Caroline Scully

Two of us can’t do what Iona does

Photo courtesy of Gerlach Graphic
Photo courtesy of Gerlach Graphic

It’s hard enough taking care of one parent with a serious illness. Imagine taking care of two — while living in a different city. Caroline Scully was living in Massachusetts. Her parents were living in the District’s Glover Park neighborhood, next door to her brother. Then things began to unravel. Her mom, Bernice, was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition. At the same time, her dad, Richard, was developing memory problems.

Still in Massachusetts, Caroline began managing their medical care and overseeing their finances, along with her brother. “It became so stressful going back and forth, I decided it was better to be with them,” she said.

She left her home and partner in New England to move in with her parents. “My brother and I were focused on making sure our mother was comfortable and getting the best possible care and that our father was taking his medications and getting out.”

Looking back, Caroline realizes she didn’t understand the health care system. “It’s not set up for people to understand,” she says. “I thought my parents needed to move into assisted living. Iona’s staff convinced me they could get good care at home.”

Caroline hired Iona’s care managers to conduct a comprehensive in-home assessment and tailor solutions specific to her parents’ strengths and preferences, as well as their challenges and risks.

“Iona has been a hub of resources and services for us,” says Caroline who also has benefited from Iona’s social workers and support groups, and has participated in its advocacy efforts. After her mother passed away at home in October 2014, Caroline enrolled her father in the Wellness & Arts Center, Iona’s adult day health program for older adults with chronic health issues.

When Caroline picks up her father, she finds him having a conversation with a staff member, engaged in a small group activity, or in art therapy. His artwork has been displayed in several Iona exhibits. In addition, experienced nurses and nursing assistants monitor his health. Is his blood pressure high? Is he losing weight?

If he needs physical therapy, it’s available at Iona. “Team meetings are remarkable,” she adds. “My father gets wonderful feedback from the staff. They all have thoughtful things to say.”

At the end of the day, he’s energized — in contrast to when he’s home all day and tired. “That’s because two of us can’t do what Iona does,” says Caroline.

“Our family’s relationship with Iona started small with me calling every once in a while and not really understanding all that the organization has to offer,” she adds. Having tapped into most of its services and expertise, she has nothing but gratitude. So does her father who, at a recent team meeting told the staff: “As you go through life you don’t often find people interested in you. You all seem to have a secret training ground for compassion.”

Written by Janice Kaplan