We knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier. It was finally time to transition my wife’s father from his home in Longwood, where he’s lived for decades, to an assisted-living facility. Tom was 78 at the time, and while his physical health was decent, dementia was setting in pretty quickly. Living alone, he was starting to have trouble preparing meals and remembering to take his many medications, and he was skipping both far too often.
Tom knew he needed help, but he was hardly enthusiastic about leaving his home. We began researching and comparing different assisted-living facilities throughout the area. As a family, our #1 priority was to choose a community with him, not for him. In mid-March of this year, Tom moved into his apartment at the Spring Hills assisted-living community in Lake Mary, and the journey that led us there reveals the many things – some big, some little – that make the region’s many elder-care communities unique, and ultimately what makes Spring Hills so special.
And not to spoil the big reveal this early, but it all comes down to people.
That’s not to say, though, that the physical facilities themselves weren’t important, and this is an area where, for Tom, Spring Hills hit that classic Goldilocks sweet spot.
Other communities we toured were too fancy for Tom, a proudly blue-collar guy who, after serving in the U.S. Navy, worked on the famously grizzly ground crew for the Apollo space program. Another facility was more his style, but it was sprawling. A simple walking tour wore him out, and the layout was so convoluted, my wife feared he would open his door and have no idea how to find the dining room.
Spring Hills, by contrast, was the perfect combination of nice but not ostentatious and cozy without being confining. It looks and feels like a large manor home, inside and out, not a gilded cruise ship or a confusingly vast college campus. We could tell Tom liked it, but we weren’t going to press the matter. When he asked, unsolicited, if we could tour Spring Hills again, we knew he was leaning that way.
Here’s where the people come in.
Roxy Rosca was the consultant who introduced us to Spring Hills and took Tom on the tours. She couldn’t have been more kind to him or more professional to us and our family. She didn’t shy away from the big questions that require the attention of any family in our situation, but she also showed immense compassion for Tom – and for us. For his part, Tom loved telling Roxy his usual slate of Navy stories. We’ve heard them all too many times to count, but as a new audience, Roxy took in the tales with charm. She promised to send us a package of material (Spring Hills brochures, sample menus, activity calendars, etc.).
A couple of days later, the package arrived with all the promised paraphernalia. But there was something else in the box. A blue baseball cap with NAVY stitched proudly on the crown. Tom was moved, and his decision was made. Every time we’ve since gone to visit him at Spring Hills, he’s been wearing the cap.
Within days of his move-in, Tom was already more active and engaged than he had been in years at his house. Again, thanks to the people. The other residents embraced him, and the staff took him under their wing. All he did at home was sit in his chair and watch TV. Now, his new friends are including him in multiple activities a day. Every time we call his room, he’s not there, and that’s music to our ears.
Even more important, though, is the care he’s getting. At Spring Hills, families choose the appropriate level of care for their loved ones, so you never pay for more care than you need. For Tom, that meant diligent medication management and general help with other essential activities. If anything needs our attention, the staff alerts us immediately.
For any aging parent, medical care is critical and engagement is essential, and I’m sure many local assisted-living communities could check those boxes. But we chose Spring Hills for Tom because of the human connections he’s found there. We want him to age with dignity and grace, and we want him to enjoy his life to the fullest. Thanks to the people at Spring Hills, we know he will.