Puppy Love at Morningside House of Friendship

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Alice Heiderman has always been a dog person. Throughout her life, she’s been the proud owner of many wonderful dogs. However, when she met Lily, the therapy dog at Morningside House of Friendship in Hanover, Md., what had always been an interest turned into a passion. Lily’s special breed of puppy love has helped improve Alice’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

Alice Heiderman has found a new best friend since moving to Morningside House of Friendship—the community’s therapy dog, Lily.

Alice Heiderman has found a new best friend since moving to Morningside House of Friendship—the community’s therapy dog, Lily.

After graduating from high school, Alice took a job at W.R. Grace and Company, a chemical company near Baltimore, Md. While working in the company’s silica gel plant, Alice met her future husband, Gilbert.

“He spent a lot of time trying to impress her and finally caught her eye,” recalled Leslie Heiderman Schell, the couple’s daughter. Their mutual love of dancing brought Alice and Gil­bert together. “They both liked to dance, and they danced a lot throughout their marriage,” Leslie said.

When Leslie was older, Alice took a job with the Anne Arundel County Public School System as a secretary. She later returned to college to attain a teaching degree. After gradu­ating from Towson State University, she became a fifth grade teacher. Alice taught fifth and sixth grades for decades before finishing her career as a kindergarten teacher.

Throughout her life, Alice has always been a dog lover. “As a kid growing up, I remember us always having dogs, often more than one at a time, and they all lived in the house,” Leslie recalled. Alice cared for the family’s dogs and formed special bonds with them.

After her father passed away, Leslie invited Alice to come and live with her family. She brought along her dog, Miss Murphy, when she moved. Alice lived with Leslie for nearly six years, but as her care needs increased, Leslie began to con­sider other options. “I was familiar with Morningside House of Friendship because my choral group sings there, and I thought it might be good for my mother,” Leslie recalled.

While Leslie looked into other communities, she quickly decided that her initial instinct was right. “It was clear that Morningside was a good fit, and I’ve been so pleased with it,” she said. “I love the people who work with my mother. Beyond the excellent care they provide, they also go out of their way to make sure that I’m always a part of my mother’s care deci­sions.”

Morningside House of Friendship is one of six Morningside Senior Living communities throughout Maryland and Virgin­ia. One of the only women-owned and operated senior living companies in the nation, Morningside is highly respected for their outstanding care and unique company culture. In addi­tion to assisted living care, Morningside House of Friendship features two distinct dementia care areas: Stepping Stones and Memory Lane. Stepping Stones offers care for seniors with mild cognitive impairments, while Memory Lane provides care for individuals with moderate to severe cognitive im­pairments. Both areas utilize a unique function focused model of care. Staff members evaluate residents’ function­ing levels and customize programming so that every engagement with residents is meaningful, with a focus on receiving positive reactions from residents.

In addition to the quality care her mother receives in the community’s Memory Lane dementia unit, Leslie is also impressed by the wide range of social opportunities provided for resi­dents. “They have such a communal at­mosphere here. My mom has the oppor­tunity to connect with other people, something she wouldn’t get if she was living in her own home or in my home,” she said.

In addition to quality care, Alice also enjoys an array of activities and social opportunities in Morningside House’s specially designed dementia unit.

In addition to quality care, Alice also enjoys an array of activities and social opportunities in Morningside House’s specially designed dementia unit.

Of course, for Alice, one of the most engaging activities is the time she spends with Lily. “Lily has definitely been the missing link when it comes to connecting with my mother,” said Leslie. “I would bring Miss Murphy to visit occasionally, but the connection with Lily has been amazing.”

Lily’s owner and trainer, Morningside’s Director of Sales and Marketing Heidi Thomas, has noticed the connection as well. “Lily really gravitates towards the residents who need her the most. She always gives them extra love,” she said. “She has a fascinating knack for finding the residents who may be struggling and providing the atten­tion they need.”

Alice has certainly benefited from Lily’s companionship. “If she’s having a bad day, Lily can really change her mood,” Leslie noted. “It’s amazing how close they are. When they sleep together on the couch, Lily assumes an almost possessive pose, with her paw over my mother’s hand.”

Alice and Lily’s special connection has helped Alice to flourish in her new home at Morningside House. With Lily by her side—or on her lap—Alice is once again filled with joy—a joy that is best described as puppy love.

Published: March 2014

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