Lifelong Health & Aging

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There's No Place like Home 

Don and Donna Bock have visited several continuing care facilities in Newport News and Williamsburg. They were able to see the benefits of these options.

But none offers the warmth of their four-bedroom home, full of family photos, many of them of their only daughter, Amanda, son-in-law Cory and their three young grandsons who reside in Connecticut.

It’s hard not to be smitten by an oversized corner cabinet in the living room that displays Donna’s enchanting Santa Claus collection, an eclectic mix that includes several Saint Nicks favoring the University of Virginia, alma mater of Amanda.

Donna’s affinity for chickens livens up a bright kitchen, and don’t ask how many books are in the home. Donna’s a voracious reader who never tires of adding to her library. Don’s happy place is his workshop off the garage, where he not only tinkers with repairs but builds things and maps out further renovations to the house they’ve called home for the last 36 years.

“No matter how nice those places are, they’re not home,” Donna says. “My reaction to them was that these are really perfect— for some people.”

“We want to age in place,” Don says. “We want to stay in our home.”

That’s what ChooseHome allows you to do.

Don is a planner; ask him and he’ll dig out every calendar he kept as the longtime principal of Poquoson High School. He’s been proactive in protecting their assets and years ago, invested in long term care policies for him and Donna. Initially, he thought, they were enough to see them through their golden years.

He recently concluded that, “As years went by with the increased cost of health care, a singular policy is probably not enough.”

Both Bocks have experience with caring for their aging parents — Donna’s lived nearby in Newport News; Don’s resided in Florida. The Bocks were adamant about keeping their parents at home, but they didn’t have a program like ChooseHome in place to help.

Instead, they relied on each other and their siblings to coordinate appointments, medications, meals and all ultimately, all the essentials that go into full-time caregiving.

That wasn’t only challenging — the Bocks worked full time back then — it was exhausting. Donna put in the time despite working long hours for the City of Newport News as a social worker.

“That was our lives,” Donna says, and she is grateful for the experience. But she regrets the toll of all of it leaving little time for her to sit and talk with her mom and dad when she knew their days were numbered.

That’s a hardship neither of them wants Amanda to face.

“We want her to do the loving part that has to do with the end of our lives,” Donna says

An initial meeting last spring with Cynthia Stillman, Senior Consultant for ChooseHome, reassured them about their decision that they finalized in June 2020. They were assigned a Personal Services Coordinator, Susan Lewton, responsible for taking care of all the details related to their health. Lewton stays in regular contact with them, knows their family history and is a resource for whatever they need.

“I know if I have a question, I can call her in a heartbeat,” Donna says.

An unexpected perk: They got vaccinated quickly. Their primary care provider did not receive any COVID-19 vaccines, but Lewton arranged for both of them to be vaccinated in early 2021.

“One of the things I felt most comfortable about is you have a major, if not the major, health care provider, Riverside, that stands behind the ChooseHome program,” Don says. “Once we made the decision, we looked at each other and said, ‘This is what we want. This fits.’ It’s the best of both worlds. A lot of things that happen as you age can be taken care of right in your home. If you need more skilled nursing, they have access to these continuing care facilities, but they’re a last resort.”

The Bocks are in their 70s. They’d rather be anticipating another trip to Connecticut to visit Amanda, Cory and the boys or in Don’s case, planning something else to build, than worrying about what might happen if they get sick.

“I’m a planner,” Don says. “This is not something that you want to think about but you have to deal with it. If something were to happen, I can make a phone call to Susan or Cynthia, and it’s handled. We have more control over our situation if we age in place.”

Hopefully, Donna says, the Bocks will never have to use many of the benefits of ChooseHome. But having a plan in place, being able to control all that’s in their control, delivers a peace of mind that money can’t buy.

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