March 28, 2010 – Whew! I think we’ve made it!


It has been nearly 2 weeks since Dad was discharged from Botsford Geri-Psych and was relocated to a new home specializing in Assisted Living for Dementia, Courtyard Manor of Farmington Hills.  This place has proved to be special and every single person working inside its 4 walls appears to be very loving, genuine, patient and kind.  It does my heart and conscience well to be able to trust in them and their facility and the approach philosophy they have for Dad.  During Dad’s violent outbursts, the staff reacts with loving words, kind suggestions and  one-on-one friendship.  I really see a place like this working well, where the dignity of the patient is ALWAYS first and foremost.

The confidence I have in the home has allowed me to relax and step back, knowing that Dad’s in extremely capable hands.  This transition has given me permission and space to focus again on myself and not to worry if I don’t get to see Dad every other day.  Every 4 days or so seems to work out just as fine for both him and me from what I can tell so far.  And he’d be happy to know that this break has allowed me to get my work life kickstarted once again.  I already feel so much more complete and just overall SO much better!!

This is also the perfect time for Mom and I to transition into a VERY WELL-DESERVED vacation getaway to somewhere warm!!!  In just 3 short days I will be turning 40 years old, and my mommie and I will be off flitting around on a beach or a boat somewhere tropical (she planned the trip as a surprise destination for me!), just the two of us, cut off from the drama of back home, getting to know ourselves again and truly being able to unwind.  Ahhhhhhh… We SO deserve this trip!

The attached video is from one week ago.  It contains footage from 2 of my visits to see Dad over the same weekend.  You will be blown away by how he can be nearly comatose at one moment and then dancing the next!  You truly NEVER know what you’re going to get when you open that door.  And when there’s a special day waiting there for you, on those rare days when you get to look into Dad’s beautiful blue eyes, especially on the days when those eyes have sparkle and life in them! – THOSE are the moments we’re cherishing now.  Each little joke, each dance step, each connection is worth a million dollars in gold…  

16 Responses to “March 28, 2010 – Whew! I think we’ve made it!”

  1. cindy said

    Oh Joleen & Fran, I am SO happy to hear the transition it giving you peace of mind. Enjoy your WELL DESERVED vacation. You are all in my prayers daily and know that Frank is in very capable loving hands! God Bless and HAVE FUN! Love Cindy

    • Cindy ~

      Yes, we finally think that Dad is at the right place. Everyone there is so amazing to him! They truly treat him like a person, not a patient. He so deserves that. xoxo

      ~ J

  2. Fabulous! I’m so happy for your family! Enjoy your vacation. Party hardy!!!

  3. Amanda Davis said

    Happy Birthday Joleen!

    I spoke with your mom briefly after service yesterday & from what she said and from these videos today, it looks like Frank is doing well at the new place. I am so glad for you all that he is not at the psych ward anymore, that had to be torture for you. The man helping him in the first video was so KIND and GENTLE and patient, what a blessing. From my own family’s experiences, I have seen all ends of the care spectrum & really can tell at least from the man on the video, that they are treating them as PEOPLE, not patients. I truly pray that your Daddy receives the compassionate care that he (and everyone!) deserves during this challenge.

    And I am so happy to hear that you and Fran are going on a birthday vacation! Good for you both, you deserve a break – enjoy yourselves, soak up some sunshine for me! I know you will have an amazing time wherever you are headed!!

    Blessings & love, Amanda

    • Amanda ~

      I hope your new career is going exactly as you dreamed!!! My vacation last week was AMAZING – as is my mother (who surprised me with the trip!). We went to Miama, Key West and then Cozumel for my actual birthday. What an amazing sense of accomplishment to actually have NOTHING to do! LOL Ahhhhhh… it was heaven.

      ~ J

  4. Judy & Jim O'connor said

    It’s so wonderful so see Frank moving, dancing, & having enjoyable moments. I can only imagine how precious it is to ALL of you. We’re so pleased with the trust & reliance that you’ve found at the Courtyard. Octavia is the best! 😉 Thank you God for the small doses of peace of mind this is providing. Love & prayers to ALL, Judy & Jim

  5. Danielle Porter said

    GOD has sent you such a gift! Thanks so much for sharing, Joleen. I’m a friend of your parents; I work @ Mcc and they have been my friends for 20++ years. Your mom and dad took me to dinner before Mr. Firek declined, and I didn’t know then that I would treasure that forever!! I really appreciate your strenth, and I can see how much he is loved in the videos. I love him too!!!!!
    Have a great Bday, and please kiss your mom for me and give her a hug filled with Jesus lol, have a great trip!!!

    • Danielle ~

      It’s always so cool to hear from people who’s lives my parents have touched. Thanks for letting me know about your special relationship. I will look for you at MCC this summer! 🙂

      ~ J

  6. Hi you two!

    You both deserve to take a well-needed rest from the hectic pace you both have been driven to. I re-read the letter you posted—and got a “kick” out of the phrase — we need to get away to someone warm! I knew you wanted to say “somewhere”, but never-the-less, got a little chuckle out of it.

    So, please just relax, enjoy the sun, have a drinkie-winkie and UNWIND!!!!! Just have fun.

    Thinking of you, Pat & Tom McG.

    • Mom and I are back and, boy, did we ever ENJOY our trip! Basking in the sun with nothing to do and no worries for 5 days was quite an extraordinary experience for us. I will post a new entry this week to catch everyone up…

      ~ J

  7. Kelly said

    Thank you so much for sharing your fathers very sad struggle with AD. I found your blog through the Alzheimers Reading Room. I care for my mother who is also battling this terrible disease. She is able to be home for now. It is day by day. I loved your video clip of your dad dancing. He is so blessed to have such a loving family.

    I was very close to an elderly couple whose children tried to talk them into assisted living because the father, Carl, had mid stage AD. The mother flat out refused. And the kids weren’t happy to have to look out for them. Unfortunatly they had given their son power of attorney some time ago. This is a very wealthy prominent family in my area. One day the son and daughter had a family friend the father knew and loved come and pick him up at his house to take him to get ice cream. The friend took him to a nursing home instead. The kids had their parents moved in and all they needed were the parents! They assumed their mother would go along once Dad was settled in. Carl was so excited to go for ice cream. He had his coat on standing by the door watching for ‘Butch'[I was present]. Once they got him to the nursing home he fought violently [that wasn’t part of their plan]and had to be sedated with a shot through his coat because he would not allow them to remove it. Of course after this violent behavior the nursing home would no longer accept him and he ended up in a Geriatric Behavior Center. He became a zombie and died within 3 months. The saddest thing to me is that he was not ready for a nursing home. He still enjoyed life everyday and he was one of the kindest gentlest men I have known. He did not deserve this. I can only imagine that there are a lot of stories like Carls.

    Your dad’s drugged demeaner and his physical movements are exactly like Carls were when we were finally given permission to see him in that terrible place. Your father is most likely living on his familys love. Carl did not have that and his dignity was completely stripped away. Bless you for this mission you are on. I know it has to be very hard on you. You are helping many people ….Kelly

    PS….your dad looked like he was praying when he was kneeling at his bedside. I remember in one of your older posts [I went back and read them all] you mentioned he was a committed church member…I believe he was praying to his Lord. Do you think he would be comforted by family members praying with him? I will keep your dad in my prayers……

    • Kelly ~

      I’m so happy that you found me and my story!! Yes, it is appalling how many people are drugged into submission. I hope to get the word out and make a difference. I do still need to get church sermon CDs and oldies music to Dad’s new home along with an iPod for his room so that his favorite things can be played for him regularly. I will also remember to say a prayer with him next time I’m there – a VERY good reminder. Thanks! 😉

      ~ Joleen

  8. Rev. Ric Beattie said

    Dear Firek Family,

    The video of Frank dancing is so precious. I appreciate your willing to share these intimate moments with the rest of us. You have helped expand my awareness of Alzheimer’s and related diseases which ultimately makes me a better pastor. Your experience of caring for Frank Sr. through this experience also remind me that all any of us have is now.

    You are all in my prayers.

    Always in Love,


    • Ric ~

      We LOVE you and miss you!!! And THANK YOU – It feels good to hear that our family experience and my project are making a difference in the world – that is my number one goal. You inspire me!!! 🙂

      ~ J

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