Peg Husby always welcomes people to stop in to Grace Willowbrook in Eau Claire, where she is the director, to see what assisted living is all about. This is why she and her team, along with the teams at all of the Grace Lutheran Communities assisted living facilities, celebrate National Assisted Living Week, which falls September 13-19 this year.
“It gives us a chance to bring in people from the community and showcase our residents, their wonderful talents and abilities, and what their lifestyle is like when they move to assisted living,” Husby said.
This year’s theme, established by the National Center for Assisted Living, is “Nourishing Life: Mind, Body, Spirit.” Husby said Grace relates to this because residents come to Grace Willowbrook to enhance their lifestyle, not necessarily to rest.
“We really want them to stay strong and healthy, and not just their body but their mind as well,” she said.
The team at Grace Willowbrook accomplishes this in a number of ways. They have a vibrant exercise group, go on various monthly outings, and offer several games and activities each week. Husby said she wants to make every day better for her residents, whatever that might mean.
“We really try hard to be focused on letting them sit in the driver’s seat,” she said. “We’ll ask, ‘What activities do you like? Let’s look at the menu and see if there are some things that we can add that are your favorites. Bring your recipes down, and if we can, let’s try them.’”
This is what, according to Husby, sets assisted living at Grace apart: person-centered care, an approach that really speaks to her. When someone new moves in she wants to find out about him or her. What did they like to do before they came? How can that fit in to what they do at Grace Willowbrook? Husby said this is how she personally relates to this year’s theme of “Nourishing Life.”
“For me it’s really embodying what people bring to us,” she said, “Knowing what their interests are and trying to move them to try new things. Just because you’re 90 doesn’t mean you don’t want to try a painting class, or another hobby that you may be interested in, or establishing new friendships.”
Residents are able to try new things and do the things that are meaningful to them because the team at Grace Willowbrook takes care of the day-to-day details.
“We prepare the meals, we do the laundry, we take care of the housekeeping, so they can focus on the things that are really enjoyable or important to them at this stage in their life,” Husby said. “It’s kind of a scary thing when people have to move and then suddenly are living communally, which they’re not normally used to doing, and we try to make that transition as smooth as possible.
Part of making that transition is choosing an assisted living facility to move to. Husby said she thinks the most important thing they can communicate to people who don’t know a lot about assisted living is: you need to go and visit communities before you need them. Each facility is a little different, and knowing about them before you need them can make the decision easier.
“Our niche is a little bit different than the assisted living down the road, and assisted living is a huge umbrella,” she said. “There are very different communities that fall under assisted living, so knowing that, it is important to visit communities, talk to friends and neighbors, and ask questions.”
National Assisted Living Week is a great time to visit assisted living facilities because many have special events happening throughout the week. Grace Willowbrook kicked off the week with a Grandparent’s Day celebration, and will be holding a tiny collectibles gallery on the afternoon of the 17th.
“Several of the residents collect little miniatures, so they’re going to be bringing their things and we’re going to set up a little gallery for an afternoon where people can come down and look at the things others have collected over time,” Husby said.
Husby has always wanted to work with older individuals, and this is why she enjoys with working at Grace Willowbrook.
“I’ve always had a heart for elders,” she said. “I just love them, and every day is different. Every day is kind of an adventure for me.”
Written by Grace Lutheran Communities staff writer