Michelle Branco knew that, as an only child, she and her husband, Ken, would be the ones to take on the caregiving responsibilities for her mom, Marie Munger, after her dad passed in June 2018.
When the Brancos asked Marie what she wanted to do — stay in Texas, where she had spent the past 30 years, or move to Connecticut to be near them — she said she wanted to closer to family. “Mom’s main goal was to be within striking distance of her daughter and I,” Ken says.
So, the two management consultants hopped in their car and started searching for the right senior living community for Marie.
The Search for Assisted Living
Michelle and Ken looked at at least six places but kept coming up empty-handed.
“There is a wide variety in the caring — not the physical caring but enjoying your job, wanting to be taking care of those folks,” Ken says. “That’s what we were looking for.”
At most of the places they looked at, residents who lived in companion suites shared a bathroom, and sometimes, there was only a 3-foot wall separating the two beds.
At another place they looked at near where they live in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, they liked the look of the building from the outside, but something didn’t feel quite right when they stepped inside. “It felt institutional, like a business,” Ken recalls.
Then they drove through Ellington.
The Right Fit
“One day, Michelle pointed and said, ‘What’s that!’” Ken says. “It turned out to be the Ivy at Ellington. They weren’t even open yet.”
That didn’t stop the Brancos from giving The Ivy a call.
“We started conversations with them, and we really liked what they were trying to build,” Ken says. “As management consultants, we were looking at how [the communities] were organized and how [the staff] approach their jobs and how much they care about what they do.
“Some facilities, you could sense there was less,” Ken says. “But everyone at The Ivy was very excited about getting it up and running — and they’ve backed up everything they said so far.”
The Big Day
The first time Marie saw the Ivy was when she moved to Connecticut. Michelle and Ken had talked to her about it and showed her pictures on the website, and on move-in day, they helped her hang curtains and decorate.
“I felt right at home right away,” Marie says. “I love my room. It’s a little apartment all my own.”
Marie shares a companion suite with a roommate, but at the Ivy at Ellington, they each have their own bedroom and bathroom, and they share a living room. “We’d not seen that before,” Ken says. “[Having a companion suite] wasn’t critical, but we thought Mom having company would be a good thing.”
Marie has loved getting to know her roommate, the other residents, and the staff members.
“The companionship is wonderful,” she says. “I made friends, and we do a lot of things together.”
The Helping Hands
Michelle and Ken have enjoyed getting to know the staff members, too.
“The Ivy — it sounds cliché — but they really do make you feel like you’re part of the family,” Ken says. “That’s helped immensely. It’s been a tough transition for Mom. Dad died, and she moved within a month. But since Mom has been [at the Ivy at Ellington], everyone’s been great.”
Activities Director Lorelei Dubowski and Memory Care Director Carrie Wilson especially, Ken says: “They’ve been marvelous to work with. They’re very open-minded. They take input and are extremely collaborative. That’s the performance side. On the other side, they both obviously love their jobs. You can see that in how they work.”
Whenever Marie comes back from dinner at Michelle and Ken’s house, the staff always gives her a big hug and tells her how much they missed her. “That helped a ton in terms of Mom’s adjustment,” Ken says. “They really create the culture of the place.”
About three weeks ago, Marie experienced gastrointestinal symptoms that necessitated a trip to the hospital. Michelle and Ken were out of town on business, but the team at the Ivy at Ellington kept the Brancos informed of Marie’s status the entire time.
“That level of care and communication with us was really good and more evidence that they care and that they know what they’re doing,” Ken says.
Marie loves it, too. “I feel at home here,” she says.