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Love conquers health, memory challenges

Couples age at different rates and sometimes one person needs a higher level of care than his or her spouse. Making decisions about living situations and another person’s wellbeing can be difficult. Bill Thorn, a resident of Baptist Retirement Community, recently decided to transition his wife, Jessie, to the Green House® homes on campus, since she is suffering from dementia. Bill said Jessie reached a point where he could no longer be her sole caregiver. The situation was stressful and disadvantageous for both of them.

After booking an average of 200 speaking engagements per year, contributing pieces for Chicken Soup books, and writing 24 novels, Bill decided to share his perspective and positive outlook with other couples who may be going through something similar.

“When you love someone as much as I love my wife, giving up activities and hobbies in order to care for her is what you do,” Bill said. “When her health started to decline, I did not sign up for any more speaking engagements or work on any new books, simply because I wanted to stay home and make sure my wife had everything she needed. I’m 92 years old, and recently, our family and I made the decision to let Baptist Retirement Community provide her with the care she needed. I stayed in our high-rise apartment and helped her make the transition to her new suite in the Green House homes.”

The Green House homes present a unique approach to care including a design that is much like a typical family home with multiple bedrooms and personal bathrooms for privacy, a large social living room and a spacious kitchen area where seniors eat their meals together. The Shahbazim, a certified nursing assistant with additional extensive specialized training, care for and build strong relationships with the residents and are empowered to make decisions to protect, sustain and nurture them.

“My advice for senior couples that haven’t reached this point is to start planning ahead,” Bill said. “We never expect for these things to happen when they do, we anticipate them, but if we don’t plan then they are only more stressful to deal with when they hit. I have been married for 70 years, and I will care for my wife until death do us part. She has a keen sense of humor and has always cared for our home, our family and our four girls. I cared for her then and I will continue to look after her now.”

Prior to her transition, Bill worried about Jessie often. Sometimes she would leave and end up in random places; other times, she would lock herself out of the apartment. He said he lives with peace of mind now, knowing she is spending time with friends and being cared for by certified nurses. Since the move, both Jessie and Bill have been doing much better. Jessie has put on weight, looks healthier, her attitude is positive, and she’s forming great friendships. Bill’s stress has been alleviated, he has time to work on projects and is considering booking some speaking engagements nearby. He visits her every day around 2 p.m. and stays until after dinner. Sometimes they even go out to eat in town.

“The best advice I can give to everyone is not to judge people, be open and accepting,” Bill said. “Love people, share the love, spread the love, keep the love – be kind and help people in any way you can. Give everything the best you have and if you fail, try again. You should also set life goals and work toward them, because dreams do come true.”

Bill hopes to write another book, a personal memoir. He wants to share his thoughts, feelings and motivation that led to the life choices and path he chose. He says it’s not written like an autobiography, it’s a book explaining why he did the things he did, what he was thinking, what people meant to him, and his personal experiences. Although he is 92, he believes you should never stop exercising your mind or lose sight of your faith.

“Dr. Thorn is such an inspiration to our team, fellow residents and just about any person he meets,” said Quinda Feil-Duncan, executive director of Baptist Retirement Community. “He is full of sound advice, interesting perspective and has a kind soul. The way he has cared for his wife has been extremely touching. We understand that making new changes and transitions can be difficult, but there is a positive side. We have seen drastic improvements in both the wellbeing of Dr. Thorn and Jessie, and we are happy for them.”

-Forte Public Relations, Inc.

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