When the pandemic hit, Shelita Guy found herself juggling full-time caregiving for her mom, parenting three kids under 10, supervising digital learning, and dealing with all the other demands of life. Her mom Gloria, formerly a strong independent woman who could easily run up stairs – had suffered a series of strokes in late 2019. The strokes left her reliant on a walker, dealing with a cognitive and speech disorder, unable to walk very far without tiring, and struggling with psychosis, dementia and other issues. Gloria’s needs meant she needed to leave her home in Louisiana and move in with her daughter, which happened the same time as the pandemic.
That meant Shelita was totally on her own – none of the typical external support systems were open and she didn’t have family here. Shelita initially tried to find a program for her mom, but everything was already closed or in the process of closing.
“After a while of mom being at home with me, I got to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t leave her alone for even a moment. I’d be teaching my kids and all of a sudden momma would be in the garage, or in the kitchen using a large knife to open a can. I had to train my kids to let me know the minute she started to go somewhere in the house, which was stressful for them. I even told her – ‘I can’t do it anymore, Momma’ but I wasn’t even really sure she knew what I was talking about,” Shelita said.
“My family also hated that she was here because no one really understood what she was going through, and everyone was just miserable. The kids went from knowing a grandma they wanted to visit and spend time with to a grandma who was very different – someone they didn’t recognize and who didn’t have control over her actions. I was always trying to separate my mother from my kids, and just keep the peace. Plus the pandemic was happening, and my kids and I were really stressed. I developed insomnia because I was always up trying to make sure my mother and kids were safe. I didn’t have time to journal or even talk to a girlfriend about all that was happening. I felt so broken down and invisible – just lost. Like I wasn’t doing a good job because no one was smiling.
“I didn’t even really think there was anything my mom could experience to make her better.”
That’s when Shelita started trying to find help, for the second time.
“I began looking for respite programs, calling the ones I had called before the shutdown, thinking that if I could just have a break then maybe I could think things through and see what would be best for mom,” she said.
Shelita called Peachtree Christian Health again, learned they were open and had a grant available to help with the cost of her mom’s care.
“They told me I had called at the perfect time! I was so grateful,” she said. “I did have expectations that could not be lowered because I was terrified about leaving her somewhere, but they were expectations around having a clean, safe facility – not around her improving. But everyone at PCH was so positive, professional and really embraced their craft. So I knew she was in the best hands possible.”
When Shelita’s mom Gloria arrived at PCH, she just stared off into space. She could walk but only with a walker and frequent breaks.
“At home, she would try to leave. She would talk but nothing really made sense. Her cognitive difficulties left her almost zombie-like – just staring off into space. I hadn’t seen her smile and she couldn’t enjoy her grandchildren,” Shelita said. “She was dealing with psychosis and hallucinations and the first stages of dementia.
“Within two, maybe three weeks, of being at PCH, I began to see a different mom. She would come home and would be pleasant, eat dinner, talk to the kids and so on. Whereas before she was just frustrated all the time.
“Then Christi [PCH’s program director] told me my mom walked three laps for their Laps of Love fundraiser. And I was like ‘three STEPS?’ Christi said ‘No, three LAPS!’ Before PCH she couldn’t make it three steps without wanting to sit down! And, now, on top of walking more, when she came home, if I put words in front of her she would say ‘Oh, that’s this’ so I knew what they were doing there was stimulating her mind.
“I never cry but that made me cry. We had gone through some really hard and heartbreaking things once she moved in and to see her bright, shining smile again – and the difference in her when she came home every day – it was so wonderful.”
And the difference Shelita began to see in her own life was striking.
“When you’re caring for a loved one 24/7, it impacts your health in ways you don’t realize. But you don’t have to do it alone – PCH is there. And you can rely on them,” she said. “I have never felt alone since coming to PCH. When I finish talking to them, I always feel like I talked to someone who truly cares.
“They provide such personalized care that I always feel like my mom is the only one there. Her situation – and mine – is so important to them; not because it’s just their job but because they truly care. They have always answered any questions I have and made sure I knew what was going on with her so I could coordinate with her other health care providers around any needs or progress. PCH is so passionate and focused on their participants and their caregivers.
“Now I have time to focus on my kids, to be in the present with them and with my mama – and to see my mama smile. The kids and her also get along so much better now – they’re glad that she’s more like the grandma they used to know and they can have fun interactions. I’m so grateful to have her with me. And I want to enjoy every moment of that because tomorrow isn’t promised to us.
“PCH is a place, a family, you can trust to care for your loved ones.”
To learn more about our adult day program, visit pchlec.org/services/#program.