For 49 years, Irving Fencka, 89, and Mary Ann Mudra, 81, along with their spouses, have been next door neighbors and fast friends in LaGrange Park.
Auntie Dorothy and Uncle Irv is what the Mudras kids call the Fenckas, who Mudra says “co-parented” them.
Mudra’s husband and Irv shared a passion for fishing. So, much of their “men time” has been bonding over fishing trips together.
Irv, a WW II vet, was “always a sparkling conversationalist, with a long memory for details, including the births and deaths of his 14 siblings,” Mudra recalls.
And, when he wasn’t working his full-time job at a canning factory, Irv would putter around fixing things, or flying in like a bird to help her unload her trunk full of groceries.
Eight years ago, was when Irv’s memory started to fail, and in September, thanks to Mudra, Irving Fencka became the sixth resident of the newly constructed Caledonian House, which is a venture of the Scottish Home for individuals, 65 and over, who have been diagnosed with early to mid-level dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
A good fit for Irv at this stage in his life, the home is a quaint, two-story structure with 10 resident rooms on each mirrored-designed floor. Built on five park-like acres in North Riverside, next to the Scottish Home, Caledonian House’s approach is described as person-centered, says Rebecca Drennan, marketing director at the Scottish Home.
“More and more people now are being diagnosed every day with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” says Drennan. “There is no cure yet. But, what can we do? We provide communities that offer that quality of life that can provide the services for them and make the transition from home to a new home a little easier, a little bit more soothing for people.”
Two years ago is when Mudra says Irv began to severely slip into deep memory loss.
“Before that he had always had a wonderful memory.” Mudra said. “Now, unfortunately, all he talks about is being with his mother, who died when she was 96.
“He is stuck in that time warp.”
Over this past summer was when it became clear that Irv could no longer live independently in his own home, especially with Dorothy falling ill. That illness has kept Dorothy from visiting her husband at Caledonian House so far.
Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) at the Caledonian House, Drennan says, are cross-trained in personal care, nutrition, meaningful engagement and housekeeping.
Meanwhile, mid-day, Irv is snoozing on a cozy couch, passing the time until he can grab his rolling walker and head out to the secure veranda to look out into the trees and spot a few species of birds, which, along with daily walks, remains a passion of his.
“Irving is a great nature lover and he feeds everything in God’s creation. The birds, the deer, the raccoons and the squirrels. In fact, I am going to bring his bird feeder and all his seed,” Mudra says. “To be able to be outside is what makes him the happiest, I think. Last week, the CNAs showed him the picture of his wife, and he didn’t know who that was. But, then, they say, hey Irv, that is your wife. He waited a few moments and said, oh, Dorothy. I miss that gal.”