Todor Nikolov is 64 years old, born in Sofia. Immediately after graduating in 1984, he left for Italy where he remained for one year while waiting for a residence permit in the United States. In 1985 he left in his quest and desire to find realization and new opportunities. He has lived there ever since, passing through Los Angeles, Portland, and his current address is in Seattle, Washington. He works in the field of industrial construction as an architect. He has a wife and a daughter.

Todor Nikolov is the son of Violetka. We talked to him to share his story. A story in which everyone is likely to recognize themselves at a certain stage in life, when their parents or relatives are getting older and need extra care. Often, overwhelmed by circumstances (or miles, as you will see in the story below), we cannot take this necessary care on our own. Then, we gather strength and look for solutions to provide our loved ones with a safe environment, attention and at least two more hands to help with their daily needs without accusation, fear, and remorse.

Continue reading about the challenges and choices that Todor Nikolov is facing.

Who is Violetka? Tell us a little more about your mother.

My mother is 84 years old. She was born in Dragalevtsi and has always lived there. From a big and poor, but extremely happy family. She got married early according to our modern understanding – only 19 years old. She studies at the sewing school but never managed to finish it, which always tormented her, and she often told me that it weighed on her. I remember that while I was a student, she enrolled to study at the trade high school and graduated successfully. She didn’t stop. She has always been, and still is, thirsty for knowledge, curious about the unknown and everything that is happening in the world. A very refined woman, elegant, and modern. I recently opened the old photo albums at home from the 60’s and 70’s and remembered how beautiful, cheerful, and active she was. My mother has three sisters, the two older ones have died, and the younger one Magdalena lives in Sofia which allows them to see each other.

After my father died in March 2014, she remained the only relative in Bulgaria she could count on. For me, Aunt Magdalena is a great support, as I do not have the opportunity to go home often. Due to the pandemic, I was not able to return to Bulgaria last summer, but I often heard from my mother.

 

 

When did Violetka’s health problems appear, and did you have to return to Bulgaria to take care of her?

After my father died, my mother continued to be completely independent, in good health, clombing the stairs to the third floor of the building where she lived. She felt good, was always cheerful and overall, everything was fine. Until last year when they announced the pandemic. The great distance that separates us, and the thought that if something happened, I cannot go home and be with her, began to grow into anxiety for both of us. More and more I started to hear her say on the phone that loneliness kills her.

A few months ago, when we were talking on the phone, I noticed that there was a change in her. She was weaker and so was her voice, but I had no idea there might be a health problem. The next day, when I called her, she didn’t pick up the phone. I immediately called Aunt Magdalena. She went to her house as soon as possible to check on her. When she called me, she said that my mother is not in a good shape. We had to react quickly and take her to the hospital to find out what was causing her deteriorating health. I made a lot of phone calls until I found a place where they could examine her. There was another problem too – my aunt was not able to take my mother from our home to the ambulance that had to take her. Then, Aunt Magdalena remembered her young fried who immediately called his relative – a famous Bulgarian boxer, to help. Without thinking, he came and together they helped my mother to go in the ambulance. I was very surprised and impressed by these young people who would help so selflessly. They were with her at the hospital the whole time. I am grateful to them from the bottom of my heart for everything they have done.

Unfortunately, after examining my mother, the doctors found a positive COVID-19, which left her in hospital for 2 weeks. Aunt Magdalena, who had just had the virus, had to stay with her. After two difficult weeks, it was time to go home. However, my mother was in a very bad condition. She could not walk, she could take care of herself, she was extremely weak and powerless. It was already clear that she needs specialized care 24/7, which neither my aunt nor I was able to provide.

What did you do at that moment and what did you say to yourself?

At the time, I was still in the United States looking for a ticket to get home as soon as possible. However, I had to react very quickly and provide a person or place to take care of my mother until she recovered. I started asking friends and acquaintances for opinions and advice. It turned out that many of them were facing the same problem. The only suitable and most reasonable option was for my mother to go to a hospice. My aunt was adamantly against it. I also had my doubts. I was worried about what the other people would say. But like I said, I didn’t have much time to think things through. I had to provide my mother with peace of mind and adequate care as soon as she was out of the hospital.

How did you choose Blocks? Did you search long before deciding who to entrust your mother’s care to?

To be honest, I’ve looked at a lot of hospices. I was looking for several criteria, one of which was to be close to our home, so that it was convenient to visit her when I got home. When I limited the search to Dragalevtsi, the Blocks website appeared. I was very impressed by the modern building, the equipment they have, the conditions and the environment in which the elderly live. I picked up the phone and contacted the team. After we talked and I told them the whole story and the condition of my mother, they advised me and explained what they could do to help us. I did not hesitate for a second to trust them. They reacted so quickly and professionally, with a lot of attention and responsiveness. They arranged for my mother to be transported from the hospital where she had spent two weeks in a covid ward to Blocks Hospice. I received feedback from them all the time. That is how my mother went to the hospice.

Has your mother’s condition improved since she was admitted to Blocks Hospice?

I would say that when he entered the hospice, he was in a very serious condition. Her team did a thorough examination and, in addition to being completely unable to move and serve on her own, without energy or desire to live, they also found an initial stage of dementia. This was another unpleasant surprise in the last few months. At that moment, I was grateful that she was in a place where they took care of her and helped her get back to herself. I would not have been calm if there was no trained medical team behind her at this moment. When I returned to Bulgaria at the end of May, I went to see her. Her condition had changed dramatically for the better. She was already moving, cheerful and smiling, and had been moved from the hospice to a family-type home, where she interacted with other adults. One day, when I went to visit her, I found her bursting into laughter with a woman named Lydia, whom she met at the hospice, and together they moved into the houses. At that moment, I told myself that Blocks was her new home. A home, where we both feel at ease.

What are the main advantages of Blocks and the team that impressed you the most?

First, the attitude of the whole team here – kind, responsive, exceptional professionals. The campus and the whole atmosphere are predisposing, modern, located next to the mountain, but at the same time in the city – a convenient place that allows daily meeting. They have all kinds of specialists, and you can always get feedback. Here is an example. When I go to see my mother, I often talk to the psychologist in the center. She explained to me all about dementia and how to approach it, what and how to talk to my mother so that she would maintain her dignity and not feel bad about the fact that her mind was no longer working as before. It is great relief to know that my mother is in good hands.

What would you say to people who are afraid, hesitant, or even ashamed to turn to help in caring for their loved ones?

I would advise everyone who is faced with a difficult choice in such a situation, to turn their backs on prejudice and the opinion of others, to inform themselves and seek professional and quality care for their loved ones, because they deserve to live their days with dignity in a peaceful environment, filled with care and understanding. The fact that you are not able to take care of your loved ones for one reason or another should not make you feel guilty. There is no room for guilt. Life is dynamic, difficult, and complex and as much as we want to be able to handle everything on our own, quite often we fail, even physically. So, trust people. I did and I am grateful to have met people I can count on.

What is Blocks for you? How would you describe it?

Blocks is salvation.

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