By Sara Browning
Anonprofit Christian retirement community, Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka is centered around family and focused on providing for residents’ needs at every stage of life.
Dedicated on January 16, 1966, Apostolic Christian Home is exactly what its name implies — a home. Through a staff member’s kind word, smile, or considerate gesture, each resident is able to experience all the comfort and love a true family brings while maintaining the independence and freedom to preserve their dignity and self-respect.
Just Like Home
Since its founding, Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka has expanded from a Health Care Center for residents requiring skilled nursing to include independent living units and a special memory support unit created for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
Apostolic Christian Home’s 22-bed state-of-the-art special memory care unit, Heiterland, provides a place that meets dementia residents’ physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs in accordance with Psalm 71:9: Cast me not off in the time of old age; Forsake me not when my strength fails.
“Our smaller 22-bed unit creates a sense of family that makes residents feel safe and happy here,” says Carrie Franklin, RN, Director of Heiterland. Translated from German, Heiterland means cheerful country.
Heiterland is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. “Our goal at Heiterland is to provide our dementia residents the best quality of life at every stage of the disease,” says Carrie. “We create an environment that allows our residents to feel as if they are at home with family.”
Indeed, Heiterland has everything residents need to feel secure in their surroundings. A kitchen leads into a private dining room where residents can choose from several menu options. Following a delicious meal, residents may lounge in recliners or engage in activities.
Resident rooms are located just down the hall. Residents and families are encouraged to furnish their room with their own bedspread, pictures, lamps, and chairs to create an environment that feels like home. “We encourage residents’ families to bring in family pictures and photo albums, colorful drawings from the grandchildren, and anything that reminds residents of being at home,” says Carrie.
Outdoors, residents are welcome to stroll through the beautiful enclosed courtyard. “Our courtyard is very functional for our residents,” explains Carrie. “We have raised flower beds as well as a walking path so residents know where to go.”
Experiencing Genuine Care
Apostolic Christian Home’s dedicated staff of RNs, LPNs, and CNAs minister to the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of each resident 24 hours a day. Paula Stoller, a registered nurse at Apostolic Christian Home for six years, says it is important for staff to learn to see things from the standpoint of a resident living with dementia so staff can better understand how to ease residents’ difficult moments.
“Many times our residents with dementia may feel sad or frustrated that they cannot do everything they used to be able to. Knowing what motivates them, what makes them feel good, what is important to them, their interests, their hobbies, and their background can help us know how to make life better for each resident,” she says.
Staff members will often go out of their way to make a resident’s day a bit brighter. “I have often witnessed staff go above and beyond their job description,” Paula explains. “For example, we have a resident in Heiterland who loves spaghetti. Sometimes, a staff member will go to a restaurant and pick up spaghetti for her especially. We become very close to our residents. They are very much an extended family.”
As an RN, part of Paula’s responsibilities include helping residents’ family members understand their loved ones’ behavior patterns. “Oftentimes, family members are grieving for their loved one and for the loss they are experiencing because of the dementia,” Paula explains. “One way we help our residents and their families is by turning their attention to what residents can do rather than what they can’t do. For example, we have a gentleman here who may say only one or two words to a staff member; yet he can read an entire book about birds out loud to our staff. It’s really amazing when you realize the capabilities our residents still have. There is a joy in being able to create meaningful moments for those who cannot create them for themselves!”
Feeling Good Again
The staff at Apostolic Christian Home strives to maintain residents’ functionality as long as possible by engaging them in activities designed to keep their minds stimulated. Activities are part of a care plan that is designed according to each resident’s specific needs and goals.
“We try various activities with residents until we find something that clicks with each of them on any given day,” says Carrie. “This is important because our residents’ needs change daily.”
Activities are designed for groups as well as individuals. “Taking a group of men who love to fish to the Bass Pro Shop is an example,” Carrie says, adding: “I’m always on the lookout for things I can use that will make our residents happy. I was thrilled the other day when I was able to modify tackle boxes for our residents who like fishing. It makes them happy to do what they used to do before they came here. Making them happy is very gratifying!”
Activities also help residents feel that they have accomplished something worthwhile and meaningful. Through these types of exercises, residents maintain their sense of purpose in life. For example, one gentleman who lives at Heiterland sweeps the floor while some of the women love to bake cookies and hand them out to other residents.
Residents also have access to therapy and restorative programs. “These programs create a plan to keep our residents active and independent,” says Carrie. One activity, the balloon toss, helps maintain large motor skills. Residents have fun using a pool noodle to hit the balloon back and forth.
Jeff Schumacher visits his mother, Betty, as often as he can in Heiterland. Betty’s husband, Lloyd, who lives with macular degeneration, came to Apostolic Christian Home around the same time as his wife and lives in an apartment at the Home.
“Eureka was our home,” says Jeff. “We grew up here, and we loved it. Because of that, I knew Apostolic Christian Home was the place I wanted my parents to receive their care.”
But choosing Apostolic Christian Home meant more to Jeff than keeping close ties with his hometown. The staff’s genuine love, compassion, and kindness made a significant impression.
“First and foremost,” Jeff says, “the staff is wonderful! The level of love my parents have received has been above and beyond anything I would have expected. The staff always greets residents with a smile, a touch on the shoulder or even a hug, and they truly care about my mother’s well-being. My mother, for example, loves to serve other people. The staff designs activities to give her opportunities to continue to serve. If she were not allowed to serve, her sense of self-worth would diminish.”
In addition to staff services, Jeff appreciates the fact that he is provided an opportunity to meet with those who care for his mother and share his concerns. “Ultimately what impresses me is that I have the opportunity to sit down with the staff and voice any comments or questions and receive quality feedback. It’s just one more way Apostolic Christian Home is exceptional. I am forever grateful for the staff and for the people who volunteer here and commit themselves to making my mother’s life better — even for one glimpse of time.”
A provider of quality care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia for 20 years, Apostolic Christian Home allows residents to live their best life while receiving support on every level as well as the love and compassion that allows residents to thrive. Compassion coupled with professional care at every stage of dementia combines to ensure residents and their families are happy to call Apostolic Christian “home.”
For more information on Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka, visit www.each.org or call 309-467-2311.Apostolic Christian Home is located at 610 West Cruger Ave, Eureka, IL.