Joan and Fred Franke’s Story

“I came in and saw her listening to music and her face was lit up.”

Fred Franke knows firsthand what it is like to see a life partner lose parts of themselves. Three years ago his wife Joan was diagnosed with dementia. After contracting COVID-19 and spending time in rehabilitation, Fred knew the best option for Joan was to get round-the-clock care at St. John’s.

“She couldn’t walk on her own for a while,” says Fred. “A bed here in rehab opened up, actually, the day before our engagement anniversary.” Fred, who shares an almost secret language with his wife, asks her if she remembers her time at St. John’s Rehabilitation.

Joan stops singing to an Elvis Presley song playing on her SMPL Music Player to say, “Everyone was so nice.”

“In 2023 she spent three weeks in rehab and the day before she was scheduled to move into St. John’s, she could walk on her own,” says Fred. “They did a marvelous job; the rehab team was amazing.”

The two have been married for 60 years and although they do not live together now, they spend every day together. Fred says, “It just makes sense for Joan to live here with the great care she receives, and I can visit every day.”

Joan and Fred can often be seen taking walks together, eating meals in the dining room with other residents, watching a Syracuse basketball game, or listening to music in Joan’s room.

“The music player and the live music they have here is just great for Joan,” he says. “It gives her something to focus on and brings a lot of joy.”

Joan says that the staff members at St. John’s have been a huge help to her. “Everyone is so sweet; it is nice to have someone to talk to.”

Fred adds that staff members like Mimi DeVinney and Sarah Culp have “taken Joan under their wings, making her feel heard.”

“It is tough navigating her diagnosis,” Fred notes, “but I am so happy that she is here and happy.”