Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Your Loved One Had a Stroke . . . What’s Next?


Submitted by The Villas of Holly Brook

Aunt Henrietta had a stroke. She is my mother’s younger sister and it was devastating to our family. Initially, she was in a nursing home. Recovery depends on many different factors like where in the brain the stroke occurred, how much of the brain was affected, the patient’s motivation, caregiver support, the quantity and quality of rehabilitation, and how healthy the survivor was before the stroke. Because every stroke and stroke survivor is unique, avoid comparisons. The most rapid recovery usually occurs during the first three to four months after a stroke, but some stroke survivors continue to recover well into the first and second year post-stroke.

As Henrietta’s strength and mobility increased to an acceptable level, my cousin, Patti, took her mother home as requested. The burden of assisting with activities of daily life was draining her strength and spirit. As a caregiver, you may think your first responsibility is to your loved one, but it’s really to yourself. You’ve got to take care of your own health and well-being to do the best you can for your loved one.

Henrietta thought an assisted living facility was one step away from a nursing home, and she thought nursing homes are where you go to die. No assurance we offered could change her mind. It was evident that we needed to continue our search. We evaluated the various services and financial possibilities. Then Patti found an insurance policy that covered assisted living and long term care. This allowed us to expand our search and not settle with the original facility the family could afford.

When we had evaluated all the things that differentiated one facility from another, we found only three components that mattered. First, we had to ensure the best quality of care for my aunt. We talked not only to the administrator, but also to staff members in the hall. Patti even excused herself to go to the bathroom so she could speak with housekeeping. We soon found some facilities had unhappy staff members. Only two were satisfied with the ownership and management. Only one had an entire staff that not only spoke highly about ownership but said their Executive Director was “the best, way cool, and the kindest person you will ever meet with compassion and a caring nature with all the residents.”

We had to chuckle when we heard one housekeeper talk about the day a memory care resident pulled his pants down and “did his business” right there in the middle of the activity room. Instead of getting upset, the Executive Director walked John to the bathroom and helped him get cleaned up before returning to the area and helping the housekeeping attendant clean the floor. She sprayed Febreeze, and everyone went back to making their crafts. Not many administrators would be inclined to do all this.

We learned that a compassionate, caring administrator that truly cared for residents like a member of their family was very important to us. We knew Henrietta was going to be in good hands.

The second most important thing on our list was a fun and engaging atmosphere. Henrietta is a bit shy, but we saw her open up during our visit when the group was singing hymns. She wanted to stay and make Valentines with her new acquaintances. We all knew this was going to be a wonderful home for Henrietta.

The third most important feature of the assisted livings we toured was the food. We all love to eat. The food looked appetizing, tasted good, and was nutritionally balanced. Patti said. “We couldn’t ask for anything more unless it was pie.” Would you believe they asked if she wanted coconut cream or apple pie? Sitting down eating pie, talking and laughing with Henrietta was the final check on our list. Everything else didn’t matter to us because we knew she was going to be a welcomed member in their happy family.

Since then, we have become involved in a program to create meaningful roles for families of assisted living residents. This helps to improve residents’ quality of life and reduce staff burden. More importantly, this improved the quality of life for residents. Our physician believes family involvement is a strong predictor of life satisfaction and less depression among many assisted living residents.

I once read that researchers found that environmental supports help family members focus on an activity by freeing them from helping the resident with activities of daily living and preparing the resident to participate in those activities. This is certainly true for us! This past year has opened our eyes and hearts to the wonderful possibilities available to improve the quality of life for loved ones.

If you are a senior or a caregiver in need of assisted living or memory care services, we recommend looking at several communities and narrowing your personal checklist down. 

You can learn a lot about a facility by viewing their website. Looking at the photos and reading descriptions of services can be helpful. Include things on your checklist that will make life more enjoyable for your loved one. Companionship, good food, and fun activities are a must. A compassionate, caring staff that is knowledgeable about your loved one’s specific condition and needs is important.

Don’t overlook architectural design. Many facilities may be nice in appearance but don’t take into consideration the profound perceptual losses in the senior population. Safety should always be a factor in your decision. Simply having a personal response pendant is not enough to ensure your loved one’s safety. Check out other items like grab bars in the bathrooms and hand rails in the halls. Verify the quality of their fire suppression system. Check out the state surveys to see where the facility might have safety violations or care service issues.

The biggest factor we found in making our decision was finding a facility where the residents are happy and engaged in an active lifestyle. Henrietta used to hate rehab, but now she loves chair exercises every morning with her new friends. Finding a quality assisted living community for yourself or your loved one can be the best decision you will ever make. Find one that has highly trained caregivers on-site 24-hours each day to give residents the best possible lifestyle, care, and environment.

The Villas of Holly Brook is one of the leading assisted living providers in Illinois. Living options include Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Respite Care when apartments are available. The Villas of Holly Brook is committed to enriching the lives of seniors they serve every day by working under the faith-based philosophy established by owner Reggie Phillips and his family. They also offer Alzheimer’s and Dementia Specialty Care in Reflections Memory Care when your loved one has those needs. Call 1-855-20-VILLA (84552) for more information or visit