Dog shows, luaus and eldercare in Bedford

I’ve called Bedford home for almost 20 years. And until now, I never paid attention to what amounts to a big part of our community.

What happened was that recently, my mother finally reached the point where she could no longer live independently. It made sense for her to be close to us in Bedford, and so I started to get to know our town’s network of nursing homes and assisted living communities.

A little background: In my family, I’ve had to take the leading role in caring for Mom. Why me? My two brothers and I all want what’s best for her, and we all do our best to help her. But life has evolved for all of us to the point where I’m the one in the best position to look after her day-to-day.

My older brother, a career FBI agent, is based in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in counter-terrorism. My younger brother and his wife right now are caring for an infant son. And so it’s up to me to look after Mom.

In terms of responsibilities, I actually think it just about equals out: International terrorism = infant son = aging parent. Seems fair to me. So, during the past two years, I’ve been exploring and dealing with Bedford’s eldercare facilities.

Unless you have some direct involvement in this scene, it’s easy to go about life and not pay any attention to it. Mostly this is due to fear of the inevitable, I guess. (I know that was the case with me.)

But such facilities and their residents actually make up a not insubstantial chunk of our town. I don’t have any official totals, but Bedford must easily have more than 1,000 residents in nursing homes, rehab centers and assisted living facilities. And such facilities employ hundreds of people.

So, after my two-year safari into the land of eldercare, I’m here to report that Bedford is blessed with a range of nursing homes and assisted living facilities that as a whole are pretty darned impressive.

Really! I’m not just saying that because my mother has been an inmate – er, resident – in several of them so far. My brothers and I are really impressed with everything we’ve seen. It’s a part of our town that every Bedford resident can take some pride in.

I think my feelings might be rooted in an antiquated notion of what an “old age” home really is. When I was a kid, I watched both of my grandmothers slowly decline in old-style nursing homes, and it wasn’t pretty.

So when it was time for my own mother to find a suitable community, I wasn’t prepared for what’s available these days. Some facilities seem more like upscale hotels or resorts! And even the more medically oriented places, such as skilled nursing facilities or rehab centers, are a lot more welcoming than the outdated picture I had in my mind.

In Bedford, we first selected Bentley Commons, a community for residents who have relatively minimal health care needs. Mom got a one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor near the elevator. And the next thing you knew, we were swept up in a whirlwind of dog shows, luaus and all manner of other activities that crowd the facility’s calendar.

Before long, Mom had made friends among the staff and other residents, and everyone was great. They even featured a picture of my mother and me (taken at the annual luau) in their advertisements!

Alas, Mom’s health needs proved more complicated than expected, and she had to move to a facility licensed for a higher level of care. So she became among the first residents of the brand new Bedford Falls assisted living community, up in the same development as the Copper Door restaurant.

This was another revelation: a brand new state-of-the-art facility that to me looked more like a country club than a nursing home. And once again, the people were uniformly great – the residential aides, the medical staff, the kitchen/dining employees, everyone.

Mom has had a few ups and downs, and so she’s had to spend time at Ridgewood, a skilled nursing facility off South River Road. Though older than the others, it still sets a high standard for both physical plant and people. Without exception, everyone there has been a pleasure to work with while my mother gets needed therapy.

So, in case you’re like me and have been ignoring all our community’s eldercare facilities, I’m here to reassure you that Bedford is blessed with some first-class operations.

Yes, it’s only human nature for most of us to look the other way as we drive by such places. But we should all take comfort in knowing that a lot of effort goes into giving these residents of our town some comfort, respect and a sense of purpose.

And the occasional luau.

Jeff Rapsis is a newspaper publisher, educator, silent film accompanist and caretaker of multiple dogs who lives in Bedford. He can be reached at jeffrapsis@gmail.com.