Calvin College alumnae Maxine Brink (‘67) is inspired by her 98-year-old mother, who, according to Brink, “has aged so gracefully.”
That gracefulness encouraged Brink to think seriously about her own aging.
“Our son suggested the possibility of starting an adult family home,” said Brink. “There’s a lot of need for this residential service. I think he’s hoping we don’t move in with him.”
Maxine and her husband, Harvey Brink, a 1966 Calvin alumnus, researched the possibility of such a home after moving to Washington.
It turned out that Washington state is a national trendsetter in this area, with 3,000 of these homes offering senior citizens an option other than a nursing home. The homes are regular houses located in residential neighborhoods and can be a comfort zone for seniors who enjoy a home environment with familiar interactions among a small group of seniors and their care provider(s).
Six years ago, the Brinks decided to buy a house. “My mother asked me why I was doing this,” said Maxine Brink. “For me it was about stewardship: when you have the energy and ability you can’t just go sit.”
Instead, the Brinks became licensed caregivers, sharing their home, Adagio—a musical term for moderate tempo—with up to six seniors in their late 80s or early 90s. They specialize in the care of dementia residents. Maxine became a certified instructor in dementia and mental health.
Maxine and Harvey cook, supervise caregivers, and enjoy daily living with the residents.
“They are like our family,” said Maxine, who was busy trying out one of the residents’ French toast recipes as she spoke. “She and I are working on a cookbook, which will include family stories about the recipes; it’s going to be a gift to her grandchildren.”
Reminiscence is very important, according to Brink. “We hear the same stories over and over again but we just laugh and tell them what a great story it is. We joke that dementia is contagious,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like it is.”
Over time, the Brinks have learned a lot about dementia. “Creativity is a big part of it,” she said. “Just because something worked once, doesn’t mean it’s going to work again,” she said. “You have to stop and think of alternatives.”
Maxine is active with several writing groups. Her collection of poems, Finishing Touches: Living with Dementia, explores aspects of the disease present in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and vascular dementia. She also reads for senior centers, church groups and libraries.