‘This is their home’

The Garden House promotes ‘health, independence and choice’

One fun activity at The Garden House is painting with watercolors. Above, a resident and staff member work together on a masterpiece. Contributed photo

Prior to moving into the comforts of The Garden House of St. Mary’s, located in Winsted, Lois Siedschlag was living in a larger care center where much of her day was spent in bed, alone in her room.” Upon moving into the Garden House, where there are a smaller amount of residents, Lois could be found participating and engaging with staff and fellow residents. The small environment has had a positive impact on both her mood and her health.

“She basically went from existing to thriving,” explained Garden House Executive Director Emily Rieck. “She wasn’t doing much at all before, except sleeping. Now, she likes to participate with things like washing dishes, cutting up watermelon, or peeling potatoes.”

The Garden House is a unique senior living facility where the residents choose how to spend their day, not the staff. It’s billed as a place “where health, independence, and choice come to life.”

Residents at The Garden House decide what they want to do each day. A few of the activities include helping in the kitchen to gardening to relaxing in the shade with their feet in a pool. Contributed photo.

“The residents can sleep as late as they want,” Rieck said. “They tell us what they want for breakfast. They help with things like washing dishes or helping to prepare a meal. Whatever they want to do, we accommodate them. This is their home. We’re just here to help.”

The purpose of allowing the residents to assist in daily household activities is to promote better relations with the staff and each other, giving them a sense of “togetherness” that can be rewarding to everyone involved.

Another example of the togetherness that The Garden House strives for can be found in the large patio area where several garden plots are tended by the residents.

“The residents will help each other take care of the vegetable plants, and when they are ready, will pick them and share them with a meal,” said Rieck. “Or, we might grill outside together just like you would at you own house.”

The units on each side mirror one another with their own entrance, large kitchen facility, and a central living room with a large-screen television.

The Garden House at St. Mary’s is specifically designed for those elders requiring memory care. The feeling that residents and their families get with The Garden House is comfort and security.

“I want this place to be a calming environment where people truly feel at home,” explained Rieck.

When Rosemary Weber was seeking a facility for her husband Charles, who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, she knew The Garden House was the perfect choice the minute she entered the facility.

“It’s just a beautiful place,” she said. “And (Charles) really likes it there. I love the layout of the building. It’s nicer than a lot of homes. And the (residents) and their families are treated so well. It’s an excellent place.”

“The natural light is healing and is beneficial for those with dementia, as well as others,” said Rieck. “Besides the wonderful effects natural light has on our mood, it also helps promote better sleep, which we all know has numerous overall health benefits.”

The Garden House also showcases the changing times of healthcare.

“Within nursing homes we see three common conditions,” said Rieck. “Those are loneliness, helplessness and boredom. These side effects stem from loss of empowerment and loss of purpose. The Garden House is revolutionary in its intention and design, which promotes independence, choice, empowerment and ultimately, purpose.”

“What this means is that we can now care for residents who may simply need some help recovering from an injury (respite care), need help with everyday activities, or simply enjoy the peace of mind of having staff around to help,” said Rieck.

And it’s all designed in a way to make life easier for those living there.

In order to assist those with dementia, faucets are marked “hot” and “cold,” while kitchen cabinets are open or have glass fronts to allow residents to see what’s inside.

“We want them to feel like they are still in their home and not get frustrated if they can’t find something or forget something,” said Rieck. “And we want them to feel like everyone here is part of their family.”

For more information, call The Garden House at 320-364-9103 or visit their website at gardenhouseatstmarys.org.

#TheGardenHouse #Winsted

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