A Community on the ‘Move’ to aide Alzheimer’s

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Alzheimers Care groupForget the traditional red and gold hues of fall for there is another color that takes over the grounds of Kensington Park this time of year. In fact, it is all about the power of the purple at this continuing services community where residents and staff are taking a stand against Alzheimer’s. Through dedication and support, these individuals are making a difference and inspiring others to join the cause.

Over the years, the community has prided itself on being an avid supporter of the annual Memory Walks coordinated by the Alzheimer’s Association and has even hosted its own Memory Walks for the local community and residents. From an exceptional Memory Support unit, The Gardens, to its support groups, it is the caring nature and sense of camaraderie at this community that has attracted its residents.

Just ask Rosemary and William Lee, Elizabeth and Richard Stoeckel, Marie Beary, and Beverly Richards who are among those residents that can be seen donning their purple Memory Walk shirts in support of their loved ones and peers.

“I felt restored and like my old self when I moved here,” said Rosemary Lee. “It’s been very comfortable, caring and lovely, like a little health spa put in your life.”

Rosemary and William had been living on the Eastern Shore when they started researching the options for their future. After looking at several communities, the Lees felt discouraged until their niece contacted them about Kensington Park.

After two years in their new home, they enjoy an active lifestyle and pursuing different interests. Bill can often be seen on an exercise bike or the computer while Rosemary participates in the Creative Writing class and attends daytrips and music programs. They have also participated in the community’s Memory Walks and other related events having had friends who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“Randy East, from Kensington Park, has held wonderful classes that give us a greater understanding of the disease,” said Rosemary. “Awareness is important and there is a great deal of it here. His heart is really in it.”

This dedication in supporting those with cognitive impairment is also certainly evident in the gentle warmth and respect with which specialized programs are offered in The Gardens. Along with the nurturing therapeutic activities, residents here enjoy spectacular park views, a lively aquarium and a stimulating memory garden. They also participate in various activities with the rest of the community such as the popular St. Patrick’s Day Bingo Bash.

And among those players, one might have seen Pennsylvania natives Elizabeth and Richard Stoeckel, who, like the Lees, have appreciated the supportive nature and activism of the staff and their peers.

“We were approached last year about the walk and decided to join,” said Richard. “We made a donation because we think it’s a very wonderful cause.”

Married for 66 years, the Stoeckels are no strangers to making contributions since Richard has been active with the Rotary Club and its involvement with the Salvation Army.

“I always participated quite proudly,” he said. “My wife and I have tried to be as generous as we could be through our church and clubs and we feel the same way about the Memory Walk.”

Introduced to Kensington Park by their family that has grown to six great-grandchildren, the couple could not be happier to be near their loved ones and be part of a vibrant community. “We are thankful to be here and feel very much at home,” said Richard. “We think it’s beautiful and they really do a great job for everyone.”

That great job of the staff extends beyond the specialized memory support to the other levels of care offered by the community. In The Highlands Independent Living and The Woodlands and Groves Premier Assisted Living, residents can enjoy maintenance-free lifestyles knowing services are available to meet their potential health needs. With this sense of security, they can take advantage of the various activities and amenities including a movie theater, library and cozy sitting areas.

After hearing several positive comments about Kensington Park, Marie Beary’s daughter recommended she move into this community conveniently located near her home.

A former assistant attorney general from New York, Marie has lived at the community since last October and is known to sign up for just about every activity possible. Among some of her favorite events have been the community’s holiday festivities and a recent trip to see the Cherry Blossoms. “They really take great care of you and we have lots of activities and trips you can sign up for and the transportation is provided,” she said.

Marie and her husband had been very active in the Red Cross, and she now carries that volunteerism with her today to support the fight against Alzheimer’s since her cousin suffers from the disease along with Parkinson’s.

“Everybody has a relative or knows someone who does with Alzheimer’s,” she said. “You really have to work at it and get a lot of people interested to make a difference.”

Marie is pretty close to the truth as over five million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and someone will join them every 70 seconds. The individuals at Kensington Park are no strangers to these facts as the staff keeps everyone informed on the disease and hosts a support group for caregivers and families every third Thursday a month with volunteer moderators from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Beverly Richards is one resident who has had this statistic hit close to home. Originally from Utah, the avid traveler and singer moved to the area through her husband’s career with the Public Health Service.

It was the inevitable end of his battle with dementia that brought Beverly to the community four years ago. “I was interested in Alzheimer’s before, but when this happened, I became so aware of how it affects not just one person, but a whole family intensely,” she said.

With his passing in 2005, she has been highly involved in the community’s walks as a Resident Speaker sharing her story. Though she originally came to Kensington Park for the continuum it offers, she has been busy pursuing her favorite activities, such as bird watching, while enjoying the perks of a tight-knit community.

“There’s an atmosphere here of family with upbeat attitudes and lots of opportunities,” she said. “But this is just a very warm and caring community.”

There is no question that it is the people that make a home. And as these six individuals, their peers, and the staff of Kensington Park display their purple shirts at the National Mall on October 17th, others will know what a truly exceptional home it is.

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