Mary has always liked to live life on her own terms. She grew up in a busy farm family of six kids in central Wisconsin. Then she was off to make airplane parts at a factory during WWII (“I was the original Rosie the Riveter,” says Mary.). Afterwards, she chose to dedicate her life to caring for others, first as a nanny for young children and later as a live-in companion for the elderly and then her own dad.
Today, retired at age 91, Mary sits in the sunny living room of her apartment in Oshkosh, home for nearly 30 years. “My home is my castle,” she says. “I like to be in control of what I eat, when I sleep, what I do, and how my day goes.”
Beside her on the couch is a basket overflowing with her reading material, mail and the schedule for favorite TV shows. Her walker stands ready, since Mary will go downstairs for lunch soon and see her many friends. Her sister Marge has come for a visit and calls every evening. Mary expects to hear from her brother, niece and grand-nieces, who also check in with her often.
Yet, in recent years, Mary and her close-knit family were worried that her independence – her ability to live on her own – was in jeopardy.
During her ‘80s, Mary had a stroke that affected use of her left side, later broke a hip and then cracked her pelvis. For many older adults, any one of these incidents would have meant a permanent move to assisted living or a nursing home.
For Mary, the next move after a hospital stay and therapy for each of these incidents was….back to her own home and life. Her sister Marge says, “I don’t know what would have happened without Lakeland Care.”
As a member of Lakeland Care’s Family Care Program, Mary has been able to get the support and services she needs to live on her own. When she first joined Lakeland Care, Mary and her sister met with her very own care team – a care manager and a registered nurse. Together, they identified Mary’s goals and set up an individualized service plan for her health and safety needs. That plan is updated every six months, or as Mary’s needs change.
The sisters are close, so often Marge will contact the care manager on Mary’s behalf. “I feel I can call Sherri, the care manager, about anything. She keeps in contact all the time and is always so responsive,” says Marge. “She’s also helps us solve problems and find the right help for Mary.”
Lakeland Care is great at communication, Marge emphasizes. And, as a nurse herself, she has high standards and expectations.
Another essential member of Mary’s team is Evergreen, a nonprofit organization that is part of Lakeland Care’s local provider network. Mary chose Evergreen to provide rehabilitation therapy after her various surgeries as well as daily in-home support – all part of her service plan. A caregiver comes to Mary’s home one hour a day, Sunday through Friday, to assist Mary with personal cares, walking to lunch and other activities where she needs a little help.
“My caregivers from Evergreen are like adopted nieces and nephews,” says Mary, known as “Aunt Mary” to her family, friends and caregivers alike. “I can tell them what to do – AND I tell them when it’s good. I believe in saying ‘thank you’ – there’s too much grumbling sometimes and not enough telling people ‘thank you’.”
Mary’s own family plays an important role on her team. Marge drives her sister to all appointments, picks up prescriptions, does grocery shopping and helps with financial paperwork. When Marge goes on trips, other family members step right in to help Mary and stay in close touch with Lakeland Care.
Faith is important to Mary, and she says she feels angels are watching over her. In her home, angels are everywhere. Figurines sitting on shelves, pictures framed on walls and the refrigerator – and those people who care for her.
“I am blessed,” Mary says. “I have a wonderful family, and I have all these people I call my angels, helping me live on my own and in control.”