Making a Difference in a Family’s Life

By Rich Tenorio for The Stoneham Sun
rtenorio@wickedlocal.com

STONEHAM, Ma. — Three years ago this October, when Everett resident Doreen Odian's mother, Bette Dudley, began suffering from dementia, Odian made the tough decision to place her mother in a nursing home. After a brief stay in that facility, though, Dudley was unhappy.

"She cried for a week," Odian said. "She hated it. They put her in a severe Alzheimer’s unit."

Odian learned about the Bear Hill Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Stoneham.

"I researched and researched Bear Hill," she said. "I had to work. I had three kids in college. My husband must work. She wasn't reading my notes. She wasn't eating good... Wearing the same clothes. She needed people to oversee her."

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She arranged a speedy transfer with Peg Archidiacono, the facility director of nursing services. She called Archidiacono on a Monday afternoon at 4:30-4:45 p.m.

"They had one bed open," Odian said. "I asked to look at it. I said I would be there at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. She called the other facility said 'I would like to transfer her. Her daughter is going to bring her.'"

The move took place at 1:00 p.m. that afternoon. Since that time, Odian has nothing but praise for the facility.

"She has not cried nor asked once to go home," said Odian, a medical secretary for North Suburban Orthopedics in Malden.

With her daughter getting married in two months, Odian took a moment to reflect on the time her mother has been at Bear Hill and the difference the staff has made in the lives of their family.

"A nurse offered to take her to the wedding," Odian said. "I can't say enough good things."

Dudley lives on the first floor of the facility in the long-term care unit. She will turn 82 in September. She used to work in a school cafeteria. Her roommate is actually someone she knew years before from their hometown of Everett. The roommates each have their own TV, and Dudley has been placed by a window. Odian decorated her room with flowers. Odian and her husband, Jim Odian, take Dudley out once or twice a week.

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"Part of our policy is to embrace family involvement," said administrator William E. Ring Jr. "The families know more about patients in residency than we'll ever know. We welcome family involvement. At a lot of functions, we invite families in."

Doreen Odian has gotten invited to Thanksgiving dinner at Bear Hill.

"They try to do a lot of activities," she said.

That includes group activities once a month, a New Year's singalong and a Christmas trip to a shrine.

At Bear Hill itself, there is a dining room with a pub and grill, featuring entertainment such as accordionists, country line dancing and bingo and movie nights. The Stoneham Coin Club makes monthly visits.

The facility straddles the Stoneham-Wakefield line and, Ring said, "if you have a good arm and you throw a golf ball north, it'll land in Reading."

He also said, "We try to prioritize the needs of folks from local communities, Stoneham, Wakefield."

The privately-owned facility is not part of a chain. Management admits about 500 people a year and sends about 80 percent of people home after short-term stays.

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"We have a very friendly, upbeat, kind and compassionate staff," Ring said. "They're the ones that make it happen."

Odian agrees.

"(From) the janitorial staff, the CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants), the food people, everybody, they're so pleasant, so sweet," she said. "They always say hello, 'Hi, Bette.'... They have gone above and beyond for her."

She also said, "Every single person in the place is unbelievable."

Odian said that while her mother cannot remember something that happened five minutes ago, she can remember events that took place years ago.

"We talk about the old days, the good times," Odian said.

Odian is her mother's health-care proxy and has power of attorney. She applied for MassHealth to help with caring for her moth. She has one brother, who lives in Ohio. Her father died at age 56.

She said that her children and husband have been "wonderful, and also praised her niece and nephew.

"My family is there to visit her," she said.

She also gave Bear Hill the ultimate compliment, through her mother.

"It's like my mother called it 'my home,'" Odian said. "Her home."