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Alzheimer's Association, New York City Chapter

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Please See Us Safely Home

One frightening day last June, Faye’s 82 year-old mother Arlene disappeared from their apartment building. She was soon found ten blocks away and escorted home by the police. Faye responded to this new challenge in her usual way. She got creative. She decided to post signs throughout her Upper West Side building. Alongside a photograph of Arlene and their poodle Fidel, they read, “If you see us, please see us safely home.”

Faye’s introduction to the NYC Chapter was hardly auspicious. The Care Consultant remembers her dropping into an Understanding Dementia meeting and sitting alone at the far end of the table, barely saying a word. “I’ve always been a bit of a rebel,” she later admitted sheepishly. Arlene was soon registered in Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®, and Faye called to schedule an individual care consultation. Arlene, the care consultant learned, had been living with Faye’s sister in Ohio since her dementia diagnosis. When her illness began to progress, Faye moved her to New York.

Arlene and her beloved dog Fidel

Since she holds a demanding job as Assistant Director for Diversity at a major university, Faye asked her daughter to care for Arlene on weekdays. Stay-at-home mother to a precocious toddler, Faye’s daughter juggled these two caregiving responsibilities and the arrangement worked for a while.

Arlene’s family had been taken aback by her dementia diagnosis. Well-known in her Ohio community as a bright, creative woman, a registered nurse who was “ahead of her time,” Arlene passed on her love of learning to her daughters. As if to illustrate the point, Faye showed the care consultant colorful flow charts she had drawn to document Arlene’s daily care needs. She learned from the Chapter about a range of care options, including nursing home, home care and day care. Faye became more and more convinced that she wanted Arlene to live at home with her.

The question, “Is Mommy ready for a nursing home?” was answered with a resounding “no” when Arlene was hospitalized in New Jersey, then sent to a long-term care facility for rehabilitation. The nursing staff related that Arlene followed them in their rounds, taking detailed notes on the other patients. Faye reported with pride,“They said the notes were very good!”

With Arlene once again splitting her time between New York and New Jersey, Faye’s daughter was quickly coming to the end of her rope. Arlene needed to move in with Faye full-time as quickly as possible. The care consultant decided to apply for Medicaid through the Transitions program of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNS). She knew that once the experts at Transitions determine a Medicaid application is well-documented, VNS will provide nursing and home care services immediately, saving the family months of waiting.

Arlene now has daily home care and is teaching the home health aides to crochet. They all enjoy Fidel, who is the star of the household. Faye is able to leave for work without worrying, and comes home to find the apartment buzzing with activity.

From her reluctant beginning with the Chapter, Faye has become a spokesperson for Safe Return. With creativity and persistence, she has accomplished a goal that once seemed unlikely, that of bringing her mother “safely home.”

If you would like to meet with a care consultant, please call the Chapter at 646-744-2900 or our 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900. Caregivers featured in this series have agreed to share their stories. Names have been changed to protect their anonymity.

— Amanda Leis, LCSW
Manager, Care Consultation

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