July 2018 One of the most difficult phases of life that we will all face is aging. Whether it is a spouse, a parent, another loved one or even ourselves, at some point as we get older, we may need assistance in our everyday lives. One popular solution is to move into an assisted living senior community. There are many such facilities, but not all are created equal. Traditions at North Willow, located at 1703 W. 86th St. right next to St. Vincent Hospital, is a facility that offers independent living, assisted living and memory care. Something else it offers is local ownership. Traditions Management Company owns facilities across the Midwest. However, this facility, which opened in August 2017, is personal to one of the owners. Mike Wagner spent his life in the area. He was born at St. Vincent Hospital, grew up in a house across the street from it and still lives just minutes away. He volunteers in the community. Today, Traditions at Willow Creek stands on the same property where his father once owned a business. “The fact that we are locally owned and operated is huge. It makes a very big difference in daily operations within our building,” says Traditions Community Relations Director Libby Mellinger. She says the owners can walk in at any minute and often do. Mellinger says Traditions offers a wide range of services. “People can move in needing no care, and the goal would be to stay with us until the end of life,” she says, emphasizing that residents are not forced to move as their care needs change. They stay in the same apartment with care and services brought to them, so they can comfortably age in place. Traditions offers studios, one- or two-bedroom apartments and a long list of amenities and services, such as three restaurant-style meals per day and weekly housekeeping including linen service. There’s a beauty salon, fitness center, theater and scheduled transportation for outings and doctor appointments, just to name a few amenities. There is never a lack of things to get involved in with live entertainment, outings and group activities like bridge clubs and bingo. For residents who need a little more assistance, the nursing staff is there 24 hours a day to help with such things as bathing and medication management. The level of care provided is based on the individual assessed need of each resident. Traditions at North Willow also has Dr. Staci Hollar from St. Vincent, a geriatrician with a clinic within the facility, making it one of the few assisted living facilities in Indianapolis that offers a doctor in house. Executive Director Shelly McFall says there is something else that is special about Traditions that sets it apart. “I would say it’s our staff. We have a very caring staff here. Most of our staff have been here since we opened, and that makes a difference. We’re like a family, and we’re taking care of our families,” she says. Both she and Mellinger say being right next door to St. Vincent Hospital is a major benefit to residents because every minute counts in the case of an emergency. Another benefit is the advanced memory care program that Traditions provides to residents who have memory issues. Mellinger says the program is all individually based. “Our memory care program stands above any in this area that I’m aware of,” she says, explaining that each memory care resident has an individual plan of care. The goal is to improve their quality of life and keep them active while not relying on medication. “In most communities, memory care is a locked unit. Providing care for someone with memory issues is way deeper than locking them in a secure unit, so they don’t wander out. And that’s what this company does very, very well, which is to provide the therapy to keep them engaged,” she says. The Varietas Memory Care program is built around four principles: Therapeutic Environment, Social Engagement, Individualized Care and Family Support. With respect to the environment, residential units are purposely smaller than typical assisted living apartments and common spaces are arranged to encourage social interaction and sharing. The Varietas daily routine provides therapeutic recreation that is designed to enhance social engagement. A major component to the Individualized Care principal is a non-pharmacological, individualized program that reduces cognitive stress and boredom that is called Behavior-Based Ergonomics Therapies (BBET). The BBET program consists of four therapies customized to each individual resident’s interests and capabilities: Music Therapy, Video Therapy, Stimulating Therapy and Memory Prop Therapy. BBET has received six national awards. The Varietas program’s mission is to maintain independence and improve quality of life through individualized care, empowerment, movement and compassion. Mellinger knows quite a bit about that as her own parents moved into Traditions after her mother began to have memory issues. She says the decision was not hers, and in fact, her family did a lot of shopping around before deciding on Traditions. She says her mother has improved greatly since moving in, and a lot of that is due to being active and engaged. McFall adds, “They have lots of friends now. It’s all the socialization that they get.” Mellinger says the objection she hears a lot from people is that they fear they are going to a facility such as theirs to die. “The reality is that people come here and live, finally. Because they’re sitting in their homes and they are just passing time, whereas here they are engaged,” she says. Traditions at North Willow offers a lunch and learn quarterly. Call Libby Mellinger at 317-876-2916 for more information and to tour. traditionsatnorthwillow.com.