Researching the Options for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

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As the youngest of six children, Jacqueline (Jackie) Griffiths, was extremely close to her hard-working mother, Peggy. Since her father passed away 32 years ago, Jackie has recently assumed the role as her guardian caring for her Mom’s personal and financial needs.

“She was really a strong person who worked so hard, always coming home from work and cooking dinner,” said Jackie. “Material things didn’t mean much to her. It was all about family.”

Peggy was a pioneer among women becoming an attorney at a time when very few African-American women were in law. She served as Chairman of the Board of Appeals and Review at the Civil Service Commission, now known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She worked in all three branches of the federal government and culminated her career as the legislative assistant for medical affairs for Senator Adlai Stevenson, Jr. and later retired.

With a strong role model, Jackie and her siblings became successful in each of their career paths. Jackie was in Medical School in Michigan when she noticed something ‘wasn’t quite right’ as Peggy started repeating stories during telephone calls hours apart. “When I came home, she was very moody and paranoid, it was very much out of character,” said Jackie.

Soon, the rest of the family was starting to notice these changes and Jackie decided to return to Washington to do her residency in Ophthalmology at Georgetown to be near her mother.

“In 1993, we took her to Johns Hopkins and they made a diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s,” said Jackie. “She did surprisingly well on some of her tests, but they said her intellect could cause a slower decline.”

Today running her own busy practice with a family of her own, Jackie is now herself a strong and hard-working woman. She wanted to see to it that Peggy, her role model, received great care.

She had already been placed in an assisted living environment where Jackie was assured that Peggy would stay there until she passed. However, last summer, she began having falling spells and the facility demanded the family get an outside caregiver. This requirement quickly ate up her available funds as she was still required to pay the same price for the home.

Shortly after, however, the family was asked to find her alternative housing because she “no longer met criteria for that center.” Needless to say, the family was devastated. Jackie looked at nursing homes, but Peggy just “didn’t look like those residents yet.”

Finally, with professional assistance, she was placed in another assisted living facility that had a higher ratio of staff to patient. Jackie was impressed by the number of years the dedicated workers had been there and Peggy’s room was actually larger and brighter than before. While no promises were made that the outside personal caregiver could be terminated at this facility, the family was assured that the hours would be greatly reduced.

After much research and referrals, Jackie found a caregiving company run by two prominent and respected hospitals in the area. Along with their reasonable prices, Jackie found the caregivers were more reliable, truly caring and dedicated to their jobs.

Dementia/Alzheimer’s is always difficult for patients and loved ones, but Jackie now feels a sense of calm knowing that her mother is being well taken care of. “She was always there for me and it is my honor to be there for her now,” says Jackie.

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