Coming Home


4 min read

Coming Home


Senior Health and Wellbeing HigherPath Celebrations Dementia

Ray Przyborowski faced a long road to recovery after a fall, but a multifaceted effort—and lots of love—helped restore him to his HigherPath.

Before his fall, Ray Przyborowski was a lively and fun-loving resident of the memory care neighborhood at Bickford of Chesapeake, Virginia. Known for his jovial sense of humor, his genuine smile and his love of the Philadelphia Eagles, the 30-year Navy veteran quickly ingratiated himself among the staff and fellow residents as one of the first patients of Mary B’s.

“They just love Ray,” says Donna Przyborowski, his wife of 51 years.

Donna herself has loved Ray since practically their first meeting, when she was just 22. Her father, who was stationed in the same squadron as Ray, invited him over to fix him up with Donna—without her knowledge. She agreed to see him again, and their first date was the squadron’s 1971 Christmas party. The two were married less than six months later. Together they raised three children and shared a home for more than four decades, before Parkinson’s and dementia made caring for him at home simply too much. The same charming personality that had won Donna over so many years earlier made Ray a beloved resident at Bickford.

But in a moment, Ray’s fall changed the peaceful life that he had come to know. After a trip to the emergency room, Ray was cleared to return to Bickford. But as the days passed, he still couldn’t get out of bed. Finally the team at Bickford brought in a portable x-ray machine that revealed what the ER doctors had missed: A crack in Ray’s left femur.

The fracture resulted in another hospital trip, an operation and more than a month at several inpatient rehab facilities. For the 77-year-old already dealing with dementia, the extended period of time spent in unfamiliar surroundings and without the level of personalized care he was accustomed to proved devastating.

“He needs that interaction,” says Chesapeake branch executive director Whitney Keeton. “He has to have that one-on-one.”

After visiting Ray at rehab and talking to Donna, Whitney came to a firm conclusion. “‘We’ve got to get him home,’” she recalls telling her fellow staff at Bickford during one of the many HigherPath meetings where they discussed Ray. “‘We’ve got to get him back to Bickford.”

To expedite Ray’s return, a private home health aide was arranged to ensure he would have the necessary wound care in Mary B’s. Whitney kept the Bickford team—including nursing, rehabilitation, onsite medical and the branch happiness coordinator—updated weekly on his expected release. Finally, Ray got to come home. “We got back to Bickford and everybody was so happy to see him, it was like a homecoming,” Donna remembers.

Yet the joy in his return was tempered by the reality that Ray was a shell of his former self.

“He was not the same person that left us,” Whitney says. “He was very agitated, very angry, anything we would attempt to do was a fight.” Not only had his mood and behavior deteriorated, but so had his overall health. “He lost over 30 pounds,” Donna says. “It was just awful.”

Whitney and the assembled Bickford team sprung to action. At every HigherPath meeting, Ray was on the agenda. “We would brainstorm every week on ways to try to move him forward,” Whitney says.

Onsite rehab provided almost daily physical and occupational therapy sessions to help Ray regain some independence over his movement and personal care tasks such as feeding and grooming. The medical team tweaked his medication regimen to improve his pain management. In Ray’s room, the addition of SafelyYou cameras—which detect and help prevent future falls—offered peace of mind and insight into Ray’s natural rhythms, which enabled nursing staff to optimize his bedtime and toileting schedule.

Slowly, the Ray everyone knew and loved began to reemerge. Getting respectful care and the personalized attention that he needs allowed Ray to regain his trust in the Bickford staff. He stopped resisting help with the toilet and shower, thanks in part to a bathroom fully redecorated in Eagles gear. He found joy in visits from a therapy dog named Honey, and found his appetite once more with encouragement from the dining staff.

“They have been bending over backwards,” Donna says. “Everybody cares.”

These days, you’ll find Ray doing laps around Mary B’s in his wheelchair, joking with staff and chatting with other residents. He loves singalongs, bingo and reading the newspaper from front to back each day. Despite his difficult diagnosis, the Ray that Donna has loved for so long remains.

“He still has that personality that you just want to hug him.”

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.