Transition to Assisted Living: Sharing a Personal Story

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For many, selecting a retirement facility is a stressful and rushed experience.

But for 74-year-old Dick Smith, picking the right place to live two years ago was not so bad because, just a year before, he had made a more relaxed exploration of the facilities in and around Burke, Va.

Now, he is fully enjoying his new life at Heatherwood Retirement Community, serving on the resident council and exploring many of the facility’s other activities. It’s also quite satisfying to have one of his two children, Susan, living near by and helping with life decisions.

But the transition to life in Burke might not have been as smooth as it turned out to be. Dick says he was helped considerably by getting his finances in order early in life also by having a little bit of luck and determination along the way.

At age 51 in Acadia, CA, Dick’s finances were good enough to manage an early retirement from a successful career in marketing. With a bachelor degree from Yale University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1960s, Dick’s fifth and final work position was as corporate vice president of marketing for Ameron International.

Then only a year after retiring in 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Thanks to good neurological care, advances in medications, and some proactive personal care management on Dick’s part, he says the condition has always been manageable. He has even written an article incorporating his personal experience for Georgetown Hospital which details his thinking about how a Parkinson’s patient can gain some control of the disease.

Four years ago, while living in Tucson, AZ, Dick and his wife of 42 years, Barbara, realized they were having increasing difficulty managing their home. So, with Susan’s help, the couple visited Burke and took their time touring many of the local retirement options. They returned to Tucson with plenty of possibilities, but no firm plans.

When Barbara passed away, Dick underwent major brain surgery which immediately reduced his medications, and somewhat later his symptoms improved. Remaining in Tucson was tempting because everything was familiar, including his physicians. Eventually, Dick decided to live near Susan, who was eager to help. Living in Burke would also get him closer to his son, Daniel, in Burlington, VT.

Having toured the area’s senior facilities when the need was less urgent allowed Dick and his daughter to make a very considered selection of his new home in Burke.

Today, Dick is settling in nicely to life at Heatherwood. With the likelihood of another term as resident council president, he maintains his full schedule of volleyball, bridge and golf. Dick is also looking forward to another summer at his family’s cottage in Boothbay Harbor, ME. If you want to read Dick’s article, Parkinson’s, A Patient’s Perspective, his email address is:

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