I had recently moved Ed, my beloved Romanian soul mate of thirty years, into the renowned Alois Alzheimer's Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. After he'd been in their Assisted Living section for around four weeks, I received a call from the social worker.
"You're moving him from Assisted Living down to the Courtyard?" I asked. "He's only been there a month."
"We give every resident a chance in Assisted Living first if it seems at all feasible," she said. "We thought Ed might be able to function there. But he needs more personal care than Alice and the other aides can provide, and he's also requiring more nursing care now, too. A room has just opened up in the Courtyard and we'd like to move him there tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" I gasped.
I couldn't believe it. I'd been so pleased they'd started him out in Assisted Living, the unit for their healthiest residents. It had given me comfort that they'd considered him in good enough physical and mental shape to live in their relatively low-care unit. I'd even been proud of him in a way. I couldn't believe he'd declined so quickly that he needed to be moved 'downward' already.
But even worse than my reaction to his decline was the fact that he and Alice had developed a close bond during the month he'd been there. Now he'd have to adjust to new aides, and I worried they wouldn't be as devoted as Alice.
On the day they moved him, June, the main Courtyard aide, a large, young woman with long blonde hair cascading down her shoulders, came to Assisted Living to entertain Ed in the dining room while his belongings were being moved.
They talked, ate chocolate pudding and had decaf coffee while the Alois maintenance men moved everything into his new room at the end of the Courtyard corridor. Ed was oblivious to all that. He talked to June about his books, ate his pudding and told June how beautiful she was, how lucky he was to have her presence and how much he liked the pudding.
When everything had been moved, Alice walked Ed to his new room and told him matter-of-factly, "This is where you live now, Ed."
Then she said good-bye, turned around and left him with June. As all this transpired, I was sitting on the mahogany and gold-striped sofa in the living room of the Assisted Living area.
When Alice returned, her blue eyes were downcast, her lower lip quivering. What she did next was astounding. She burst into tears the instant she sat down.
"I'm going to miss him so much," she said, sobbing, her mouth gaping open, tears falling down her cheeks. "He's such a dear."
I didn't know how to make her feel better, but I got a Kleenex packet from my purse and held it out to her. She took one then dried her eyes and blew her nose. After several moments she regained her composure.
"I'll go over and visit him later today," she said resolutely.
I had the feeling she might be going over regularly for some time.
Seeing that depth of affection -- you can't fake bursting into tears -- from an aide who'd cared for Ed for only one month, I was sure I'd selected the best Alzheimer's facility in town.
To read more stories about Ed you can order my award-winning book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy, and visit my website, which has a wealth of information for Alzheimer's caregivers. A slightly different version of this post was published on the Alzheimer's Reading Room.
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