Independent living. Assisted living. Long term care. Skilled nursing.
For aging Baby Boomers and their loved ones, these can be confusing terms.
Here’s another term, which encapsulates all the others: Continuing Care Retirement Community. Meaning, simply, an all-in-one place where you can live and get needed services as you age.
“When you move into this community, you know if you need a higher level of care that it’s there for you,” said Tomeka Scott, administrator of Brandermill Woods Health Care Communities, located off Old Hundred Road.
Scott, a registered nurse and licensed nursing home administrator, has been at Brandermill Woods since 1995, when she started as a certified nurse assistant and then worked her way up “through every nursing job there is.” This gives her the breadth of background and experience to oversee every aspect of life at Brandermill Woods.
It’s a big facility spread out on both sides of Old Hundred Road at the entrance to the Brandermill community: 275 independent living rental cottages and apartments, 40 assisted living apartments (with an additional 19 memory care apartments), 38 long-term-care beds, and 22 skilled nursing beds.
That, by the way, is the progression of care available at Brandermill Woods – first independent living, then assisted living, long term care, and finally skilled nursing. Residents in the independent and assisted living units have access to rehabilitative care in cases of sickness or injury that requires temporary higher levels of treatment to allow them to return to their regular unit. As residents age and their health needs change, they can move into a higher level of care available elsewhere on the campus.
Residents enjoy an array of services: barber and hair stylist, painting and art classes, bingo and puzzles, chair yoga and other exercise options, walking trails, and a wildlife area frequented by birds and butterflies. There’s van transportation to take residents on errands, to doctor appointments, and to social functions. An activities director plans outings and other things to do. Meals and snacks are prepared daily and served restaurant or family style depending on the level of care; cookouts are offered when weather permits.
For those in independent living, amenities include a pool, clubhouse, bistro, fitness center with exercise classes, greenhouse, movie theater, and library, as well as access to all the recreational amenities offered within the greater Brandermill neighborhood.
“It’s not just a community,” Scott said. “It’s home.”
Health and medical services are overseen by a medical director and include a nurse practitioner, podiatrist, dentist, nutritionist and wound doctor. A therapy department offers music therapy and pet therapy. Restorative care also is available, as well as recreation therapy for residents who need supervised exercise and movement.
Brandermill Woods employs a staff of about 300, including nurses on all levels, with staff always on site 24 hours a day. Supporting the staff is a group of dedicated volunteers, from adults living in nearby communities to school children and Scouts. Musicians often come in to play piano and sing for residents. “Our residents love music,” Scott said.
For residents suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, there’s a separate memory unit equipped with a monitoring system at each exit for the safety of the residents; this unit includes a patio and a secure therapeutic garden space.
For those who need a quiet, less stimulating environment, there’s a sensory unit featuring aromatherapy and stocked with soothing activities like molding clay. “It’s calming for them,” said Scott, who also is a certified dementia practitioner.
Brandermill Woods also offers respite care available to anyone in the community. Scott recommends respite care for people and families interested in sampling what life in a continuing care retirement community is really all about.
“Some people wait a long time. They’re afraid to move,” Scott said. “It’s a big decision to move in. So, try respite first.”
With respite, housing and services are offered temporarily – for example, for two weeks. Units are fully furnished, although respite residents are encouraged to bring personal items. The respite period offers an ideal opportunity to experience the continuing care environment and allow both the respite resident and the family to make a more informed decision about retirement options. Admissions coordinators are employed to conduct tours for those interested in learning about the facility.
“Word of mouth is the best advertising,” Scott said. “Talk to someone working and living here.”
Prospective residents undergo an assessment to determine the proper placement. Because people tend to wait to seek care, Scott said, “they may need more care than they think.” Signs that continuing retirement care is needed include forgetting to take prescription medications, trouble performing activities of daily living like dressing and toileting, a decline in mobility, difficulty cooking and related safety issues such as leaving the stove on, and continuing forgetfulness and slowing down.
Scott clearly takes pride in all that Brandermill Woods offers to its residents. “I love what I do; that’s why I’ve been here so long,” said Scott, who has worked at the facility for 25 years. “If you can’t live at home, this is the next best choice.”