Jude Hughes describes her parents as the perfect couple.

“She had the operations and he had the mechanics.”

It wasn’t until her mother passed away unexpectedly that Hughes and her siblings realized there were deficits – her father, Matthew Pelletier, had always been spry and independent. But, he was becoming quite forgetful. Hughes recalls a turning point when she was driving behind her father after church.

“He went through a stop sign and a red light,” she says. “And, he didn’t even realize it.”

At the advice of doctors, the children had the very difficult task of addressing the problems with his driving. Then, they discovered he wasn’t eating the meals they delivered daily, he became weak and he fell.

“It all went downhill fast,” Hughes says. “We didn't know what to do - didn't know if we needed to place our dad somewhere.’’

Hughes had heard of Embracing Age, a membership program through Franciscan Companies that provides the support services needed to remain living as independently as possible. She met with Mary Gualtieri, a Social Worker with Embracing Age, who guided the family through the process of caring for their father.

“You have no clue what you're doing. The family was questioning, ‘where do we go next?’ Knowing Mary’s there, being a resource and a support system is invaluable,” Hughes says.

Pelletier couldn’t safely remain at home, so Gualtieri helped the family decide on the best option. They settled on Menorah Park – where Pelletier can receive care 24 hours a day. Hughes says the decision was a stressful one, but it’s the right one.

“You don't have to feel ashamed like you're putting your parents away somewhere,” she says. “There is that fear – ‘am I doing the right thing? What if he's mad at me? How am I going to get through this?’ But with the support from Embracing Age, I know, when it's all said and done, we did the best job we could. Down the road, that will give us comfort.”

Hughes only wishes she sought out Embracing Age a few months sooner, rather than wait until a crisis occurred. She says the experts at Embracing Age can prevent crises before family members end up in conflict.

“When I think of Embracing Age, the one thing I think about is calm, rational and sane support,” she explains. “This is a real community resource and whether you like it or not, you're going to need it. People think they can handle it. But you can't. And you have help right next door!”

Embracing Age is located in DeWitt and offers companions, transportation, light housekeeping, home repairs, spiritual care, home health aides and more. Contact their office by calling (toll free) 1-855-MY-HELP-2 or go to www.EmbracingAge.org.