The adult daycare program at Symphony at Mentor

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Cathy Sullivan (left) and her mother, Dorothy, spend time together at Symphony at Mentor. “It’s nice to have the luxury of just sitting with Mom and holding her hand,” Cathy says. “I don’t have to worry about physically caring for her. I can relax and enjoy our time together.” (Photography: Benjamin Margalit))

By Mary Malik

Role reversal is never more real than when caring for an aging parent, when the one who’s always taken care of you now needs to be cared for. And when a parent is suffering from dementia, the question of when to leave home for a memory care community is difficult. The staff at Symphony at Mentor is prepared to guide your family through the process.

Cathy Sullivan and her family have experienced all of this while caring for her mother, Dorothy.

“My mother and father were living in Pennsylvania when dad passed away,” recalls Cathy. “We didn’t realize how quickly mom’s Alzheimer’s was progressing. She was very good at hiding it. When we knew she couldn’t be on her own anymore, my sister and I moved her to Cleveland to be near us.”

Cathy and her sister, Gert, began the journey that so many families take. Dorothy first lived with Gert and her family for five years. Toward the end of that time, Dorothy was spending one week at Gert’s home and one week at Cathy’s home.

“She couldn’t be alone and we were struggling to find things she could still do to occupy her time,” says Cathy. “She wasn’t able to concentrate on the activities she used to love, like crocheting. We needed help.”

Cathy and Gert found just the help they needed through the daycare program at Symphony at Mentor.

“Bingo, volleyball, music, she loved coming to Symphony at Mentor,” says Cathy. “We started out coming three days a week and moved to five days because Mom responded so well. The staff here is amazing. They are loving and treat everyone here with the utmost dignity and respect.”

So when Gert moved to Florida to be closer to her grandchild, Cathy knew that the right move for Dorothy was to Symphony at Mentor.

“The changes involved with caring for a parent with dementia are difficult,” says Cathy. “Not only for Mom, but for all of us. The staff understands that it’s a difficult adjustment. The great thing was that they already knew Mom from the day program and Mom knew them. Mom adjusted more quickly than Gert and I did. It’s hard to let go of that control, but letting the staff here care for Mom was a great decision.”

Cathy stops by every day to see Dorothy, check in with the staff, and be a daughter again.

“It’s nice to have the luxury of just sitting with Mom and holding her hand,” says Cathy. “I don’t have to worry about physically caring for her. I can relax and enjoy our time together.”

Cathy tells the story of a staff member who said to her one day after caring for Dorothy, “I got to love your Mom today. I got to help her get dressed.”

“It was so beautifully said,” says Cathy. “She truly felt it was a privilege to help Mom. You can’t ask for more than that.”

The staff at Symphony at Mentor know that every family’s journey with dementia is different, but they know one thing for sure. No one should have to do it alone.

“We needed more help than we could offer Mom,” says Cathy. “My advice is don’t let yourself feel guilty. It’s impossible to be everything for the dementia patient. Share the burden. And at Symphony at Mentor it is so willingly shared. If you do that, everyone comes out feeling better.”

Symphony at Mentor is located at 8155 Mentor Hills Dr. in Mentor. For more information and to schedule a tour, call 440-290-4140 or check the website