My speech at the Providence Marianwood Spring Luncheon

May 6, 2004

May 6th, 2004

I was asked to speak, giving "A Family Story", at this years Providence Marianwood Spring Luncheon. Marianwood is the non-profit nursing home where my father now lives.

My father is a resident of the "A" wing, or Alzheimer's unit, at Providence Marianwood. I'd like to tell you a little about how he came to be here, and how blessed I feel to have him here.

My mom and dad have lived what I've called a "fiercely independent" life. They immigrated together from Holland, leaving family and friends behind. They spent some time in Canada, where I showed up, and then eventually settled here in the Seattle area where they've lived for roughly the last 40 years.

My dad, who's now 88, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's several years ago. If you know anything at all about Alzheimer's, you know that it's terribly hard on the caregivers. My mother was his caregiver; she took care of him until she no longer could.

A year and a half ago, right around Thanksgiving, and their 55th wedding anniversary, my mom fell seriously ill.

We made the difficult decision to move my father to an assisted living facility. That worked about as well as such a difficult transition could. He lived there for 4 months ... until he fell and broke his hip.

The director of the assisted living facility recommended Providence Marianwood highly, indicating it was the best place for my father to recover.

You can imagine the situation: I'm an only child, my father is seriously injured and my mother is gravely ill. I'm scrambling simply to keep my head above water as I deal with issues I'd never before had to think about.

From the moment my father arrived at Marianwood, it was clear he was getting great care. Besides his Alzheimer's, he happens to be incredibly deaf, and has a tendency to lapse into his native language, Dutch. The staff on the Alzheimer's wing has shown incredible patience and care ... and creativity ... in communicating with him.

The result is that my father is content.

Now ... please understand that for me, that's a monumental statement. It's not something I ever would have dreamed being able to say in this situation.

And I have peace of mind. Not only is he content, but he's safe and exceptionally well cared for. We originally planned for him to return to the assisted living facility, but that plan quickly changed. I honestly can not envision a better, more appropriate and more caring situation for him than at Providence Marianwood.

This became particularly important not long after he was admitted. My mother's health continued to decline, and one year and two days ago today, she passed away. I can't tell you how important and how comforting it was, to know that my father was in such good hands while I dealt with the other half of our family crisis.

Providence Marianwood is more than a nursing home, it is a home. In fact, it's now my father's home. The staff are more than staff, they've become friends and important resources. The other residents who share his home have become familiar faces.

A lot of things go into making a home, and for my family, one of those has always been our animals. The folks at Marianwood understand the value of both resident and visiting pets.

As a result, my wife Kathy and I typically bring one of our three Welsh Corgis to visit my dad. In fact, if my name sounds at all familiar, it might be from a short article Seattle Times columnist Sherry Grindeland published some time ago about Marianwood, our dogs, and another Corgi named Tucker. Tucker belongs to one of the A unit nurses and can also be found there on most days. Today we have our dog Guido with us to represent the Marianwood Corgi Contingent.

We're very fortunate, in that we can pay for my father's care, but not everyone can. Preparing for this luncheon I learned that over 50% of the residents are on Medicaid resulting in Marianwood providing $700,000 worth of uncompensated care last year. To be honest, that shocked me, and it's one reason I'm sharing my story with you today.

In spite of the crisis of the past 18 months, I know today that my family is truly blessed. In what I call our "new definition of normal", I'm incredibly grateful for care that my father receives at Marianwood, and the peace of mind that his being here gives me. I know that no matter what happens, he's in the best possible place, with people who truly care.


Thank you.