Richard Gaschott had not envisioned his retirement would involve being a caregiver for his wife, Sue.
Married 40 years, Sue began exhibiting signs of dementia in her early 60’s. She would call Richard from the car to ask how to find someplace she couldn’t remember.
“Her mother suffered from the disease and she had feared she would also be at risk,” said Richard. “But she seemed so young to develop the symptoms.”
For four years Richard tried to care for Sue at home. Now that she’s living at the memory support neighborhood of Palm Lane at Three Palms at East Ridge, it’s a much welcomed relief for the couple.
“I call them my angels,” said Richard as he explained the care provided to Sue at Three Palms. “The caregivers specialize in dealing with people with Alzheimer’s disease and know how to deal with her good and bad days. Whether it’s the front gate or reception, there is a warmth and friendliness found at East Ridge that is very personal.”
Palm Lane at Three Palms is headed by Charnisa Wright who has been specially trained in the innovative dementia care program created by Teepa Snow. The Teepa Snow program has developed a classification system called GEMS™. This program is based on the Teepa Snow philosophy “to meet people where they are” and the understanding that “the task is not more important than the relationship”. The GEMS™ system describes six stages of dementia and, for each stage, sheds light on what people with dementia are experiencing, and on appropriate caregiving strategies. Under the direction of Charnisa, the team of caregivers is better able to meet the needs of people in various stages of dementia, and individualize their care.
“Palm Lane caregivers know each person and their idiosyncrasies, added Richard. “The atmosphere is very calming and comfortable. It’s comforting to know the caregivers are providing the attention the residents need. Whether its fresh linens to cleaning after meals, there’s always attention paid to these details.”
The couple met when they were working at Bush Gardens in Tampa. Sue was waiting to take her state boards in dental hygiene and working at a ticket booth, while Richard was working in cash control and audited the ticket booths.
While Sue initially thought he was somewhat arrogant when they worked late one evening, they got to know each other better.
Their first date was when he was having a dinner party for 40 of his fraternity brothers and asked her to be his date. This gave him the opportunity to show off his cooking talents as a gourmet cook. Later although they weren’t engaged, he invited her parents for a gourmet dinner and this sealed the deal. Her parents said if she didn’t marry him, they would.
The couple moved to Miami when Richard was hired by FPL where he worked for 18 years. He later joined Northern Trust Bank as a Vice President of Telecommunications and Security and spent 14 years there.
Sue worked as dental hygienist and ran a dental office. She sang in her church choir for 30 years and enjoyed many hobbies including counted cross stitch and baking. The house they shared where Richard lives with their three cats and two dogs is filled with many pillows she made over the years and an extensive collection of Hummel figurines.
Richard and their son frequently visits Sue at Three Palms. Additionally, she has many visitors including her friends from Old Cutler Presbyterian Church. Members from the choir come to sing to her and she remembers the hymns.
“She laughs and smiles and I always tell her ‘I love you’ when I’m leaving,” said Richard. “She tells me she loves me too and that is how we always end our visits.