My name is Rachael Valfre and I’m the Memory Care Program Director at Lyndale Abilene Memory Care, a community owned and operated by Sagora Senior Living. My job is to provide purposeful programming for our residents while making them feel understood, safe and at home.
Our residents mean the world to me – I often call them my “framily”, friends who have become family. I love celebrating birthdays with them, sharing stories and continuing to learn from them. They have been such a blessing in my life. I always make a conscious effort to better understand them and to understand what it’s like to live with memory related impairments. Due to a recent medical journey in my own life, I was truly able to experience what it’s like to walk in their shoes.
My journey started with severe and often headaches about 10 years ago. I went to several neurologists and they kept saying that they were migraines. Within the last year, these “migraines” got to the point where they were debilitating. People even noticed a change in my personality and noted that I seemed tired all of the time. My job is to bring energy and excitement to our residents. I continued to do so during this time, but it required pushing myself and I would be completely exhausted upon coming home.
In October of 2019, I started talking to my new doctor to let him know that I was having severe headaches and even starting to lose my vision. After a spinal tap, it was revealed that my cerebrospinal fluid pressure was at 39 centimeters of water. For perspective, 12 centimeters of water is considered normal. I was sent to a neurosurgeon immediately after – if I didn’t have surgery, I would lose my vision.
I went through with the surgery and recovery was two weeks long. The most excruciating part of recovery was being away from our residents. After about 10 days, I felt fully recovered and ready to go back. I told my doctor that my residents are my medicine and that I needed to be back in the community to get back to feeling better. The first day back was one of my happiest days ever. I am grateful to say that I have made a full recovery.
Residents living with dementia or Alzheimer’s do a good job of “putting on” and are exhausted after. I could relate. My formal diagnosis was intercranial hypertension. My symptoms were vision loss and memory loss. There were so many times where I would forget something as simple as a name. It was so frustrating, and the severe headaches only made it worse. I don’t remember recovering in the hospital at all. When people tell me that they visited me, all I can rely on is a book that I had visitors write in.
This whole experience helped me understand what residents go through on a daily basis. I’ve never felt more empathetic towards them and the surgery has humbled me and made me a stronger Christian and Memory Care Director. I couldn’t do this without my faith. I was raised by grandparent figures and they not only introduced me to Christian living but also gave me my love and passion for the geriatric community.
Anytime family members come to our community to move their loved one in with dementia or Alzheimer’s, I understand that they are grieving. They’re grieving because in a sense, they are losing someone near and dear to them. I let them know that it’s okay to grieve what was and to learn who their loved one is now and that our teams will help with that and be there for them every step of the way.
If you’re looking for a Memory Care community that lives out a Resident Philosophy each and every day, I encourage you to explore the Memory Care communities that Sagora Senior Living has to offer. With locations in Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida and California, I’m confident that you will find the right home for your loved one. Learn more about our communities here.