Laura Bush, like most Americans, is no stranger to caregiving. During a luncheon at the Assisted Living Federation’s 2013 Conference & Expo, the former first lady recounted her own family’s experience and recognized the important role of senior living providers and caregivers.
Former First Lady Bush spoke during an awards luncheon and ceremony hosted by ALFA recognizing six exemplary senior living employees.
“Declining health is a challenge for anyone, but it’s made more difficult when it’s accompanied by Alzheimer’s or dementia,” Bush said in reference to her father, Harold Welch, who suffered from memory impairments as he aged. “In your work, you know what a difference care and compassion mean for those struggling families year to year, because you’re dedicated to serving seniors with compassion and with dignity.”
When Mr. Welch’s health started to fail, Bush’s mother, Jenna, took him to the doctor. Part of the doctor’s assessment included asking Mr. Welch to name the current president.
The correct answer was President Bill Clinton, but Welch didn’t know. The doctor then asked if he could remember the previous president.
“He didn’t know,” Bush recounted, “even though it was George H.W. Bush—my father-in-law.”
Not long after, she continued, her father came home one day, set his keys down on the table, and announced he would no longer drive. All transportation then fell to Bush’s mother, who drove her husband everywhere—to see friends, go to the mall, or go birdwatching.
Then, Mr. Welch’s balance started to get worse, and, worried about a fall, the two stayed at home more and more.
“Their world shrunk,” Bush said. “Watching Mother look after Daddy, it was clear to me that caring for a loved one is a burden that cannot be carried alone.”
In the Welches’ case, she says her mother was fortunate enough to be able to hire help. Friends and family would call with names of people who had assisted with their own loved ones.
Even with assistance, the constant caregiving took a toll on Mrs. Welch’s health, too. After her husband passed away, it took around a year for her to feel well again, according to Bush.
These days, Mrs. Welch lives happily in a “wonderful” retirement residence in Midland, Texas.
“I’m grateful for how organizations like yours serve families like mine,” Bush said to the audience. “I give my sincere thanks to the heroes we honor today who go above and beyond to serve [their residents].”
The former first lady went on to help present awards to the six winners of the 2013 ALFA Hero Awards: Benchmark Senior Living’s Jane Bongiovanni; Brookdale Senior Living’s Alexis Parks; Emeritus Senior Living’s Fern Marshall; Genesis HealthCare’s Deborah Martin; IntegraCare’s Sarah Snavely; and Silverado Senior Living’s Leo Aguilar.
“The 2013 ALFA Hero Award winners are exemplars of the great work done every day in senior living communities across the country,” said Rick Grimes, ALFA’s president and CEO. “Their dedication and passion for serving seniors are the reasons more older adults choose to call senior living communities their home.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace