When I had my hip replaced a few months ago, I didn’t have a clue how I was going to take care of myself during that first critical week. The “hip precautions,” in addition to ordinary recovery from major surgery, were daunting and confusing. A good friend offered her home for the first few days, since I live alone, and this seemed like a good plan. After all, I thought, surely I could do most things by myself, as long as I was careful, right?
When I mentioned my plan to Susan Deixler, the care manager at West Marin Senior Services, she was shocked. “Do you know what this kind of recovery and recuperation requires?” No, I did not, but I found out after I took her advice and moved into Stockstill House for the first 10 days after surgery.
Stockstill House is the terrific assisted living facility for frail elders who can no longer live in their own homes. It’s supported by West Marin Senior Services, which, in turn, is supported by caring donors in our community and beyond. I was a chaplain there for several years, so I knew about the breadth of quality care and saw how residents responded to staff as if they were their own family members. And staff do treat them that way—as family.
What I hadn’t known was that Stockstill House is not just a place for frail elders. On the contrary, when there is room, it is available for people in exactly my situation: people who live alone and undergo major surgery but can’t return home until they have had time to recover.
Though I had observed the loving care and relationships between staff and residents, I had no idea what it was like to be a recipient of that care. The 15 staff members were just magnificent, managed by the upbeat, loving and energetic Natalia Meyerson, who models a high level of loving attention and action. Robyn Torres, a registered nurse, makes sure all the details are covered. I was such a fuzz-brain after surgery that I forgot to take my pain meds, but Robyn made sure they were delivered to me, exactly as prescribed, all day long. Everyone was friendly, kind, helpful and hard-working.
I was delighted to receive instant help with all aspects of ordinary living. In the first few days, I couldn’t even get myself in and out of bed without help, and that made me anxious because I get up two or three times at night to use the bathroom. When I pressed the call button, the night caregiver showed up in less than a minute—every time. I got over my embarrassment and worry, and settled into accepting care as often as I needed it, including help with bathing. All the meals were varied, plentiful and delicious. In the morning, I was asked for my breakfast order and got exactly what I ordered (with a smile). Every staff member, without exception, was aware of my meds, laundry, the need to do P.T. exercises and my general wellbeing—the same way they are with every single one of their regular residents, never short-changing anyone’s care.
During my 10 days at Stockstill House, another local resident who’d broken her foot moved in for convalescent care. We both loved the staff, service, warmth, peace and quiet, and loving attention—oh, and the camaraderie at meals!
Another way Stockstill House serves our community is to offer respite care: when you are taking care of a frail parent or spouse and you need some time away, Stockstill will care for your loved one for a week or so while you get some much-needed respite.
Of course, its main purpose is to enable elders to stay in our community when they need this level of care. Residents thrive, often for years, in this homelike atmosphere—close to family and friends who can easily visit, run errands, take them to lunch, and celebrate special occasions together. This is home for them.
I fervently recommend all members of the community check it out, even if you don’t need it right now. After all, everyone is an elder-in-training, right?! If you have some time to give, come and read or sing or watch DVDs with residents. Or come to one of our events, such the traditional Dia de los Muertos celebration we held this week.
I also invite you to drop in at West Marin Senior Services, in the Creamery Building, and learn about all the other services provided to local seniors. You can volunteer by giving rides, delivering meals or just being a friendly visitor; seniors living alone can get so lonely. Senior Services wouldn’t be here without your generous support, and we all want it to be here when we need it. Go to WMSS.org for the big picture.
I’m so grateful I had the blessing of receiving magnificent care at Stockstill House, long before—I hope—I need to live there full-time.
Rev. Elizabeth River is an ordained interfaith minister who lives in Inverness.