"Spirit of Christmas" reunites couple at Wesley Acres
It's not unusual for the days leading up to Christmas to be an emotional time. When an accident in an older adult necessitates a total lifestyle change, those emotions can be heightened to an even greater degree.
Fortunately, WesleyLife was able to turn a would-be catastrophe into a much merrier Christmas for a Windsor Heights couple.
"We received a referral from a doctor for the care of Naomi Hanson, who lives in a single-family home with her husband of 62 years," Lynnette Hauck-McKay, Home Health Clinical Supervisor for WesleyLife, said. "She has several health issues, and her husband, Dr. Leroy Hanson, has been her caretaker for a very long time. Well -- he is 87, and he fell and broke his wrist and his hip, and was admitted to the hospital early Christmas week. That left her alone."
Naomi was quickly joined by her two daughters, who live elsewhere in Iowa and arrived to temporarily take over their mother's care. But they quickly learned their father would need short-term rehabilitation after his hospital stay -- and because neither daughter lives in the Des Moines area, they were unsure how to navigate the disparate needs of their two parents.
Little did they know that Lynnette, WesleyLife community liaison Jessica Gray, and WesleyLife post-acute transition manager Janette Osweiler were already on the case, working with several of WesleyLife's communities in the hope of finding a way to keep the couple together during Leroy's rehabilitation.
"We were looking not only at their very different physical requirements, but also at the fact that this is a couple of more than 60 years' time that didn't want to be apart, especially at Christmas," Janette said. "Mrs. Hanson needed long-term care, and Dr. Hanson needed short-term rehabilitation, and those are two different things that are usually handled in separate areas.
"But it was like the spirit of Christmas just took over, and we all decided we were going to stop at nothing until we had found a creative solution for these sweet people."
Wesley Acres, WesleyLife's flagship community in Des Moines, turned out to be the answer. That community's long-term care and short-term rehabilitation areas both are housed in the campus health center, and Brandon Kranovich, Director of Health Center Operations for Wesley Acres, was glad to approve the creative arrangement.
"So there was 'room at the inn,' so to speak, and we were elated when we learned that they would indeed be able to share a room -- and that we could get them both there by Christmas," Janette said.
The hospital discharged Leroy on Friday, Dec. 21, and he checked into rehabilitation at Wesley Acres. Hours later, daughters Amy Treimer and Jennifer O'Neal and granddaughter Grace O'Neal moved Naomi in to Wesley Acres to join him.
"Before you do anything else, come over here and give me a kiss," Leroy said to his wife, crying as she was wheeled into the room.
Leroy said in spite of everything he had endured the previous few days -- the fall and its aftermath were "certainly no picnic" -- he feels "beyond blessed" to be able to spend Christmas with his wife. He again grew emotional has he considered how the situation might have worked out.
"Given that she has dealt with health issues for some time and I've been relatively healthy, she would always say, 'What are we doing to do if something should happen to you first?'" he said. "That was her worst nightmare, and I'll tell you, I thought we were there this week -- that the time for us to live together had ended. I had no idea what would become of her care.
"And now, here we are in this beautiful place."
Daughter Amy said she and her sister had been concerned first and foremost about their parents' physical health -- but they also wondered, after their dad was taken to the hospital, how their mother would fare emotionally without him.
"They have never been apart," she said. "That was the part we had no idea how to navigate. Mom just kept saying, 'I just want to be where he is.'"
Naomi said she broke down in tears when Lynnette informed her that she and Leroy would be able to share a room at Wesley Acres.
"We were all overjoyed," she said. "I had been thinking, 'What in the world will happen?' and just like that, my worries ended. I just felt so grateful."
Leroy said he already feels so at home at Wesley Acres that he thinks he and Naomi should both move there permanently after his rehabilitation ends.
"Honestly, I feel so blessed by the care she is going to receive here that I don't care if I ever live in my house again," he said. "I have my wife and I have my work" -- at 87, he owns a company called Oomph, which produces a food-enrichment product for dogs -- "and the opportunity for her to receive the care she needs while we're able to be together is really all I want from life now."
For the foreseeable future, though, the family is focused on the holiday -- and is happy Leroy and Naomi will wake up in the same room on Christmas morning.
"I know it sounds like a cliche, but when I consider what we were looking at early in the week versus where we are now, it's a Christmas miracle," daughter Jennifer said. "My advice to other adult children would be: Don't wait as long as we did. Talk to your parents about plans. Don't let an emergency leave you scrambling for what do about their care."
Jennifer said late Friday that she was looking forward to sleeping well for the first time all week, knowing her mother was in good hands and both her parents were resting cozily and comfortably with one another.
"The fact that there are people who would work so hard to make sure two elderly people they don't even know can spend Christmas together -- that reinforces your faith in the world," she said.
Wesley Acres, WesleyLife's flagship community in Des Moines' South of Grand neighborhood, offers levels of living ranging from independent and assisted living to short-term rehabilitation, memory support, and long-term care. To schedule a tour or learn more, contact Linda Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (515) 271-6505.