News, on both the daily “Special Report with Brit Hume” and the “Beltway Boys” every Saturday. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered nearly every phase of American politics and foreign policy. Despite his extensive experience, Mort never could have imagined that he would be on the set of a movie about Parkinson’s disease. He watches raptly as the very personal storyline unfolds.
The movie, Saving Milly, is based on Mort’s similarly titled book that details his wife’s struggle with the disease. CBS will be airing the movie, which stars Madeleine Stowe and Bruce Greenwood and includes an epilogue by Michael J. Fox, on March 13th. The central theme of the movie and the book, Mort says, is love: “It is a love story; it is the story of a love that was transformed by chronic illness.”
He continues, “Milly was the dominant person in our family when she was healthy. As she became more and more dependent, I had to take over the dominant roll and become a caregiver.” When Milly’s condition worsened, the couple decided to seek the help of a professional caregiver. Milly met Graelanda Van Dalsum while she was working for one of Milly’s friends, and the two had an almost instantaneous connection.
Graelanda provided care for Milly for 12 years-supplying everything from companionship to assistance with the activities of daily living. More than just a caregiver, Graelanda became a friend. “Graelanda and Milly were practically inseparable. They giggled together and shopped together. They were really like sisters,” relates Mort.
The constant care Graelanda provided for his wife was invaluable to Mort. He says, “I am so grateful to her for all that she did for us. I regard her and her family as my family. There is no question that Graelanda is one of the most loving people I have ever met in my life. She is the ideal caregiver.”
There is also no question that their relationship had an enormous impact on Graelanda as well. After Milly passed away, Graelanda and her husband, Joe, decided to open a small assisted living facility in Fairfax County to provide individualized care in a home-like setting; they named the facility Milly’s Home in honor of Milly Kondracke.
Of the new community, Mort says, “I think it is wonderful that they are opening Milly’s Home. Graelanda’s calling was to be a caregiver. Anyone who needs assisted living could never do better than to be under her care in terms of attention, compassion, competence, and loyalty.” He concludes, “If I had a relative who needed care, I would fight to have them in Milly’s Home under Graelanda’s care.”