By Alexander Germanis
Age carries with it several preconceived notions. Some people think when they reach senior citizen status they are going to have to give up doing a lot of what they once enjoyed. Some people think a loss of independence is automatically in the cards. Some people even fear their best years and best times are behind them.
The residents and staff at Welbrook at Bloomington refuse to justify those fears. Instead, they ascribe to a notion that not only is your life still yours but also, regardless of your age, your life is worth living well.
Drawn to Welbrook
Both Executive Director Holly Hall and Programming Director Jackie Pope-Ganser felt drawn to Welbrook due to previous life and work experiences with seniors.
Growing up with and visiting her grandfather in long-term care, Holly started walking her path toward a career in senior living at an early age. After earning degrees in business administration and marketing, she had an opportunity to begin a professional career in senior living and felt drawn to it. With more than twenty years of industry experience, Holly says, “I can’t imagine doing anything else. Senior living is where my heart is.”
As a long-time local business owner, Jackie came to Welbrook with a desire to bring more community partnerships to the residents. “It brings me great joy to see people connect with one another and build new life-long friendships at this stage in their lives,” she said. “It’s not about what they give up, its about how much they gain.”
Just a new small town
Opened for residency on March 20th, 2018, Welbrook is certainly a new community. But, being so new means the most state-of-the-art systems and innovative designs were already incorporated in its initial construction.
One of those design features is called Main Street. Like miniature store fronts lining a town’s business district, Welbrook’s 56 individual independent and assisted living apartments border the community’s main common area. These apartment neighborhoods wrap around twin courtyards on either side of Main Street, the head of which is signified by a towering town clock.
“A lot of the different places the residents enjoy going to or congregating in are along Main Street,” Holly says. “We have a large multi-purpose room and there’s the bistro area, which is an open coffee/snack shop area accessible to residents at all times. There’s a movie theater, a spa, and a full-service beauty salon.”
For the physical and spiritual health of residents, there is also a wellness center, a chapel, and, of course, the restaurant-style dining room.
“Our dining room has a great, full menu and specials every day,” Jackie adds. “And our culinary department is led by our culinary director — a certified executive chef on staff.”
So, whether a resident is looking for a meal, a movie, or simply to socialize with their neighbors and friends, Holly says Main Street is their “destination.”
Should a resident still require something else, there is the concierge desk just in front of Main Street. “The concierge takes care of the needs of our residents,” Jackie says, “whether it’s signing up for transportation, signing up to go to the spa, or reserving the multi-purpose rooms, or any of the amenities for parties or get-togethers.”
Holding onto moments
Life is made up of moments — single experiences captured and collaged together into a grand portrait of an individual’s total deeds. For many, those portraits of their lives are stolen by the memory thieves known as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
At Welbrook, residents with dementia have found a home in the secured memory care area, which is appropriately called Moments.
“The Moments area is a bright, vibrant place where those with dementia-related diseases can go about their day with social interaction and purpose,“ Jackie explains. “The large common area in Moments has its own dining room, sunroom, courtyard, spa and three living room spaces that offer a true community feeling.”
“It’s equally as nice, equally as inviting,” Holly assures. “It is specifically designed to meet the needs of our memory care residents.”
One of the needs is, of course, that of safety. A state-of-the-art system called Vigil Integrated Care Management, “allows us to monitor what’s going on in the room without being intrusive,” Jackie expounds. “It’s not like we’re looking in on them, but we still know what’s going on. If they’ve fallen or they’re restless, there’s something we can do to help with that; we can go in right away.”
“It backs up our philosophy of wanting to respect the dignity and independence of the people who live here,” Holly follows up. “This way, they still have their privacy with their door closed, but it allows for us to be able to safely monitor them without intruding on that privacy.”
“It’s all about quality of life,” she continues. “Putting someone beside you and keeping them safe does not mean the quality of their life is going to be high. There’s a delicate balance between freedom and safety and this allows for both.”
Quality over all
The three most important things in real estate are location, location, and location. In regard to senior care, however, Holly says this emphatic trio of words should be replaced with “quality.”
“Every experience our residents have here should be one of quality,” she insists. Another term used to sum up that mantra is “The Welbrook Experience.”
The Welbrook Experience is all about quality, she explains. “It’s about quality people, because people make the difference. It’s about the programming we have. You can make a list of programs we have and there are similarities with other communities, but the quality in which you deliver those programs differs greatly from community to community. So, having a staff with expertise who can put together quality programming that’s meaningful and significant is important.”
Quality expertise comes partially in the form of 24/7 nursing care as well as having seven certified dementia practitioners and a certified Dementia Communication Specialist on staff. This expertise, combined with a team of compassionate, dedicated nurses and certified nursing assistants, elevates the quality of resident care at Welbrook.
There are indeed many aspects of proper care. Whether spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical, Welbrook has programming for it, such as pet therapy, music therapy, activities, performances, and seminars from places like the McLean County Museum or Illinois State University. “Right now we’re enjoying intergenerational programming with a nearby childcare learning center,” Jackie adds.
There are opportunities specific to assisted living, opportunities specific to memory care and combined community wide opportunities. Jackie points out that, “when everybody in the community comes together, it gives residents more socialization than most of them had while still living at home.”
For respite and regaining
Transitioning to any senior community can be a big move and one many people are simply not willing to make quickly. For them, Welbrook offers a short-stay respite care option.
“The Respite option allows individuals to say, ‘I can go in, give it two weeks, and see what it’s like,’” Holly says.
It’s also a way for caregivers to gain a form of respite—a place they can make sure their loved one is well taken care of should the caregiver need a vacation, “or just a break from being a caregiver,” as Holly puts it.
Overall, the purpose Holly, Jackie, and the rest of the Welbrook staff serve is to simply provide support. “Support, so the residents can continue to be as independent as possible for as long as possible,” Holly elucidates.
“For many residents, we actually see them regain some of their independence when they come into assisted living,” she continues. “There were probably some things they had let go of doing. For some, socially they had begun to lose some of that network. When they come into a community like this, where all the support services are there and the community is specially designed to meet their needs, they’re able to regain some of those things and start doing things they may have lost touch with doing.”
Holly concludes: “Every service we provide is intended to support the residents to continue being who they’ve always been or get back to doing all the things they’ve always loved.”
Welbrook at Bloomington is located at 1402 Leslie Drive in Bloomington. They offer Independent/Assisted Living and Memory Care. “Living Life Well” at Welbrook means having the support, care and compassion to continue a lifestyle with just a change of location.
For additional information, contact Holly Hall, Executive Director, at 309- 603-2500 or visit WelbrookBloomington.com.