by Ginger Costen
Their website is full of bright colored photos showing seniors playing games, gardening, socializing and in general, having a good time. But what it doesn’t show is the incredible level of love, concern and respect that each staff member brings to work with them every day at the Christopher Heights in Webster. From the laughter in the “Klondike’s Pub” to the warmth from the fireplace in the waiting area, it’s easy to see this is a true home away from home for residents and staff alike.
“The philosophy of assisted living is the basis for providing optimal care for residents at Christopher Heights,” said Laurie Nelson, Executive Director. “We provide the highest quality care in a dignified living environment, engaging residents in providing a discovery of life. This responsibility is best addressed as a team and our team here at Christopher Heights is focused on not keeping a person occupied, but keeping him refreshed. Not offering an escape from life, but providing a discovery of life. Not to kill time, but to make time live.”
We provide the
highest quality care
in a dignified living
in providing a
discovery of life...”
The staff is dedicated to helping the residents maintain their independence by providing quality assisted living services in a dignified living environment. “But along with that, we want them to feel like they’re at home,” she said. “We’re like a family here and we’re grateful to be a part of their lives.”
It’s easy to see why this “family love” resonates from the top down. Graduating from college in 1982 Nelson has 32 years in Elder Services. Pointing to a wooden wall sign that reads: Do What You Love, Nelson said, “I loved working with elders and wanted to make this my career so I could help enrich their lives, but it’s my life that they’ve enriched; it’s been my own personal blessing”
Family members are encouraged to spend the night with the resident especially when a loved one is recovering from surgery or is new to the facility. “We want the family to feel like we’re a second family for them too and help with extra bedding or personal supplies,” she added.
But it doesn’t stop with just family members. They also take care of the staff to make sure they’re safe as well. “This winter we made sure not one of our staff had to travel the icy roads and helped with air mattresses and bedding so they too were safe,” she explained.
Christopher Heights at Webster opened in August of 1999 with 83 apartments. Residents must be 62 years of age or older and capable of providing most of their personal care. Staff members are on duty 24 hours a day to provide assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming and ambulation.
Medication reminders or Self-Administered Medication Management (SAMM) are also available. The SAMM program works with the family to setup the necessary medications in a weekly or monthly container and then locks the item in a centralized cabinet with support from the nursing staff to help the resident remember to take his or her medications.
Residents may choose a studio, studio-alcove or a one-bedroom apartment. Each apartment is equipped with a kitchenette and a private bathroom. The bathroom features a step-in shower, hand-held showerhead and a built-in shower seat. Each apartment has an emergency response system located in both the living room and bathroom and is staff-monitored twenty fours a day.
The residents bring their own furniture, bedding and personal items; however, all of the services such as housekeeping and personal laundry are provided. Residents are served three meals a day with a variety of entrees as well as therapeutic diets. Snacks and refreshments are easily accessible for the residents as they desire.
But it’s not just about the residents and staff. “We also provide volunteer opportunities from within our community,” she explained. “We have students who like to help with socializing and come in and play games with the residents,” Nelson said. “And we have local churches that come in and help with religious services or activities.”
One of the resident’s favorite activities is called the “Celebration of Life” that is presented during the Holiday Season.
“We’re our own close-knit community and when we lose someone, it’s not always easy for a resident to go the actual funeral or services,” she explained. During the year the Craft Club helps the residents make Christmas tree ornaments for the people that have passed away. Then in December a local church helps with the Celebration of Life and we share our memories and put the person’s ornament on the tree. “So this helps all of us have some closure,” she added.
Local Bartlett High School students also volunteer in the maintenance department. They’re part of a special program that lets them earn learning credits that they can then use on a resume after graduation. The students work under the strict supervision and guidance of the Cristopher Heights maintenance supervisor, Randy Austin. Mr. Austin was with the maintenance department at Cranston Print Works for more than thirty years.
Residents and volunteers have established clubs and committees for a Wii bowling team, Scrabble, gardening, music and chorus, community daytrips, walking, knitting and crocheting, games, crafts and yard sales. Several men formed a group that has a monthly luncheon with a guest speaker. Residents and staff also have a decorating group that encourages everyone to decorate their door for the specific holiday or season. The resident’s doors are judged with prizes for the winners.
On Monday evening, February 24,, 2014, the residents held the 2nd Floor Pajama Tea Party. Pajamas or nightgowns with robes were encouraged but not required. It seemed the residents enjoyed getting comfortable as the dining room was filled with people relaxing with a cup of tea, munching on cookies and having fun laughing as each person arrived in their bed clothes.
Additionally, there are financial options available for the residents. “We have programs that once a resident has exhausted their financial resources they do not have to worry about leaving their apartment,” said Nelson. “We call it our ‘No Worry Prices’ and there’s no change in services or is anyone else aware of the assistance that’s being given.”
Christopher Heights Assisted Living communities are owned by The Grantham Group and have locations in Webster, Attleboro, Worcester and Marlborough.