Watching the Azaleas Bloom: Independent Living

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senior citizens in home care agency outsideVesta Brown and her husband built their home in Kensington, MD “paycheck to paycheck and board by board,” says their daughter, Sonnie Sussillo. The couple moved to the area in the late 40s, and raised their two children in the house they built. The family has been here ever since. Shortly after moving, Mrs. Brown, who grew up on a farm in South Carolina, started growing azaleas. When the bushes began to flourish, the couple started a small business selling them. “The place is still an azalea paradise,” Sonnie says.

In addition to her azaleas, Mrs. Brown maintained a half-acre vegetable garden into her early 80s. When she was not outside tending her plants, she was working her magic with a needle and thread-making crewel and needlepoint pillows and clothes for her granddaughter and outfitting her doll collection.

After her husband passed away, Mrs. Brown remained independent. Sonnie explains, “My mother showed immense strength after my father passed away. She never drove, and she had never paid the bills, but she managed to live independently into her 80s.” Last year, Mrs. Brown was admitted to the hospital because of a heart condition. She was also suffering from increasing dementia.

At the doctor’s insistence, the family began to consider assisted living for Mrs. Brown. “We were hoping that she would like it and want to stay,” says Sonnie. Unfortunately, Mrs. Brown started to decline. When her doctor authorized hospice treatment, the family decided to bring Mrs. Brown back to her long-time home.

Through Family & Nursing Care, a home care agency serving Suburban Maryland and Washington, D.C., they arranged for nursing assistants to help make it possible for Mrs. Brown to remain at home. Montgomery Hospice was brought in to provide hospice services.

Sonnie recalls, “Once we found a competent set of caregivers who understood hospice and were certified, I was able to trust them implicitly.” The caregivers from Family and Nursing Care now provide daily assistance for Mrs. Brown. Finding reliable caregivers for her mother has been such a relief for Sonnie. “I know that I can trust them, which has allowed me to go back to work,” Sonnie notes. Her mother’s quality of life has improved as well. “She is now getting the medication she should have been taking for years, and she knows she is well cared for,” says Sonnie.

Montgomery Hospice and Family and Nursing Care are working together to provide comprehensive care. Caregivers from Family and Nursing Care provide daily care to Mrs. Brown, while the chaplain, social worker, and nurse from Montgomery Hospice attend to her spiritual, emotional, and medical needs. “This situation has worked out so well for my mother and my family because everyone involved realizes that it is a team effort, and we all respect and care about each other,” concludes Sonnie.

With the care and assistance that Mrs. Brown is receiving, she has been able to live comfortably in the home that she built and watch her beloved azaleas bloom.

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