Lettie’s Story: A Second Chance at Life
When Lettie Anderson moved into Heritage Woods of Watseka earlier this year, she gained a new lease on life.
The 73-year-old had experienced a downward spiral of health issues that sent her and her husband to a local rehabilitation center. Days later, the love of her life passed away. With no children and her only other relative living in Chicago, the rehab team took Lettie under their wing and began searching for ways to help her gain the independence she had lost.
The staff at Watseka Rehab & Health Care Center told Lettie about Heritage Woods, and she immediately loved the idea of having her own apartment again.
At the time, Lettie could only take a few steps and needed a lift to move from her bed to a wheelchair. She knew she had an uphill battle ahead of her, but she was ready for the challenge. “I have a whole life ahead of me,” Lettie said at the time, “and I just want to start over again.”
Lettie with her brother Leroy
We fell in love with Lettie’s kind heart, gentle spirit and determination – and felt confident she would flourish in our community. Over the next few weeks, Lettie’s hard work began to pay off; she had finally reached her goal of leaving rehab and moving into her new home.
Last month, Lettie cut the ribbon on her door and walked into her new apartment for the first time. With tears in her eyes, one of Lettie’s friends from the rehab team said, “This is perfect. Just perfect. You have no idea.”
In the short time she has been at Heritage Woods, Lettie is blossoming and socializing with everyone – a welcome change from the solitary life she shared with her husband in Donovan. “I just love it here,” she said. “I am making new friends and getting to know people. I sit at a different table during meals, so I can meet everyone.”
The health concerns that brought Lettie to rehab – and eventually Heritage Woods – were triggered by not eating properly and taking good care of herself. Lettie says she is confident that with the meals, medication assistance and support from her new family at our community, her health is on an upward trend.
We are proud of the progress Lettie has made – and we are so glad to have her here with us. Welcome home, Lettie!
Assisted Living a Gem for Pearl & Her Family
Pearl, Gayle and Bill were quickly running out of options.
Pearl, who was 89 years old, was living alone in an apartment in Naperville, Illinois. She had fallen a couple of times in the middle of the night, and her eyesight was failing. Due to her vision problems, Pearl was no longer able to drive and she was having difficulties seeing her medications.
Initially, the solution was to hire a live-in to be with Pearl 24 hours a day so that help would be available when she needed it.
The woman who was living with Mom was very good; she was like family, explained Gayle, Pearl's daughter. The problem was that Mom's finances were quickly being depleted. Just the cost of the live-in help alone was more than $1,000 a week. She would soon be at the point of not being able to afford the person who was helping here. Likewise, she was not going to be able to afford assisted living. She wanted her independence, and certainly didn't want to go to a nursing home.
"We were at the point where we didn't know what was going to happen." says Gayle.
Thankfully, she added, a direct mail piece with information about Supportive Living and Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook caught her attention as she was sorting through her mail. "It addressed what was going through our mind" so Gayle and her husband, Bill, discussed it with Pearl and decided to take a look.
"This was new to us," says Gayle, but the more we learned, the more we were convinced that Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook was, "where Mom was supposed to be."
• The Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook affordable assisted living community is especially designed to benefit older adults, such as Pearl, who need some help to maintain their independence but do not have the financial resources to afford assisted living.
•The location was ideal, right down the street from where Gayle and Bill lived.
• When they inquired to get more information after getting the direct mail piece and met with the Director of Marketing at Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook, Gayle pointed out that, "there was no pressure and she was so easy to talk to."
• Pearl would be able to have her own apartment… plus she would get the assistance and help with her medications she needed. She would not have to move to a nursing home.
• Everyone involved with Heritage Woods was so loving and caring. They treated us like family.
Pearl, however, was not too sure, says Gayle. She had lived in her apartment in Naperville, IL for more than 20 years and wanted to stay there for as long as possible. She was comfortable where she was and apprehensive about what she would be getting into. She knew where everything was at in her apartment in Naperville, IL which was important to her because of the problems she has with her eyesight.
It was not until Pearl had the opportunity to see what her apartment looked like that she fully agreed with the decision to move.
Pearl, Gayle and Bill all benefitted from the decision for Pearl to move to affordable assisted living after she had lived alone for so long. Pearl enjoys "a good measure of the independence that she wanted and we know that she is well cared for," says Bill.
Making Miracles Happen
Diana Lopez. Director of Marketing for Heritage Woods of Sterling, tells a heartwarming story about enriching the life of a grandmother in need.
I'll never forget the day in December 2009 when I had a call early one morning from a gentleman from Sterling who was a truck driver. He was driving in Iowa when he called. He told me that his wife's grandmother was visiting from the south for the holidays. He had seen an ad that I had run and wanted more information about Heritage Woods for his wife's grandmother (who I will call Bess).
Heritage Woods is a Supportive Living community in Sterling, Illinois, that has 76 private apartments for seniors of all incomes. The community provides residents with the help they need to live with independence and dignity.
After I told him all about Heritage Woods, he explained that Bess was widowed and living in a nursing home down south because her home had burnt to the ground. She had nothing left and nowhere else to go except to a nursing home to live. He gave me his home phone number to call his wife.
I called the granddaughter, who let me know that, "Grandma has no money and very little in Social Security income." I told her that her income did not matter, that I had an opening, and she should bring grandma Bess in for a tour. She agreed and said that she would be there shortly with grandma Bess. She was very excited that her grandmother might be able to live in Sterling closer to her family.
By now it was getting close to 10:00 a.m. and it was snowing pretty hard. From my office window, I can see the big circle drive and sidewalk that leads to the front entrance to Heritage Woods. As I sat working at my desk, I glanced out the window and saw a car coming down our driveway. After the car was parked, two people got out. As they approached, I knew in an instant that this must be grandma Bess and her granddaughter. I will never forget the sight - a lady in a tweed coat down to her ankles, with speckled gray hair below her waist and a scarf tied around her head, walking through the snow. She had a cane in one hand. Her other arm was wrapped around her granddaughter's arm for support.
As a met them at the front door, Bess looked around our entry and said "Oh, I don't think I belong here. This is much too beautiful for me."
Please understand where Bess came from. She is a very humble lady who never had much in her life and never expected to have much. She is a lady who is very appreciative and thankful that she can enjoy seeing her family and the sun rise each morning. Nothing else really matters, and she feels that she deserves nothing more, especially a beautiful place such as Heritage Woods.
I looked at Bess, took a hold of her hand and said, "Oh yes you do. Absolutely. Let's sit down and talk about this and I'll tell you how."
After we took a tour, I explained our financial assistance program and how very possible it was for her to become a resident. Her granddaughter was so happy and said "Gram, just think, you could be close to us now." Bess said, "Okay, if you think so," but I don't have anything to put in the apartment. I told her not to worry; we will make it work. You could possibly move in today. Bess replied, "Oh really, oh my."
We filled out the paperwork and by now it was close to noon. Bess and her granddaughter left.
Immediately, I was on the phone to the BMA Management, Ltd. office. BMA is the company that manages our community. You see, Fridays are a casual wear day. For $1.00, we can wear jeans. The money collected for "jean day" goes into a fund that is used for emergency situations and needs. I requested a new bed for Bess and the reply was "absolutely." Call the furniture store and have it delivered. Within about an hour, a new bed was delivered and set up. For all the other things that Bess would need, we all pitched in to help. "I've got towels, and I've got blankets and sheets. I'll run to the store for a new pillow, dishes and personals items. I'll get some things from storage that had been donated." In no time, Bess' new home was set up, with tables, lamps, linens and the bed made. Everything she needed was in place plus more to give the apartment a cozy feel.
I called the granddaughter and told her we were ready for Gram to come and sign the lease, but said nothing about what we did to the apartment. They would be right over.
It was nearing 5:00 p.m. when Bess and her granddaughter arrived back at Heritage Woods. Bess signed the lease, and I informed her that we are ready for her to stay in her apartment. She replied, "Oh, my gosh. Things sure do work fast around here. Yes, we do. Would you like to see your apartment? I sure would."
Bess had no clue about what we had been up to that afternoon. I walked her to her apartment, opened the door, and said "here we are." We have it all ready for you, Bess. You don't have to worry about anything.
Bess looked in amazement and could not believe her eyes. "You're kidding right?"
I said, "No, Bess. We have purchased a new bed for you, and we all pitched in for everything else to make it comfortable for you. You shouldn't need anything else."
Bess looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, I can't believe this. Can I hug you? I haven't met a real person who cares for years. This is wonderful, but I still don't think I deserve this."
I told her she "absolutely, positively deserves this, and that this will be your home for as long as you want." Her granddaughter looked at me and said, "My grandma must really like you. She doesn't hug anyone."
Not only did we give Bess a beautiful place to live that day, we gave her and her granddaughter a beautiful Christmas to remember. I'll never forget the fulfilled heart that I had that day.
This past December, I was at work late one day decorating the tree for Christmas. Down the hall came Bess. "Looks like you could use some help," she said. Bess helped me all evening, and I could feel the joy in her heart at being able to lend a hand. When we were done, Bess sat down and looked at the tree in amazement. "I have never seen anything so beautiful; now that is Heritage Woods," she said. I looked at her and said, "I will never forget the night you moved in here, Bess." She looked back at me and said. "I will never forget you."
This is what Heritage Woods is all about, enriching the lives of others, giving back whatever we can, and making miracles happen whenever we can.
They Make Her Heart Dance
Most of us would have been curled up in front of the television rather than dancing the night away at a Senior Prom as Gloria Smartt did on a Thursday in September 2010.
Gloria, who is a registered nurse assistant at Heritage Woods of Batavia, started her day working a full shift at the affordable assisted living community in Batavia, Illinois. She then went to her second job.
"I couldn't wait to get off work," Gloria said, so that she could run home, dress up and put on her dancing shoes. Gloria was just one of the many staff members who returned to Heritage Woods on their own time for the community's first Senior Prom.
The residents had been waiting for the Prom all week. "I wouldn't have missed this for anything in the world," said resident Nancy Yates, who had moved into the community just five weeks before the event.
The community was beautifully decorated in black, red and gold, and the Red Carpet was rolled out to welcome all those in attendance. Corsages were pinned on the women and boutonnieres on the men.
Residents and guests munched on hors d'oeuvres, including vegetable spring rolls and gazpacho garnished with shrimp. They sipped on champagne as well as beer, wine and punch. A chocolate fountain was the highlight of the dessert table.
All of the residents who had been nominated for Prom Queen and King were introduced. Nellie Blacksmith, who is 103 years of age, was crowned Queen. Nellie is a pioneer of Heritage Woods of Batavia, having moved into the community when it opened seven years ago in the fall of 2003. Greg Bryant, who serves as the Vice President of the Heritage Woods Resident Council, was crowned King.
Gloria, along with residents, guests and other Heritage Woods staff members, spent much of the night dancing together to the music of Frank Lamphere. For the better part of 2 1/2 hours, Frank and his keyboard player and drummer played songs from the World War II era and from the 1950s and 60s.
"You know people are having a good time when they go off without their walker," someone mentioned as the party was wrapping up.
Gloria talked about how she was so looking forward to getting up at 4:00 a.m. to come back to work at Heritage Woods. "These guys just make my heart dance… every single day," Gloria commented.
She promised to be wearing her dancing shoes.
Compassion No Coincidence
The couple hesitated for just a moment before continuing to talk about how one of the affordable assisted living communities that BMA manages touched the life of their mother. They wanted to be sure that they didn't get anybody in trouble.
Mom, they had said, had looked at two senior living communities in the area and moved into the one that she felt best suited her. As soon as she walked in the front door of the community she selected, she knew this was the one for her.
Mom needed to move because of her health, but leaving the house where she had lived for the past 30 years was by no means an easy decision. There was no way she wanted to move to a nursing home. Fortunately, the community she selected was anything but a nursing home.
The couples only regret was that Mom was only able to live in the community for six months. Despite being in her early 70's, Mom was not in good health and passed away.
The community, they said, has a rule that residents need to come to the dining room for meals. We certainly understand why the rule is in place. But with all of the health problems that Mom was experiencing, she didn't always feel up to going to the dining room. On these occasions, staff always made sure that Mom didn't go hungry. A tray of food would just happen to find its way to her apartment.
With all of her health problems, she frequently would get scared, especially at night. One of the staff members working the night shift always seemed to find the time to sit with her to help her handle the situation.
One of the staff members went so far as to run out to a local store to buy Mom snacks that she loved to have in her apartment. The staff member did this on her own time; not while she was on-duty.
Toward the end of Mom's stay. they said, she had reached the point where she was running out of money and applied for Medicaid. The State, however, did not approve her application until two months after she died. Not once, they said, did it make a difference. Mom was never treated any differently.
As a company, BMA works hard to be sure everyone who works at our communities understands our values of providing Love, Compassion and Dignity and our philosophy of making residents, and their families, our top priority.
Compassion is to be a Rule rather than a Coincidence.
Move Puts Him Back in Driver’s Seat
Robert Kampf's recent move to the Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook affordable assisted living community has put the founder of the Bolingbrook Police Department back in the driver's seat.
Kampf is a big NASCAR fan. Back in the day, he drove stock cars on the track at O'Hare Stadium, which was located across from O'Hare Airport on the southwest corner of Mannheim and Irving Park Roads in Schiller Park, Illinois. The native of Melrose Park also attended the stock car races at the Santa Fe Speedway in Willowbrook for many years.
Today, a poster of Jeff Gordon, his favorite driver, decorates his apartment at his new home in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
His story was heartbreaking, said the Heritage Woods Administrator. At the age of 57, he went to the hospital for a routine procedure. While recovering from surgery, he suffered a severe stroke. For ten years, he was bounced from nursing home to nursing home and was even put into a secured dementia care unit on the second floor of one facility because no long-term Medicare-bed was available.
Robert's son who lives in Aurora learned about Heritage Woods and thought it would be perfect for his father.
Fortunately, Robert had made sufficient progress in his recovery to qualify for residency, and he moved into his apartment on the third floor of Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook in mid-August 2010.
"Sure enough, I like it," says Robert. "It is much better than the nursing home. The people here are very nice."
Robert especially enjoys the freedom to once again do whatever he wants and appreciates the chance to move back to Bolingbrook, where he started the Police Department and served as the first police officer.
Where She Lives Impacts How She Lives
Her legs were like blocks when she moved into the Lighthouse at Silvis senior living community in Silvis, Illinois, a little more than a year ago. Now, Jo Nell Rhodenbaugh has feeling in both of her feet.
Rhodenbaugh credits the improvement to participating in the exercise programs at the Lighthouse.
"The exercise programs are great," she says. "They are designed so that anybody can do it."
Rhodenbaugh grew up in Sherrard, Illinois, a small town south of the Quad Cities. She moved to Florida after graduating from Augustana College to be near her parents who had retired to Ocala. She taught speech therapy for 28 years.
She decided to move back to Illinois and into a senior living community following a stroke and a recurrence of cancer. The move brought her closer to all of the family members who live in the area.
"I feel so comfortable here," she says. "I made friends instantly."
Her one-bedroom apartment has two full closets, washer and dryer, and kitchen. Her aunt moved into an apartment next door.
"Here, you can sit or you can get involved," says Rhodenbaugh, who loves to get involved.
In the morning, Rhodenbaugh gathers with other residents for activities by the fireplace. Because the stroke affected her eyesight, she appreciates Tarra, the community's Resident Services Coordinator, reading the latest headline news. "We also do the crossword and get into some great discussions."
She enjoys the Lighthouse Book Club, joining other residents as they read a different book each month and gather together to discuss it.
Last summer, Rhodenabugh joined eight other residents of the Lighthouse in performing a play that she had written about cakes. She was the chef in charge.
Rhodenbaugh developed a love for cooking when she was growing up thanks to her Great Aunt Bertha, who lived in Aledo, Illinois, and would often babysit for Jo Nell.
"We had so much to do together," she says, including "cooking, baking, picking asparagus in the garden, and having tea parties on top of the old treadle sewing machine. I learned how to sit and eat with good manners, complete with wearing gloves and a colorful hat."
With her love for cooking, Rhodenbaugh published the "Enjoy - Five Generations of Recipes" cookbook, which contains recipes from five generations of her family.
The cookbook reflects the family's strong Swedish heritage, with recipes for Ostakaka and Umspunkaka included along with Swedish Meatballs and Swedish Brown Beans.
Rhodenbaugh has donated a copy of the cookbook to the Silvis Public Library, and copies are available in the Convenience Store at the Lighthouse.
In addition to more than 225 recipes, Rhodenbaugh has sprinkled into the cookbook all kinds of comments and quotes.
For instance, in the recipe for Apple Walnut Salad with Feta, she notes "it is not important where we live, but how we live."
Rhodenbaugh certainly knows how to live, and her ability to enjoy life certainly has benefitted from her move to the Lighthouse.
From Garbage Truck to Mercedes
As the man in his mid-sixties sat in one of our newly opened affordable assisted living communities, he asked his friend to describe his new home. Skin cancer had cost the man his eyesight, and he had been living in a nursing home for the past two years. His friend was there to help him complete the paperwork for his move into his apartment. "It's like you fell out of a garbage truck," his friend said, "and landed in a Mercedes." While the man cannot appreciate the look of the community, the way he is treated by the staff has certainly caught his attention. "Never have so many people been so nice to me," he comments. "If I could cry, I would."
Coloring Her World
The woman was so excited about the way she was able to decorate her apartment. Her husband, who had recently passed away, had painted beautiful watercolors. She had us hang his paintings on the walls throughout her apartment. As she described, it was like having him there with her.
Mother & Child Reunite
One of the first residents of our first community in Chicago experienced an unexpected surprise. Staff members at the community were working hard to accommodate an emergency referral from the Chicago Department of Aging. The man in his mid-60s was living in squalor. Through the generosity of others, the staff secured furniture and personal belongings to meet his needs and prepared an apartment for him.
While he was waiting in the Administrator's office, a woman who had been a resident of the community for nearly three years passed by the office on her way to pick up her mail, which she did every after supper. Noticing the man sitting with the Administrator, she cried out "My Baby." In return, he cried "Momma." Mother and son were reunited after not seeing each other in more than 20 years.
The woman in her 80s walked up to us to express her thanks. "You have given me my independence back," said the resident of Eagle Ridge of Decatur. She and her husband had immigrated to the United States from Austria when she was 36 years old. The only reason she was not sent to a concentration camp toward the end of World War II was the camps were filled. Her "crime" she told us was that she had commented to her landlord that she hoped the Allies would win so that they would no longer have to endure the horrors of the war. Prior to moving into Eagle Ridge, she had been living with her children. As much as she appreciated their love and attention, "they were smothering me," she said.
Dying with Dignity
The letter was signed by the children and grandchildren of a resident who had lived with us for just three days. They were so thankful that even though Mom had lived with us for such a short period of time that she was able to die with such dignity.
From the Bottom of My Heart
The e-mail was sent by the daughter of a resident of the Heritage Woods of McHenry affordable assisted living community to let the staff and residents know that Mom had passed away on a Sunday evening in July.
In addition to including information about the Memorial Service, the daughter added that “I’d also like to take this opportunity to tell you how much my mother enjoyed living at Heritage Woods. She felt like a queen. I loved staying there with her, too. The buzz is so happy and uplifting; the place is so lovely; and the assistance was fantastic. We loved it."
"I only wish Mom could have lived there longer. I think it was her favorite home since they left the Harvard farm some 26 years ago."
"I remember the first day I arrived to spend two weeks there with Mom. I asked a woman how she liked living there. She raved, "I love it. It's like living in a Five Star Hotel. A lot of people told me the same thing. And, they were right."
I also want to give kudos to the CNAs who were so kind and helpful to Mom… and to me. All were just terrific. One woman, in particular, really connected with Mom. Karen Carlson. She always came in with a big smile and full of joy. She was patient in helping Mom with her hearing aid, which none of us could insert as well as she did. They got such a kick out of each other. Karen brought out the best of Mom; they could kid and laugh together. I adored just watching the two of them interact."
So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do to create such a wonderful atmosphere and home for all our beloved elders. You do a dynamite job."