Gianna Homes Resident: Sandy’s Story
If you ever had the chance to meet my mother you would remember her smile, bright blue eyes and always laughing. My mom Sandra Jean came into this world on February 9th 1943. The youngest of 4 children born in Pittsville Wisconsin, town of 600. Pittsville’s claim to fame is that it is the exact center of Wisconsin. My mom loved telling people that, she thought it was so funny. She was a self-proclaimed small town Wisconsin cheesehead girl who loved the Green Bay Packers, she even had the big cheese hat!
She attended nursing school at Saint Joseph’s School of Nursing in Marshfield, Wisconson in the early 60’s. Becoming a nurse was my mom’s dream job. She cared for her patients with all her heart. She ended her career working as a case manager for workman’s compensation specializing in brain injury and spinal cord injuries. She loved the long-term relationships she was able to develop with her patients. This is where my mom’s journey took us on a road we did not want to be on.
My journey into my mother’s illness started in March of 2006 when I was 5 months pregnant with my first child. I went to all of her appointments with her but that first one was the most difficult. We walked back to the car after and she looked at me and said, ” I was hoping it was a brain tumor because that just sounds better than dementia….. ” She was embarrassed that she had dementia and always worried about what she might say or do.
In keeping with my moms personality, she didn’t do anything the easy way. She spent 5 years at the first facility which she named ” The Prison.” As the dementia progressed my husband and I decided we needed her closer. I am an only child and by this time now I had 2 small children and I was my mother’s “everything!” She spent 2 years at the second facility. These 2 years, I saw the most mental decline. She became more confused, had a more difficult time communicating and started exhibiting more combative behavior. She spent 3 weeks in a geriatric acute psychiatric unit only to find out that her current place of residence would not take her back. It was there that the hospital social worker suggested I look at Gianna Homes.
When I called Gianna Homes to see if they could go meet my mom I felt like someone had wrapped their arms around me. I was reassured that they had a place for my mom no matter how difficult her dementia was. When her and I walked into Gianna Homes, it felt like in her present state that she was home. Gianna Homes gave my mom a home when she needed it the most. I knew my mom was loved and cared for when I could not be there. Every time I went there, I was greeted with warm hugs and love. Here my mom was able to rediscover all the things she loved before becoming ill. She could be outside gardening, help in the kitchen, work on art, listen to music and dance, but best of all take naps with Claire’s dog (my personal favorite). My 2 children enjoyed visiting grandma Sandy in the “bird room” and having Santa Clause stop by Gianna Homes. This was a place that Sandy’s grandchildren could explore and overcome their fear of dementia.
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My journey comes to an end on February 12th, 2016 when my beautiful mother passed away. It took 12 days for her to leave this earth. I felt those days were a gift from God. For some strange reason, my busy crazy life slowed down in those 12 days. I had time to sit by her side as we said goodbye. As my mom slipped away to heaven, the staff at Gianna Homes took care of us both. Many hugs, tears, laughter, warm meals for me and chocolate were provided. My mom and I could not have completed this journey without Anne Marie and all the staff at Gianna Homes. I am extremely Grateful for Anne Marie’s vision to start a program like this. It gave my mom quality and dignity when no one else could.