Like most dementia care partners, Judy Berry was drafted into an unfamiliar role when her mother, Evelyn Holly, began to experience memory loss.
Both Berry and her mom lived in Minnesota, and Berry travelled extensively as a salesperson for a barbequed rib company. When her Mom’s memory started to fail, Berry was keen to ensure her mom remained safe when Berry was on the road.
“I helped her move into an assisted living facility where someone would check on her couple of times a day,” Berry told me. “She was there for three or four years during which I got regular feedback from the staff saying she was declining. But on my weekly visits, Mom had me convinced everything was okay and she was fine. “
As we speak over the Internet via Zoom, I notice a chair beyond Berry’s right shoulder. “Believe” is emblazoned across the backrest.
A woman after my own heart, I think to myself as I listen.
‘Then one day when I was in Texas for work,” Berry continues. “I got a call to tell me Mom had been rushed to the hospital and that I should come back immediately. She had overdosed on various medications she was taking. She’d forgot she’d taken them, and then just kept taking more.”
When it was time for Evelyn Holly to leave the hospital, she couldn’t go back to the assisted living facility because the disease had progressed to the point where it was unsafe for her to do so.
“I had only a few days to find a place for her to go,” Berry says. “I knew nothing about what to look for specifically, having had no experience with this kind of situation before. And the only thing that was available in such a short time frame was the nursing home attached to the assisted living where she’d been for the previous several years. So that’s where she wound up.”
Berry helped her mother get settled in the nursing home, and then flew back to Texas to continue with her work. She was back in Minnesota within days.
“My first day back in Texas, I got a call from the nursing home saying they couldn’t find my mom,” Berry says. “’ She’s in the building, they said, but we don’t know where.’”
Evelyn Holly had gotten into the elevator on the dementia care unit floor where she’d been placed, and had gone down to the basement, where, coincidentally, there there was a volunteer meeting in progress.
“They had a piece of paper hiding the elevator button, but that didn’t fool Mom,” Berry laughs about it now, but says it was frightening at the time. “The people at the meeting thought she was another volunteer and welcomed her to the group.”
“When it came time for all the volunteers to go home, Mom went to the reception with whomever she was with, and then realized she didn’t know where to go. Of course they were on the alert that she was missing, and that’s how they found her.”
From then on, things deteriorated — badly.
Over the next seven years, Evelyn Holly would be kicked out of twelve care facilities in a rollercoaster journey that would eventually result in her daughter Judy Berry becoming a dementia care advocate, developing her own dementia care model and running a unique care facility for 16 years.
Here’s the first part of the story:
Judy Berry is the Founder of DementiaSpecialistConsulting.com. She is a dementia care consultant, a comprehensive care coordinator, and an inspirational speaker. Berry conceptualized, created, built and ran the acclaimed Lakeview Ranch long-term care facility for sixteen years. Based on her experience, she developed the award-winning Lakeview Ranch Model of Specialized Dementia Care. She is nationally recognized for her highly innovative and successful approach to specialized care for persons with dementia, particularly those with a history of challenging and/or aggressive behaviours.