March 8, 2024

HERstory: Honoring the Journey of Individuals Living with Dementia

Category: Memory Care

Author: Ally Arguello, Memory Care Director

Women’s History Month

HERstory serves as a tribute to the unique journey, experiences, and contributions of an individual living with dementia. Each HERstory carries a rich past of memories, relationships, and accomplishments that define their identity. As dementia progresses, memories begin to fade. Preserving and sharing these narratives become invaluable in honoring the person affected and maintaining their dignity. At Wildwood Senior Living, we believe in acknowledging and celebrating each individual’s life story. Through this approach, we affirm the inherent worth and complexity of those living with dementia. It allows us to transcend the limitations imposed by their condition.

Through storytelling, we bridge the gap between the past and the present. This fosters meaningful interactions and cultivates a sense of belonging for individuals living with dementia. By embracing their narratives with empathy and compassion, we counteract stigma, dispel misconceptions, and promote a culture of inclusivity and respect for individuals affected by dementia.

Below is a HERstory about one of the residents living in our Memory Care Neighborhood.

Eleanor D. is a California girl at heart, born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley. El helped care for her family’s chicken farm, collecting and brushing eggs every morning before school. She enjoyed playing with the many animals that lived with them. She also enjoyed cheering for the Escalon High sports teams. Additionally, she found fulfillment in being active in church. Moreover, she was engaged in activities with the Rainbow Girls.

After finishing high school, she packed her bags and drove with her mom, Aunt Dot, and Aunt Sadie to Kansas City, where she accepted a teletype operator job for Trans World Airlines. It didn’t take long for one of her co-workers to do a little matchmaking between this cute young lady and a very handsome TWA airman. The 19-year-old El and Frank fell madly in love. During dinner at the Golden Ox, one asked the other to marry. Sixty-five years later, it’s still not clear who did the asking.

They made many friends in Gladstone, MO, and lived happily until 1970. For years, the world stopped five days a week when General Hospital came on the air.  It was time to stop the housework and sewing and open a bottle of Coke.

Frank and Eleanor bought a small ski boat for a getaway weekend to the Lake of the Ozarks. When Frank came in from a flight, El would pack the car. Then, they would gather the girls and head off to Rock Lane Lodge on the lake for a few days of relaxing.

Eleanor and her family are sitting on a brick edge in front of a cozy fireplace.

From Concrete to Community: Eleanor and Frank’s Journey

After they switched careers, they found themselves leading a small ready-mix concrete company in Lamar, MO. Eleanor partnered with Frank in managing the business, and they frequently filled their days with tasks like sending out statements, especially on the last day of the month. The entire family expected everyone to contribute to this significant undertaking. While Eleanor didn’t always embody the traditional June Cleaver mother figure for her girls, she could often be seen mowing the pasture on her John Deere tractor, all the while soaking up the sun in shorts and a pink and white striped bikini top! They set weekends aside for boating, now on Stockton Lake, which remained the highlight of their summers. During winters, they found solace in rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs and savoring a pot of chili in front of the fire.

Eleanor and Frank continued their hard work and lively social activities. Eleanor was inspired to volunteer in the Neonatal Unit at Freeman Hospital when her twin granddaughters were born very early and survived. After 12 years, she was named Freeman Hospital’s Volunteer of the Year. She retired after 20 years of service.

Eleanor sitting at table with flowers, wearing pink long-sleeved turtleneck.

After selling their concrete business, the couple purchased a house on Grand Lake. They enjoyed their retirement together there from 2000 to 2021. Now, Frank and Eleanor live in a senior living community in Joplin, MO. They are making an effort to turn their neighbors into friends!

Sharing the life story of someone living with dementia is not just an act of preserving memories; it’s an embodiment of compassion, understanding, and respect. By embracing their past, we honor their journey and provide valuable insights into who they are beyond the constraints of their condition through HERstory.

The Wildwood Senior Living in Joplin, MO offers independent senior apartments, assisted living, and memory care with a variety of services and a range of floor plan options. Amenities include restaurant dining, 24-hour bistro, concierge service, housekeeping, events and entertainment, personal care, transportation services, and more. Centrally located near Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital with convenient access to major shopping centers and attractions, including Twin Hills Country Club, Northpark Mall, Grand Falls, Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center – National Audubon Society, Spiva Center for the Arts, and George Washington Carver National Monument.

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