Living Center Stories

Living Center Stories

"Ruth Hatch loves art - creating pictures and appreciating them. To express gratitude, she gifts her canvases; one surgical team at St. John’s was the beneficiary of a small bear sketch."

RUTH HATCH LOVES ART—CREATING PICTURES AND APPRECIATING THEM.
To express gratitude, she gifts her canvases; one surgical team at St. John’s was the beneficiary of a small bear sketch. Her room at the Living Center greets guests with art; her paintings and portraits of herself—ever exuding elegance.

“I can’t do faces,” she says with a smile. “So I do side views.” Her artistic twinkle thrives. And she recognizes the creative spirit in others, delighting in Hillary’s weekly visits with
her musical menagerie. She joins art activities, therapy programs and town excursions whenever she can, and she relishes the freedom to participate at will. And eat whatever she wants (within her dietary needs). “I eat grapes by the cupful,” she says.

Now 90-years- old, Ruth worked well into her 70s. When diagnosed with Parkinson’s, she moved into a nursing home close to her son in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her daughter Linda longed
to move her from Ohio to Jackson, but Ruth insisted: “I’m not a mountain girl.” The distance made Linda’s heart hurt every time she walked away from the nursing home in which Ruth resided. The home lacked a nurturing ambiance, but she didn’t want to uproot her mom unwillingly. However, when Ruth’s wrist started to swell and hurt, the cracks appeared in the facility’s care system. One day, four years ago, Ruth announced: I’m ready
to move to Wyoming.

Linda immediately called St. John’s Living Center and placed her mom on the waitlist. Within a month, she received word a private room was available. Linda rushed back to Ohio, packed up Ruth, and flew west (a moving van with all of her mom’s belongings soon followed).

In terms of trappings, Ruth’s room at the Living Center appears the same as her space in
Ohio (down to the floral wallpaper trim picked by parallel decorators decades ago). And
yet, it’s the ethos that’s entirely different. “The Living Center feels most like home to us as
a loving community and neighborhood,” Linda says. “Just as neighbors stop in to say hello,
ask if you need anything when they are going to the store, or ask you out to dinner, the
Living Center keeps that spirit of the old neighborhood intact… All the activities and attention to individual needs my mother receives are reminders that she is loved and the staff values her.”

Everyone—from the nurses and CNAs to the dietary and housekeeping crews—makes Ruth feel surrounded by “neighbors,” kindred spirits who know her wishes and do their best to fulfill them, Linda says. Residents care for each other as well, ever supportive and loving.

Though the house Ruth raised her family in has been sold, Linda considers her mom’s current surroundings a blessing. “No more worry about her safety or health,” she says. “My mom has found a new home at St John’s Living Center.”

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"My dad now lives in a memory care facility 2,200 miles away from us, back on the East Coast. We take turns returning to be with him, but no amount of visits can bridge the hurt of having him live so far away."

I could write in support of St. John’s new Living Center from a variety of vantage points, like the analytical, having co-authored a report on the housing crisis and its effects on every age strata in our community. Instead I’ll share a personal frame of reference — as the daughter of a dad with Alzheimer’s disease. My dad lived in the valley for more than a decade — his happiest years. He loved this community and all of its layers. He felt at home in Jackson.

But when his brain began to fail him my family was forced to face the reality that there was no place for him here anymore. We knew an otherwise healthy, mobile man would not do well in the medical model of the current Living Center. Ours was a painful, prolonged process of acceptance.

My dad now lives in a memory care facility 2,200 miles away from us, back on the East Coast. We take turns returning to be with him, but no amount of visits can bridge the hurt of having him live so far away.

If you met my dad today you wouldn’t know anything was wrong: He would greet you with a warm smile, make a joke and talk about the weather. But his fierce intelligence is gone. Now attuned to the signs of cognitive decline, I see the same shadow cross some of our most respected residents. I hear from other family members who are distressed by the limited options in our valley and are weighing the same difficult decision. I don’t want them to face the same specter of exile that my dad did.

Last week I visited my dad and witnessed him thriving in his new world — happier, healthier and calmer than I’ve seen him in years, all thanks to the highly skilled care and highly calibrated environment of the memory care center. Unbidden, he offered this assessment of his situation: “Life here is really quite terrific. If my family were here I’d never want to leave.”

By supporting the Campaign for a New Living Center, you are making it possible for my dad to come home to his family.

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"I believe it is our responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves. This necessary facility provides care for some of our most valuable and vulnerable community members. "

Kathryn Mapes Turner has deep roots in Jackson Hole. She is an accomplished artist and prominent community member. Kathryn’s family has been in the Valley for five generations. The Turner’s know that offering a memory care facility at St. John’s Living Center is essential to keeping families together.

 Kathryn wrote: Providing an enhanced living center and memory care facility here in the valley touches our family personally. My uncle, Donald Turner, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago. He was born in Jackson, lived here his entire life, and served his community on the School Board and other organizations. Initially, he was admitted to our Living Center, but then had to move to an out-of-state facility. Our current Living Center is not equipped for specialized memory care, and Donald always wanted to get outdoors where he had live all of his life. Sadly, he could not live out the last stages of his life here in the valley close to family and friends because of his disease. It is our deepest hope that our neighbors who incur such memory challenges will be granted the opportunity to live out their lives in the place they know as home connected to the supportive care of family and friends.  

 I believe it our responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves. This necessary facility provides care for some of our most valuable and vulnerable community members.

 

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"All of us in Teton County —from individuals, to families, to employers—will benefit if we are able to house and take care of our seniors in the new Living Center on the SJMC Campus right in the heart of our community."

The current Living Center can no longer meet the needs of our community. Families face the heartbreak of moving parents, spouses, and grandparents to other cities and towns to receive the care they need.

Our aging community members deserve it. They are the ranchers, merchants, professionals, veterans, and moms and dads who built our community. We owe it to them and their families.

The new Living Center will have a dedicated memory unit for residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Without a dedicated unit, St. John’s can’t offer the optimum environment to provide for the safety and care of seniors with advanced memory loss.

A new Living Center will better support resident-centered care. Its design will be based on a household, not an institutional model—meaning it will feel like a home rather than a hospital. Rooms and baths will be private. The common areas will be designed for activities and socialization, rather than with a central focus on nurses’ stations.

In the past thirty years the “graying of America” has led to an epidemic of dementia. Over five million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease and by 2050 that number is projected to be 16 million, 10 million of whom will be baby boomers. The new facility will be better prepared to care for the growing number of people who require care. The new center, once completely built out, will accommodate 50% more residents than the current facility.

What we now understand about Alzheimer’s care includes keeping patients stimulated and active. Not infrequently a Living Center is the best place for them. The staff does a wonderful job keeping residents active and engaged, but they are limited by the hospital-like atmosphere.

Organized activities, a sense of community, and an environment that respects privacy and dignity, improve the quality of life of everyone and the elderly should not be an exception.

The design of the new facility will allow for patients from the hospital who need rehabilitation from surgery or illness to have their own place without intruding on the routine of the lives of those who live there. These rehabilitation patients will be positioned to receive the best care in a facility designed for their specific needs.

Our current Living Center already has a remarkable, caring staff who will flourish in a facility that makes their work more efficient and effective. We have music therapy, bus outings, games, a devoted volunteer staff and much more. The entire staff, as well as their charges, will benefit from a new facility.

In summary, this project is an essential community need All of us in Teton County—from individuals, to families, to employers—will benefit if we are able to house and take care of our seniors in the new Living Center on the St. John’s Medical Center Campus right in the heart of our community.

 

Tell Us Why You Give

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