A Higher Path for Mary


4 min read

A Higher Path for Mary


Senior Health and Wellbeing HigherPath Celebrations

For Cathy Matthews, peace of mind means not laying in wait for that dreaded middle-of-the-night phone call. The one that says her 94-year-old mother has fallen, again. That she’s headed to the emergency room, again.

Before Matthews’ mother, Mary, transferred to Bickford of Chesapeake, Virginia, those type of phone calls were a regular occurrence. Mary suffered multiple falls at her previous facility, some of which were preventable. And because Mary has Alzheimer’s and most of the falls were unwitnessed, they usually resulted in a trip to the hospital to be sure she hadn’t hit her head. Then, about a year ago, came the call that Mary had fallen yet again—and this time she had broken her hip.

But what was a painful and unfortunate experience for Mary and her family also became an opportunity of sorts. Having grown somewhat dissatisfied with Mary’s current facility, they used her time in the hospital and rehabilitation to prepare her to move elsewhere.

“To move somebody with dementia is a big deal,” Matthews says. “The circumstances opened that door for us. If there was a silver lining to the cloud, that was it.”

While Mary recuperated, Matthews and her sisters visited the newly opened Bickford branch. “As soon as I stepped foot in Mary B’s (memory care unit), I thought, ‘My mom needs to be right here,’” Matthews says. “It looks very homey, it’s very welcoming, it’s not clinical at all.”

Her siblings agreed, so by the time Mary was ready to leave rehab, a new home awaited her. As part of Bickford’s HigherPath program, Mary’s health and well being are proactively and continuously evaluated to avoid the kind of preventable issues that can lead seniors into a downward spiral. A camera keeps watch over Mary in her room, synced with artificial intelligence technology that would alert staff and enable them to review footage if she falls unattended (which she hasn’t). A wristband monitors Mary’s activity and identifies behavioral changes that could signal potential problems—like brewing urinary tract infections, which previously plagued Mary but have not been an issue since she moved to Bickford.

Most importantly, Mary is surrounded by a staff that treats her like family.

“You can just tell they care,” Matthews says. “They’re there because they want to be, not because it’s a job.”

Mary’s new home suits her. She cracks jokes with the staff. She’s always dressed and ready for the day, never just sitting in her room. “She just seems happier,” Matthews says. “She always seems well cared for. She’s actually thriving, in my opinion.”

Mary is on her higher path, and it’s the one she deserves in the later chapters of a life rich with adventure and service to others. As a younger woman, Mary worked as a telephone operator and delighted in travel and trips to the beach. She and her husband moved from the Northeast in the mid-1960s with a pop-up camper, which they trundled across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and lived in at a campground until they found a home in Virginia Beach. There they raised six children, Mary the kind of mother Matthews recalls was the envy of all her friends.

“I don’t remember ever wanting for anything,” Matthews says. “She’s a great mom.”

Now that it is Mary’s children’s turn to care for her, they can rest easier knowing that she’s getting the help she needs. “I feel like there’s always somebody there,” Matthews says. “I don’t sleep with one eye open anymore, waiting for that phone to ring.”

Contemplating the next chapter in your loved one’s story? Click here to learn more about Bickford Senior Living and to find a branch near you.