It’s been said that home is where the heart is. So, when an individual or couple feels the time is right to move to an independent or assisted living community, they should follow their heart and choose a place where they will feel at home.
There are a number of really great options in Coastal Virginia to choose from. Here are a few and what they are doing to cater to their residents’ needs:
Harmony Senior Services has five communities in Coastal Virginia: Harmony on the Peninsula in Yorktown; Harmony at Harbour View in Suffolk; Harmony at Independence in Virginia Beach; Harmony at Oakbrooke in Chesapeake; and the historic Chamberlin on Fort Monroe in Hampton. Regional Sales Manager John Reale says the key to their success at making residents feel at home starts with the staff.
“Our residents really feel like they are in their own home,” he says. “Our staff is the key in making that happen. They relate to the residents as if they are part of the family because they are absolutely part of the family. They get concerned when the residents aren’t feeling well, and they take action. They get worried if a resident doesn’t show up for dinner, and they investigate to make sure everything is okay. You won’t get that from a home health agency when you’re potentially seeing a different team member every day. You just won’t receive the consistency of staff that we offer at Harmony.”
According to Reale, it’s also important that residents have the opportunity to bring their own furniture and any other items that are important to them. The staff is on-hand to help with moving furniture, hanging pictures, changing light bulbs or any other tasks they need to feel right at home.
“Bringing personal treasures helps them feel more comfortable and brings back fond memories,” he says. “They can look at a piece and think, ‘We bought that piece when we were traveling in Europe,’ for example. When you’re surrounded by those kinds of memories and you feel comfortable, you are home.”
Eden Jones, general manager and chief financial officer at Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach, agrees that the human element is a key factor in helping residents feel at home. “What drives someone to feel at home is very individual,” she says. “It’s a matter of getting to know every resident, getting to know where their sense of happiness comes from, then fostering an environment that makes connections. I want our staff to get to know you. You’re a person. That’s what really makes you feel at home. You’re part of a big family. So, we strive to give our residents what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.”
Atlantic Shores Retirement Community
Achieving that goal takes a very talented and motivated staff. “The staff here, the people here, the residents here, all we like to do is make everyone feel really cozy,” says Jones. “Our job is not to force on them what we want them to have. Our job is to sit in that space with them and find out what they want, then facilitate a way to make it happen.”
Mennowood Retirement Community in Newport News takes several extra steps to help their residents feel at home, starting with the food. “None of our meals are heat-and-serve,” says Corey Carroll, business office manager. “They are made fresh daily, that morning, that afternoon, right before the meal starts. We have a fantastic chef staff here. We have a specific chef that only does pastries. All of our desserts are handmade by a specialty chef.”
Another part of the Mennowood philosophy of making people feel at home is through interior design and amenities. “Our living rooms are decorated per the holiday or season,” says Carroll. “We have special heart pillows out for Valentine’s Day; everything is red, white and blue for the Fourth of July; and so on throughout the rest of the year. We also have a beauty shop here and a coffee shop where residents can go, relax and drink coffee—and enjoy our special pastries. Or they can take a walk in the large courtyard for a park-like atmosphere. We also have flower beds that were handmade by our administrator. Our residents can go there and plant their own flowers, and we have one resident that uses the beds for growing vegetables. Comfort for our residents is our number one thing. That, and obviously, their safety.”
For the residents of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Virginia Beach, the scenario is a little different since they are more of an assisted living community versus an independent living facility. However, they do understand the importance of making their residents feel comfortable and at home.
“When you walk into our community, we have a lot of florals and colors that just resonate with older generations,” says Jackie Burke, director of community relations. “It’s just a very warm feeling in the community.”
Another way Our Lady strives to make their residents comfortable is to bring back memories of home-cooked meals. “We strive to provide nutritious, delicious meals, all of which are prepared by educated, trained chefs that are overseen by a registered dietitian,” says Lawrence Green, Jr., CDM/CFPP, director of dining and environmental services. “Selective menus consist of two main entrees to give our guests the freedom to choose meals. A Bistro menu is also available throughout the day for guests to request deli or hot items. In an effort to kick-start our farm-to-table initiative, we have partnered with Keany Produce to provide our residents with the freshest of local fruits, vegetables and other organic goods.”
According to Burke, the care that goes into the food preparation goes a long way. “The one thing we hear over and over from guests and family members is about the food we serve here,” she says. “I often hear, ‘I never expected the food to be this delicious and this presentable.’ So, we do rely heavily on our dietary staff, and they step up to the plate and raise the bar with everything they do.”