Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post; opinions are 100% mine. I simply want to tell the story of someone very special to me and why I’m excited about a new place in town that my friends (with lots of help) created to care for those with memory loss and their families.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Fieldstone Memory Care in Yakima. Fieldstone is a project by Cascadia Senior Living and Development, founded by friends Doug Ellison and Justin Younker. I’ll tell you why I’m excited about having a place like Fieldstone in Yakima.
My family and I were very close to my great-great Aunt Iva. Aunt Iva was my great-grandfather’s sister. She never married or had kids of her own. Her nieces and nephews were her “kids”. She was an amazing woman. I call her the Martha Stewart of her time. She worked for years as the private secretary of Mr. Ted Robertson, former publisher of the Yakima Herald Republic.
I’ve shared my story before about being the child of a teen mom. My mom was just 15 when she had me. She had my sister at the ripe old age of 18. Being a teen mom with no high school diploma means that your earning potential is limited. We needed help. Luckily we had great family support. Aunt Iva was one of those important players in my life–a member of the village that helped raise me. I still say today that Aunt Iva is the reason my sister and I were dressed appropriately for school. She was my first career-woman role model. She inspired me to get an education and travel. Those things were important to her.
Aunt Iva owned a sweet little house on Hall Avenue in Yakima. Her favorite color was pink. She had a long dining room table that she decorated and filled with delicious food and she had knobby pink drinking glasses that I can still feel in my hand. She had a window seat full of children’s books. She read to us vigorously. My favorite book was Mickey Mouse and the Mouseketeers Ghost Town Adventure. I asked her to read that book to me over and over and over.
In between stuffing ourselves with her delicious food we spent our time howling like ghosts through her heating vents and playing in the basement with the steep steps and very dangerous appliances. She drove an old Rambler with long, roomy seats, a skinny steering wheel and she wore driving gloves. She was the only person I knew with an automatic garage door opener. I would click it 100 times when we were out and about hoping that I was scaring the neighbors into thinking a ghost was playing with the garage door. Apparently I was obsessed with ghosts.
Aunt Iva loved to shop! My mom remembers trips with her to Seattle for school clothes. By the time my sister and I needed school clothes Aunt Iva’s shopping excursions were contained to Yakima. That was fine. We had Bon Marche, Nordstrom, JC Penney, Mervyns and K-Mart. What else did we need? Every year, at the end of the summer, we would go to Aunt Iva’s. She would have the shopping ads splayed out in front of her and we would plan our day. We spent all day going from store-to-store for clothes. We came home with bags full. There were times that we didn’t agree on what I should wear. Like the time I wanted a satin, flower shirt and she wanted me to have a powder blue suit instead. I think she had career-woman dreams for me even at the age of 9.
One day everything changed. I was 11-years-old. Aunt Iva had gotten into a car accident on the way home from my grandmother’s house. Then she was found on her living room floor covered in her own mess. Something was wrong. My mom sat me down and said “Aunt Iva has a disease. It’s called Alzheimer’s. One day she won’t know who we are”. I didn’t believe my mom. We had always been a part of Aunt Iva’s life and she had always been a part of ours. My 11-year-old brain couldn’t fathom something so awful. But it happened. It happened fairly slowly. She moved in with my grandmother. That didn’t last long. If you know anything about Alzheimer’s patients you know it’s hard to keep them safe. She moved into an independent living facility. That worked for a while, until she started leaving her apartment undressed and confused. She then moved into a nursing home. I don’t remember much about that time. The only thing I do remember is not wanting to visit. She didn’t know me/us. She would get confused and agitated. It was scary so I stopped going. Aunt Iva died when I was in high school. In a nursing home. And I had stopped visiting.
If we had a place like Fieldstone, we could have continued to visit even though she didn’t know us. We could have had lunch with Aunt Iva in a 1950’s inspired café. We could have watched an old-time movie with her in the theater. The funny thing about her disease–even when Aunt Iva no longer knew us, she remembered her childhood kitten Smoky. Surely, she would have remembered bits and pieces of a classic movie. Instead of driving her to her hair lady every week for years, my mom could have sat and visited with her while she got her hair done at the on-site salon. Instead of being afraid of the sights, sounds and smells of a nursing home, we could have sat at a table together to do puzzles or crafts. And when she got scared or agitated, we would take comfort in knowing that she’s being cared for in a spa room with aromatherapy. She would have loved that. We would have loved that.
What a blessing to have such a wonderful home for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, where families and friends can also feel at “home” with their loved ones. If you want to see Fieldstone for yourself, stop by to say hi and take a tour. It’s a beautiful place! 4120 Englewood Avenue, Yakima.