Families and Friends

‘Nothing but love and care’



The Bleifuhs sisters say after a long, challenging journey, they finally found a place that wrapped their beloved mother and aunt in love.

Sisters with mother Joan

Caring for an aunt with vascular dementia and a mother with Alzheimer’s has been a long, challenging journey for the Bleifuhs sisters: Jane Wolfgram, Julie Maiers, Jo Ellen Begalke and Jill Elfering. It wasn’t until the sisters moved their mom, Joan, and aunt, Clare, to Folkestone — a Presbyterian Homes & Services senior living community in Wayzata, Minn. — that they found peace of mind.

“From the moment we walked in [January 2022], Folkestone staff wrapped their arms around both of them, sat them down and put a warm blanket on them,” reflects Jane. “It has been nothing but love and care and treating them as if they were family members.”

“I used to say, ‘It can’t always be this good, can it,’” Jo Ellen observes. “But it’s two years, and it’s still that good.”

An upbringing made better by strong women

The siblings grew up in what they describe as a small house in Madison, Wis. “Four girls and one bathroom,” laughs Julie. “We spent a lot of time together. Now we’re back as sisters and friends.”

The sisters describe their growing years as “complicated.”

“Our mother had to work in order to support our family,” remarks Jane. “She was a full-time working mom, but we had a grandmother four houses up the street and another grandmother a mile-and-a-half away who were a big part of our lives.”

“The three of them [mother and grandmothers] were ‘the Three Musketeers,’ helping out wherever they could,” Julie recalls. “Mom had a lot to care for, but she just got through it.”

“Mom was resilient,” adds Jane. “She wasn’t always given an easy path, but she still took every step on that path and never once complained or regretted or felt as if it was unfair.”

Aunt Clare – like a second mom

Sisters Clare and Joan

Aunt Clare, Joan’s younger sister, lived in nearby Milwaukee and had a special relationship with her nieces.

“Clare was like a second mom,” asserts Julie. “We could tell her things that we wouldn’t necessarily tell our mother.”

“She was very caring, fierce and adventurous,” adds Jo Ellen.

When Clare moved back to Madison following the death of her and Joan’s mother, Clare simply became part of the Bleifuhs family.

“She and mom built a duplex together, so they were on each side of the duplex,” laughs Jane. “They each had their own space, but they had a connecting door in the basement.”

“Clare took care of mom, in a sense,” states Jo Ellen. “She was a little more savvy with money.”

Noticing cognitive decline

In 2015 and 2016, the Bleifuhs sisters began noticing that both their mother and aunt were struggling with memory issues.

“Your mom isn’t getting her tax information together,” Clare told Julie. It was a task Joan had done – and done well – for many years. Julie offered to assist her mom, but Joan was very confused.

About the same time, Julie noticed that Clare would forget things like where her car was parked in the parking lot, as well as many other little details.

Ultimately, this cognitive decline resulted in the Bleifuhs sisters moving mom, dad and aunt in and out of several senior communities and care settings over a period of five years.

“It’s a lot to handle to have three elderly relatives — two with memory issues and one who was ‘combative,’” Jo Ellen notes. “It’s too much for one person to handle. There are three of us girls who live in the Twin Cities, so it made more sense for us to move them here where there was more support.”

In May 2019, the Bleifuhs siblings helped move their loved ones into two separate apartments. Mom and dad in one, and Clare in another. “It was a joy,” Jo Ellen shares, “and then COVID-19 hit.”

The care setting the sisters originally deemed a “dream come true” soon morphed into a situation that didn’t fit their needs or expectations.

This caused the sisters to start discussing other options.

By God’s grace … Folkestone

“A friend of ours from work, whom we adore, her mother lived at Folkestone,” Jane relays. “She was so pleased with her mother’s care. She had nothing but glowing words – even through COVID-19.

“I came over [to Folkestone],” Jane recalls, “and by the grace of God there were two apartments available in memory care.”

The sisters helped their mother and aunt move to Folkestone in January 2022, and they could not be more delighted with the decision.

However, the following June, Clare passed away following months in hospice care at Folkestone. The last three weeks of Clare’s life, Jane stayed with her aunt.

“Every time any employee walked in to take care of her, they said her name,” Jane recalls. “Clare was unconscious at the time, so you might think, ‘What’s the big deal?’ But that was one of the most beautiful things you can ever do for another human being. William, the overnight aide, would come in and say ‘hello, Clare,’ check on her, and then ask how I was doing.

“We always had complete faith and trust in the employees at Folkestone to keep us aware of needs as Clare continued to decline,” Jane observes.

The sisters say that the challenge of caring for an adult with memory loss is difficult, but they feel blessed to be able to travel this road as a team.

“We communicate well and express our opinions,” says Jo Ellen.

“We all have different strengths, and we’re able to contribute in different ways,” Julie asserts.

“Folkestone is incredibly beautiful, but that is not the important part,” Jane concludes. “Knowing that our aunt and our mom were and are treated in a way that you would treat other family members, with total respect and love … that defines the value of Folkestone.”

Hear from the Bleifuhs sisters



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