After standing strong through the losses of the Great Depression, through raising three children, and through caring for a husband whose Alzheimer's took his life at 89, our mother, Annabelle Kelley, needed care for herself.
After determining the care was more than our family could provide, we chose to place her at the Chautauqua County Home in Dunkirk. This facility was convenient due to the close proximity of two of her children and several grandchildren, who would be able to visit her frequently.
For the next four years she resided on the ground floor of the home. The staff was phenomenal and they, along with the residents, became an extension of our family.
In March, her dementia had become increasingly worse, so the decision was made that she would be more comfortable in the Dementia Unit at the County Home. It was a difficult decision to make, since we had already experienced Alzheimer's with our father. However, we didn't need to worry at all. The staff on this unit were beyond anything that we can even describe in words. They took care of Mom the way she deserved to be cared for after her years of working so hard herself.
On Sept. 7 our mother had a stroke and for the next eight days we sat with her while she struggled to live. But we were not alone with her. The staff diligently kept her comfortable and went out of their way to offer us any comfort they could as well. Several staff who had previously cared for Mom stopped in when they heard about her condition. They even offered to sit with her (on their own time) to give us a break. They truly cared.
On Sept. 13 our mother left this world and is now joyously in heaven with our father. When the sun shines, we like to think she is looking down and smiling on us. And we hope the doctors, nurses, aides, activity staff, social workers, food service staff, physical therapy staff, laundry staff and cleaners can hear her singing their praises and saying thank you over and over again for caring for her in the last years of her life.
As a family, we cannot say enough about what excellent care our mother received. The compassionate staff is irreplaceable and Chautauqua County should be proud of this facility.
Jerry Bierfeldt is a Salamanca resident and Ron Kelley and Rita Mroka are residents of Dunkirk. All are family members of Annabelle Kelley.