RICES LANDING – Before she was robbed of her dignity and mind 13 years ago by a cruel, crippling disease called Alzheimer's, Dolores Jackson was an extremely outgoing woman who loved life, traveling and shopping.
Now 83, Dolores lies in a nearly comatose state in a first-floor bedroom at Haney's Personal Care Home in Rices Landing, occasionally opening her eyes when one of her daughters speaks or gently rubs her hand. But there is no recognition. Her eyes close and she goes back, peacefully.
“The diagnosis came in 2001,” said Jennifer Faddis of Carmichaels, one of Dolores' four daughters. When Faddis' husband was discharged from the service, they bought a house big enough so her parents could move in with them. “My father died in 2003, but they were already living with us, so for Mom, she was at home.”
The onset of early Alzheimer's symptoms already had begun to appear before 2001. “She became forgetful, repeated herself a lot and began to lose things,” Jennifer said. “She would burn things on the stove, and when my dad was sick, she would care for him, but she couldn't keep his medications straight.”
After the diagnosis and the death of her husband in 2003, the real turning point for the family was when Dolores got out of the house twice and walked out to the driveway. “My kids were small at the time, and I owned a business, and my husband worked away and he was gone all week,” Jennifer said.
The choice was simple. “This was an old two-story house, and I was worried about her going up and down the stairs.” She needed something that Jennifer and her family could not provide.
The family decided to place Dolores in Golden Living Center in Franklin Township because it has a lockdown Alzheimer's unit. “She was going to be safer there than at home,” Jennifer said.
After two years, they moved Dolores to a personal care home in Masontown, Fayette County, but the arrangement did not work out, so in 2009, Dolores was moved to Haney's Personal Care.
“I have known Nancy (Haney) for a long time, so I called her to see if there were any openings. She said there were none, but in a couple of months she called and we got her in,” Jennifer said. “And we have no regrets about our decision.”
Jennifer said the training and personality of the employees at Haney's is exceptional. “They take time to talk to family members, talk to the patient (or resident), and they come to love them. The interaction is so close,” she said.
She described Haney's as a home away from home. “They offer individual care, more attention, and in the beginning, they were more apt to give her a bath despite objections to the contrary.”
Jennifer said she does not come to see her mother every day. “I used to come to visit a couple of times a week, then once a week, now about once a month,” she said. Her infrequent visits do not mean she loves her mother any less.
“It is so hard to see my mother's degeneration. It is very hard, and this horrible illness is just as hard on the family because we see her physical decline. Her essence is lost, and what she was has been stolen away from her,” Jennifer said.
And if anyone can understand what Jennifer is feeling, it is Nancy Haney, who has operated the personal care home on Carmichaels Street for 20 years.
“We have room for eight residents, and we are filled,” she said. While she has had other Alzheimer's patients, Dolores is the only one now at the home.
“These people become like family,” she said, holding back tears. “It is so hard to watch them deteriorate. I just know God will decide when it is time to take her.”
Dolores' room is simple – a bed, a few chairs and family pictures on the wall. If she were able, she could get up and walk down a hall into a living room and watch television. Instead, as she sleeps, voices from a television a few feet from her bed speak to no one who is listening, but nonetheless talk to her as if to remind her she hasn't left yet.
Pat Mateucci of Jeanette, another of Dolores' daughters, said her mother is now in end-stage Alzheimer's. “There is no interaction; she is just here. She still mumbles a bit, but there is no two-way conversation. We just talk to her,” she said, perhaps as the television does when no family is present.
Jennifer said a hospice nurse recently came to see her mother. “She measured her arms, and her muscle mass has gone down quite a bit in the last three weeks,” she said. “She also has been refusing to eat. They are trying to get as much liquid into her as possible. My biggest fear is she will starve to death.”
Jennifer said Nancy has cleared up bed sores, and she has begun to feed her. “Once, my mom started to choke, and all Nancy could do, once she corrected the situation, was to cry. That's tells you what kind of person she is.”
Pat said no one knows what the timetable will be. “No one will ever know that, but it's getting closer. It is just a matter of her will.”
Jennifer said she and Pat and their two other sisters, Anita, who lives in Masontown, and Mary Alice, who lives in Crucible, all came to the decision to put Dolores in the personal care home. “Based on our family dynamic (that none of the sisters could care for Dolores at home), the decision to place her at Haney's was a wise one.”
Nicole Faddis, one of Dolores' 10 grandchildren and Jennifer's oldest daughter, said she wants to remember her grandmother when the two of them would dance in the kitchen. “I don't remember the decision to place her in homes. I was at an age where I didn't understand. I just want to remember her being happy,” she said.
It's so hard to see her like this, Nicole, 21, said. “I know it's horrible to say, but I just hate seeing her like this.”
Pat, also becoming very emotional, said the family has been through a lot in the last 14 years. “I have prayed for her to go. Each of us has been praying that her time to go home will come. We can't be selfish hoping that she stays, knowing how much she hates just existing,” she said.