Our search for an assisted living facility for my mother took us to seven facilities before we found St. Andrew’s Place. In many places, we found plush surroundings, lovely, formal dwellings. But something felt missing. A certain kind of warmth, I think. A heartbeat.
My mother and I first entered St. Andrew’s Place to the sound of music, the melodies of the Old Time Fiddlers spilling down the halls. Residents singing along. Light streaming through the widows. The staff greeted everyone by name. We found the facility not nearly so formal. The furnishings and carpeting were warm and inviting. Everything was spotlessly clean as was the apartment available for my mother with its view out over the water, a view shared by all residents as they eat their meals in the Dining Room.
Instinct told me these were warm, caring people. I felt a pulse. A heartbeat. A connection. Now, I too feel part of my mother’s new family. As I arrive I see Connie sitting outside in the sun. Or Jim, planting and caring for flowers. Inside I always hear a cheerful “Hello, Carol” from the staff and residents who ask about my husband, my grandchildren, even my dog! Now I know these people.
Often when I leave, as I pull my car out of its space, new friends wave out the Dining Room window. Leota, Connie, Shirley. And when I’m gone, I know that someone is available every hour of the day or night should my mother need any kind of assistance. And I know from experience that a staff member will always call me if they think she needs me, or if they wish to confer regarding what’s in her best interest.
When I think of her, I know that she’s busy and happy. She’s playing bingo. Or at exercise class. Or at the worship service in the Living Room. Or at Bible study. Or watching a movie on the big screen with her friends. Getting a magazine from the visiting library. Having her hair done. Enjoying the Old Time Fiddlers or other entertainment. Or perhaps she’s on the bus headed to Walmart or symphony practice or all around town to see the Christmas lights.
With so many choices, she’s at home. When I take her out to lunch, to shop or to go for a walk, she always knows when it’s almost time for supper. And she doesn’t say “It’s time to go back to my apartment,” or “It’s time to go back to St. Andrew's.” She says, “It’s time to go home.”
Home IS where the heart is, and the heart of St. Andrew's, made up of its wonderful staff, is big, warm and loving. They probably have no idea of the joy, security and gratitude felt by the family members of their residents.