Dick and Marilyn Jenson were a married couple who moved into our Expressions at Enumclaw memory care community late last year. Other communities were unable to accommodate them together, but our team welcomed them as hospice residents and ensured they were comfortable during their final weeks.
The couple celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary while at Expressions, and found joy and happiness in their final days before they recently passed within 11 days of each other.
Their daughter, Jane, was grateful for the care and compassion shown to her parents, and to their family, during a difficult time. Here, Jane shares her story about their journey with Prestige and what the community meant to their family.
On her parents’ memory care needs:
“My mom had severe dementia, and my dad, we didn’t really know that he had dementia… We knew he was having memory challenges. He was 96. And so even though he had never been formally diagnosed with dementia, we had noticed a huge decline in his memory and not remembering things like, ‘Did I take my pills? Did I not take my pills?’ And actually, my dad had come to the point where just living daily life was so difficult that he just stopped doing all medications for him and my mom… But what was difficult is that being that my mom had severe dementia, she always thought that she was taking care of him even though she couldn’t.
And we hired people (to help them in their home)… and they were wonderful people. But when we had people come into the home, my mom would not like that because they were always women, and she thought that they were trying to do her duties, because she’d say, ‘I don’t need someone to do the housework, and I don’t need someone to make meals, and I don’t need someone to do my laundry because I do that. And what will I do with my day if someone comes and does that?’ And then she’d get very jealous and also think that maybe they were having an affair with my dad and other things. And that was very difficult.”
On the challenges for her living in a different city:
“They lived in Woodinville (WA) and I’m living in Enumclaw (WA). So I was going Monday, spending the night to Tuesday. So at least at night and in the morning before they’d get up, I’d do all the laundry and things so that it was done, but she thought she did it. Meanwhile, they had a two-story house. We had gotten a chairlift to go up their second story. My mom could walk the stairs fine, but my dad couldn’t. So we had gotten the stairlift, and then we also had Life Alert for them… and other siblings and some of their grandchildren would come by and visit and do what they could.
But there was nothing consistent for extended periods of time. So they were living really on a thread, and we were all saying our prayers, but the last thing we’d want to happen is an accident down the stairs or something. And certainly my mom had severe dementia, and if something happened to my dad, she wouldn’t even know how to make a phone call. She couldn’t do any of that.”
On when her parents’ health required additional support:
“My mom had to go to the hospital, which was very rare. She seemed to be this really strong person, even though she was 96, but she was having a tough time breathing. And my niece was staying with them at the time from out of town. And so they called 911, took my mom to the hospital in Kirkland and it ended up that she had two blood clots in her lungs and one behind one of her knees.”
On the move to Prestige:
“We were able to get her on hospice, took her off the blood thinner, and then we moved her straight from the hospital here (to Expressions at Enumclaw). You guys made an amazing space for them that they could both live together in the same room, which was a miracle.
They shared the same bed that they’ve had since they were married 76 years ago now. And it was a tough transition for my mom, but not my dad. I think he was happy about it and relieved that there were other people that could be here, because he always knew that if something happened, there was no way that, especially in the middle of the night that my mom could manage by herself in the home. So I think it gave him great relief. And I truly believe there’s no way he would’ve made another three months. I mean, I would’ve loved him to live another year here, but every day at home for a long time when I would be there, he would say when I’d sit him up on the sofa, ‘I don’t know if I can keep doing this.’ And he’d tell me that and he’d say, I’m ready. I’m really ready.’”
On their time at Expressions at Enumclaw:
“He totally had the support of the whole team. Everyone was so compassionate, and it allowed him to still be here with her, but yet get the rest he needed. And she had, with her dementia, every time he would try and rest, she’d think he’d been sleeping all day. So at home, all she wanted to do was get him off of the sofa, even if he’d only laid down for 10 minutes, and he needed more rest than she did. His body was really wearing down, so it allowed him to get rest. And they had their meals, which was amazing. My dad was heating Lean Cuisines in the microwave every day at home.
And so just the whole team was amazing. There were so many things that happened while they were here. They celebrated my mom’s 97th birthday. They celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary here. My dad made it through Christmas, which was amazing because my family comes kind of from far and wide, and Christmas has always been a huge time to come together and celebrate a lot of traditions that my dad has started for our family.
But then what we could do is rotate families in one at a time. So my brother and his kids, and my niece’s baby, everyone could all come in. And then as soon as they were leaving, they’d call the next family and the next family, my parents had five kids, so we were all able to rotate in. And this room accommodated all of us so nicely. We had a sofa, the loveseat, rocking chairs and recliner. We could all easily fit in here, one family at a time. And it just was amazing that he made it through Christmas, for sure.”
On their final moments:
“The night that my dad passed, he passed at five in the morning. He hadn’t been talking all night. And my niece and I were here all night with him and holding his hand, and we took turns sitting in the rocking chair, holding his hand, sitting on the sofa and all in the same room chatting. And neither of us went to sleep or anything. And then all of a sudden at just before five in the morning, my dad said my mom’s name three times really loud…
And so we woke my mom up and she had been in a sound sleep all night that night, which was a blessing because Med Techs were coming and going, and he was on morphine every four hours… It was quiet, but still people coming around. But my mom slept through everything. So had we not been in the room at the time, she would not have woken up, but we were able to get her up and slowly get her, walked over to the side of the bed and sit her in the rocking chair and put her hand in his hand. And then he opened his eyes and then he looked at her, and then he closed his eyes and he passed. And my niece and I were both here together to be here, so I’m grateful that we were both here at the same time. And then when my mom passed, Johanna, one of the (overnight) caregivers was here in the room with me when my mom passed as well.”
On what Expressions at Enumclaw meant to her parents:
“Your team always was so gracious and just helped every bit of the way and just made them comfortable. My parents were used to being on their own in their home by themselves, they got used to being isolated from people, even though people would come and visit it’s different than living in a community. But oh my gosh, my dad, I mean, he loved everyone, but he definitely had a lot of favorites that he was like, ‘I’m going to adopt this one, and she can be part of our family.’ The team was amazing.”