The most prized of possessions is not something tangible. It is not a house, a car, or a precious work of art. Yet it is something men and women fight to obtain, fight to keep, and refuse to give up. It is independence.
Unfortunately, as we age, independence can become harder and harder to hold on to, not least because of declining health. But for those who fear their days of independence are soon to become nothing more than a memory, there is a place in Central Illinois where continued independence is not only understood, it is promised.
Supportive living for continued independence
St. Francis Woods Supportive Living Community in Peoria is that answer of independence to many. Kim, Admissions Coordinator at St. Francis Woods, describes its purpose: “Supportive living provides an alternative solution to the growing need for affordable housing for today’s seniors, 65 or better, who do not need a nursing home but could benefit from a little extra help.”
Of course costs are of primary concern when it comes to getting extra help. Whether it is the resident or the resident’s loved ones who are worried about how to pay, supportive living has a definite leg up over assisted living.
“Whereas assisted living is strictly private pay, we accept Medicaid,” Kim explains. “Supportive living is designed to offer residents who qualify the opportunity to pay through a combination of their own social security income and Medicaid benefits when unable to pay privately.
Furthermore, this also means once you have exhausted all your funds, you do not have to leave your home. Call us today and ask us how a spouse who is still living at home in the community can keep the income and resources to survive.”
What supportive living entails is, therefore, little different from what many expect from assisted living communities: a private apartment, three meals a day plus snacks, laundry services, transportation assistance and more.
“If you are 65 or better and have a need such as help with medications, meal preparations, housekeeping or laundry assistance, you may qualify,” Kim says. “Every possible admission undergoes a pre-admission screening to see if you qualify. Call today and schedule a tour or drop by. We can discuss the services offered and what your individual needs are. There is no application fee or deposit needed to get started.”
A body in motion
Kim likes to quote part of Newton’s first law of motion when talking about the residents at St. Francis Woods: “A body in motion stays in motion.” This is the philosophy behind perpetuating a healthy life. Inactivity brings atrophy of not only the body but of the mind as well. If one keeps moving—whether it be physically or mentally—one is less likely to come to a “stop” any time soon.
“Maintaining good emotional health, physical activities and connecting with others helps keep residents in a good mood, which wards off depression,” Kim adds. “Social activities keep the elderly sharp and engaged as well as staying active.”
What is the favorite social activity at St. Francis Woods? “Bingo! Bingo! Bingo!” Kim exclaims. “However we also have other activities for residents to attend, such as ballgames, wine tasting, dining out and shopping, to name a few.”
It doesn’t end there. Life needs those special occasions, things to look forward to and maybe an intermittent guest in order to break up the monotony. Whether it’s a visit from Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or a musical interlude provided by Elvis or Johnny Cash, the residents of St. Francis Woods have no shortage of these guests. “We are always looking for new and creative ways to keep our residents involved,” Kim says.
Many sons and daughters feel guilty about moving a father or mother into a supportive living community—like they are somehow damaging their familial relationship. This fear, the staff at St. Francis Woods staff believes, is one that needs to be dispelled.
A move to St. Francis Woods is not a separation of family but rather an addition to the resident’s extended family. Such is a feeling expressed not only by the residents, but by the staff as well.
Working here is much more than a job,” shares Maintenance Director Keith, “it is an extension to my family.”
Service Plan Coordinator Adrienne feels the same: “I love working here because it really is like one big, happy family.”
“What I enjoy most about my job is our residents; they are the best!” expresses CNA Supervisor Kaneaka, “I am proud of where I work because St. Francis Woods as a team goes above and beyond assisting residents with activities of daily living. We are a family. St. Francis Woods is a great organization to work for and a caring home for our residents.”
“When you choose St. Francis Woods,” Kim adds, “you become a member of our family. We are more than a business and our staff are more than employees. They are members of this extended family, choosing to make a difference every day in our residents’ lives.”
There’s no place like home
There is only one word that applies to a place where your family is and that is “home.” St. Francis Woods is a home like any other.
A common misconception is that when a senior moves into a supportive living community, they’ll never again emerge. That is not true, of course. Supportive living is not a prison. Like any subdivision in any town, it is simply a community of individuals who are free to come and go as they please.
“Our residents enjoy all the comforts of home, which includes entertaining guests or taking weekend getaways with family if they so desire,” Kim says. “This is their home! Friends and family are always welcome. We also host family nights especially during the holidays, communicate regularly to family and simply encourage involvement. With a family member being cared for in a supportive setting, it allows family to strengthen their connection and ‘just be there.’”
Just being there and being allowed to simply be a family member again rather than being the primary care giver removes a considerable amount of stress from the families and reduces the chance of feeling resentful toward one another. What better gift is there for a family than an absence of those negative feelings and a restoration of the positive?
Contributing to that gift is the staff; and any living community is only as good as the staff that runs it. “My goal is to continue to make this a loving and caring home for everyone that lives here,” says St. Francis Woods Administrator. “The residents’ safety and happiness are always my priority! With that goal in mind, I try to also make this the best place for employment because a happy staff makes for happy residents.”
Kim points out that even though St. Francis Woods is, in actuality, a workplace, she and the staff do not really think or feel of it as such. “Working here is not like coming to a job everyday but more like coming home. It is my personal goal every day to find ways to make our residents know they are supported and important to this team!”
Like the flag of our nation—an emblem of freedom—waves proudly from the pole or mast that supports it, so too is the staff at St. Francis Woods the support for their own emblems of independence: their residents.
“It is of the utmost importance that our team encourages independence as much as possible in all aspects of our residents’ lives and daily activities,” Kim insists. “Our team at St. Francis Woods is not here to take anything away from our residents/family but to help our residents remain independent as long as possible while having the peace of mind knowing that someone is nearby to help them when needed. Overall, it creates a sense of achievement and pride in their accomplishments as well as generates a sense of self-worth and well-being.”
Paramount to everything else, the message to residents—present and future alike—is that St. Francis Woods should not be seen as a place to live the latter part of one’s life, it is simply a place to continue living life.