It warms Holly Purdy’s heart to see her teenage boys interact with senior citizens. The registered nurse owns and operates two adult foster care homes: Blue Heron Pond in South Lyon and Nightingale Retreat in Howell.
Both house six seniors in comfortable, home-like settings, with staff of about 10 tending to them around the clock, and an open-door policy for family and friends to visit any time. Purdy’s children – Jack, 14, and Noah, 17 – have been a big part of the homes since they opened last year.
For eight months, Purdy and her sons lived at Blue Heron Pond, immersing themselves in caretaking. Now, Purdy visits daily to administer care plans. Her sons visit weekly to do chores and monthly to lead fun activities for the seniors.
“They’re learning a million things. What it’s giving those seniors and what it’s giving those boys, you can’t even put a label on it,” the Brighton mom says. “It’s love and compassion. It’s just priceless.”
Giving good care
November is National Family Caregivers Month, and this year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” Those who care for the elderly can’t clock out – morning to night and all weekend, medications must be managed, safety ensured and needs met.
For some in the sandwich generation, it’s just too much. That’s where adult foster care can step in.
“Adult care is just like foster care for children. I foster seniors. They are still your parents, but I take care of them. You get to be the daughter and just visit,” says Purdy, who’s 47.
The needs of the seniors vary.
“I have some that need help with almost everything – going to the bathroom, feeding, following directions. Some have Alzheimer’s so they can’t remember to change their clothes,” she says. “But my 100-year-old lady really and truly just needs us to keep an eye on her because she’s a fall risk. She can feed herself and fully has her mind.”
Purdy grew up in Pinckney and graduated from Dexter High School. She earned a business degree from Northwood University in Midland and went on to study nursing at the University of Michigan. For her last clinical, she hoped to do diabetes education – but instead was reluctantly assigned to home care.
“After spending one day with my mentor, I fell in love” with it, she says. “I felt like I could really make a difference in someone’s life by teaching him or her how to live with an injury or chronic condition.”
Later, her experience as a case manager for adult foster care homes inspired her to open her own.
“It’s very fulfilling to help them have the best quality of life at the end of their lives.”
Right at home
Seniors are welcome to decorate their rooms with family photos on the walls and things they love nearby. Each fills out a form when he or she joins the home so Purdy and her staff can get to know them.
“We know what their interests are and we try to accommodate them, whether it’s certain shows on TV, puzzles,” she says. “When I admit them I ask them, ‘What was your occupation? What’s your favorite hobby, music, color?’ Then I write their care plan so they can have everything they like.”
The best part of opening her group homes is seeing her boys interact with residents. “It’s actually the best thing ever for children,” she says.
“When I first told them about living with the seniors, they were afraid and said, ‘No, mom, they are old and wrinkly.’ Now they think the seniors are fun and interesting – and they are no longer afraid.”
The Brighton High School students join in to celebrate holidays – carving pumpkins for Halloween, dying eggs for Easter, putting on a fireworks display for the Fourth of July.
And while Noah helps out more in the background, Jack is hands-on.
“The best part is when you see your 14-year-old son with a 100-year-old woman holding her hand and talking to her,” she says. “He’ll go sit with them, get them a glass of water.”
She says seniors have so much to offer society yet are often overlooked.
“Our seniors are very important people. We need to embrace what they can teach us as younger generations,” she says. “I hear their stories every day and they help and guide us all with their words of wisdom. If I could write a book … ”
5 Things Holly Says Bridge the Generation Gap
- Bubbles. “Blow bubbles, turn on a bubble blower and try to catch bubbles (or) bubble paint,” she says.
- Alexa. “They can ask it a bunch of questions and they can be silly and it makes them all laugh. The boys also like to show (residents) how Alexa can benefit them, such as reminding them to exercise or playing their favorite song.”
- Rainbow Loom Crafting Kits.
- Need For Speed Wii game that’s played with a steering wheel. “The kids love it because they anticipate driving in their future – and the seniors like it because driving is something most of them enjoyed but have had to give up.”
Photo by Lauren Jeziorski