MY Story Behind Thriving4Life
Founder & CEO
So many of us have experienced what it’s like to run out of ways to truly enhance the quality of life of someone we love. This is especially true when that person has been on a long journey of challenges with disease or impairments. Perhaps this person has dementia or other cognitive challenges that prohibit their ability to connect with their loved ones and the world around them. What can you do today that is truly going to make a difference in their life?
When your loved one can no longer express their life’s needs, or reminisce about the family, or the life you’ve spent together, what can you do? You’ve pushed a wheelchair through the garden of a long-term care center time and time again where your loved one now resides. You’ve read short stories aloud or watched old television shows until they no longer hold any interest. You’ve looked at the photographs of flowers and beautiful destinations in magazines until the pictures have become too familiar and a hundred other things. What can you do that truly makes life better? A new bottle of lotion? A gown? A sweater?
What if you discover that very specific music holding personal meaning to your loved one seems to enable them to be transported through time? Within their own mind, they seem to leave their surroundings, people and things that are unfamiliar and go to a safe place—a place they’ve been to before—a place they know and love.
What if you discover that within a few seconds your loved one seems joyful? They even begin to hum or sing the lyrics to songs you didn’t know they could remember. For the past five years, you haven’t been sure they even recognize who you are - much less that they can sing songs they once sang to you when you were a child. And they know every lyric to the songs!
My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1997. She had a 16-year journey from her diagnosis to passing in 2013. The last 9 years of her life were spent in community-based care.
Fortunately, she never lost her loving, meek, faith-filled nature. She became child-like through her journey with Alzheimer’s and, for me, Mommy seemed like a more appropriate name for her.
Mommy, Caroline & Cody
As a result of the many years spent in long-term care, my mother, sister and I all met some wonderful people with pure and caring hearts. Mommy’s ‘caregivers’ became her lifeline when she could no longer voice her needs. Entrusting the care of someone you love to the hands of a stranger is really difficult. But, the caregivers that were true to their profession are still in my heart today.
We don’t forget them. Because of them, we can sleep at night. We know that if anything happens to our loved one, that caregiver or nurse will be watching, and our phone will ring. We know who they are. They are true ‘advocates’ of our loved ones. Irreplaceable. Special people.
Like so many of us, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of health and elder care. Sometimes the prettiest places with the most beautiful furnishings and art lining the walls actually provide the worst care. Sometimes an environment that is simple, comfortable and feels like home is where we feel safest. Sometimes it’s the place that provides the very best of care.
A Burning Desire
A difficult experience with a loved one in the sometimes long journey of health or elder care often instills a burning desire within us to do something to make things better for those that follow a similar path. Our desire to make a difference is so compelling that we seem to have no choice. No matter how hard it is—we have to do it! But isn’t that why we’re all here anyway…to do something selfless for another human being or one of God’s creatures?
Such is the case, the driving purpose and the dedicated hearts behind Thriving4Life. Our founders are here for all the right reasons. We’re not perfect people, but we have pure hearts with every good intention. We’ve had experiences that brought us to the field of health and elder care—just like so many of you reading this.
I first fell in love with personalized music in January of 2013. I’ve yet to see any single stimulus or program that does more for individuals, their caregivers and their family members than personalized music. And what a gift—our life experiences, the emotions felt when those memories were created, and the music that played in those moments all wrapped up together and tucked away in the last part of our brain affected by dementia and many other diseases.
Thriving4Life wants to make life better for individuals with cognitive, mental, developmental or physical challenges, and improve the lives of those that care for them, both professionally and personally. We want to bring the music and so much more. Clinical art therapy and other programs, resources, services can serve these individuals well.
You Can Help
We invite you to help. We also hope you’ll discover many other stories on our blogs and consider sharing your experiences with us. And to all of you who have been, are currently, or will someday become caregivers (which is everyone), I’ll quote Thriving4Life’s chairman, Michelle Daniel. With every effort we make to do good, Michelle says, “Keep going…don’t stop!”