BY: CHRIS GARDNER
SOUTHBURY — At The Villa, it’s just like being home.
There’s a sturdy stone fireplace in the center of the great room, radiating warmth throughout the furnished space. A kitchen with new, state-of-the-art appliances, offers room to prepare the night’s meal. A wooden table nearby is big enough for everyone in the house to gather.
Bedrooms fan out along two wide corridors that branch off the gathering space.
The rooms are painted in warm earth tones with bright accents, and the many
windows let in lots of sunlight. Outside is a porch where people can relax, swap stories, and chat with friends.
It’s just like home, and with the amenities comes a groundbreaking concept for
memory care here in Southbury.
The $2.1 million assisted living home opened Wednesday at The Watermark at
East Hill on East Hill Road.
More than 200 people stopped by to tour the 7,024square-foot building and to
learn how Watermark will use it to care for people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other forms of memory loss.
Lt. Gov. Nancy S. Wyman was impressed. With the help of Watermark staff, she
cut the purple ribbon that opened the The Villa.
“This kind of a place, this whole setting that has been provided here, is exactly what we should have when we need people around us,” said Wyman, who noted 70,000 Connecticut residents suffer from memory impairments.
Watermark has planned for the facility, which will serve 14 people at a time, since it bought the former East Hill Woods in 2007.
Denise Julian, director of health services, had a different vision for memory care that would allow residents to have a familiar routine — likely different from another resident of the home — but choose their own special activity as the day went on.
The staff, trained to be companions, would support the resident’s choice, and make whatever they want to do happen.
For example, a resident could get up, eat breakfast, then decide to go off-campus to a museum, or remain on site for a cooking class. Familiar bedtime rituals would be followed, and there would be plenty of interaction in the great room with other residents.
Each resident will be interviewed before they arrive so staff — called “nayas,” an ancient Sanskrit word that means guide or person of wisdom — knows what interests them.
One new resident loves animals, Julian said. The staff will promote that interest by bringing in an incubator to hatch chicks. Another has always wanted to ride a horse, so arrangements will be made to get that person in a saddle.
Rick Kamminga, Watermark’s chief operating officer, said he remembers when
Julian — who has worked at East Hill for two decades — shared her ideas about
treating people with memory impairments differently.
“You can build buildings, but the difference is the people,” he said, crediting the staff, all of whom were hand-picked to work at The Villa.
Watermark has invested more than $10 million in East Hill, including
construction of an indoor swimming pool, since 2007. The facility used to be
nonprofit, and was managed by a board of directors, which decided six years ago
to sell to a for-profit company.
Rep. Arthur J. O’Neill, R-Southbury, said the board made the right decision in
selling to Watermark, which he said has carried out the vision the cashstrapped
board always had for East Hill.
“Of all the things I’ve done in my life, this is one of my bigger accomplishments,” he said of helping to negotiate the sale, and watching the property thrive.