April McKenna is Agemark’s Director of Training and Development. She is responsible for on-boarding, training, coaching and development for all Agemark employees across 24 communities plus the management team. She has more than 20 years of experience in sales, operations, human resources, talent strategy and organizational development. She also is the daughter of a father that needs care for dementia as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always thought my dad was the strongest, funniest, smartest man. I knew he would always protect me. In my eyes, he was invincible. My feelings for him didn’t change as I got older and started my own family. In my mind, I pictured my dad in his golden years, enjoying retirement and traveling. Unfortunately, life changed. In 2006, when my dad was only 55 years old, he was involved in a construction accident at work. The accident changed life not only for him but for my brothers and me.
My dad had a traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident. He spent 45 days in a coma. Recovering for him was enduring two-years of intense physical therapy. He got better – but he was just a “little slower” in his movements. Anyone who met him was surprised and impressed at how far he had come once they learned about his journey.
As dad continued to age, each year we noticed he became progressively worse. He lived in an independent community until we realized he needed more help. His brain injury had affected his cognitive abilities, making caring for himself difficult. Each year new “behaviors” would occur. He struggled to recognize his children, grandchildren, and many aspects of his life.
After reaching out to his doctor, we learned that his traumatic brain injury had led to early-stage dementia, and he would be best suited in a memory care community.
Our search began.
During this time, my brothers and I learned the hard way that not all memory care communities are alike. Since I work for Agemark now, you probably think I selected an Agemark Community. Nope. At the time I didn’t work for Agemark, but also, I was busy raising a family and focused on my growing career. I decided that convenience was more important. To add ease to my life, I chose a place that was close to my home. I’m sad to say that I didn’t factor in what ultimately would be best for my dad.
Little did I know that I would eventually work for Agemark and get an inside look and front-row seat into how memory care should operate, how families should be treated, and how residents should be cared for. Agemark is an organization that is focused on truly caring for residents and treating everyone like family. My experience in other memory care communities was that to them, my dad was just a number…Room #30. They did not love my dad. My impression is that he was a burden to them.
Finding loving care.
Agemark and the team at Countryhouse have been amazing from day one. From my initial call to them, it was apparent they truly cared and wanted to help my dad – and me. At Countryhouse, they know my dad. They know his stories. And they call him, “Butch”, his nickname he had growing up. I know they love my dad; not only do they tell me so, but they also show it through their actions.
Making the best of life.
Dementia is tough. And it sucks. It’s a difficult road for everyone who is caring for someone with this disease. Every day is a new day, but sometimes the same day, on repeat. Sometimes my dad knows who I am and sometimes he thinks I am my mom. Sometimes he knows who my son is, and sometimes he calls my son “Baby April”. Sometimes I get phone calls 20 times in a row. I stay patient with this knowing that someday I will no longer get calls from him and be able to hear his voice.
My dad is still the smartest and funniest man I know. He is not as tough as he used to be, but as his daughter, it is up to me to be tough for him and protect him as he battles this disease. I do that by offering him the best, most experienced and compassionate care I can find.