Without an appointment, my family and I visited Winter Growth in Onley, MD in November 2015. Our visit was for my father who is living with dementia. Upon arrival, we were immediately impressed with how accommodating the staff was and the way the building offered a feeling of welcome that normally only accompanies one's home. The cleanliness, without the clinical feeling! The gentleman who presented the tour was polite and informative, but what is more memorable was that he was in tune with the participants and took the time to introduce us to a few that fit my father's profile. My father's smile that accompanied the introductions was soothing to experience as a caregiver. Moreover, the tour gave us the opportunity to view and sample a few of the activities of the day program. Amazing! Everyone, staff included, was having fun and the goals of the activities focused on enriching the participants' lives, built upon their skills, knowledge, and unique abilities and strengths. After our tour, dad was given the opportunity to attend a complementary preview day. Needless to say dad is a current participant and we are so fortunate to have Winter Growth as part of our family.
My father, who is 91 and has demenchia, visited one day and one night. Hoping this was a place that I could leave my Dad for a day or two so that I could get away from the daily care giving. But they said my Dad needed too much care. If your loved one has demenchia or Alzheimers then this is not the place for him. Evidently they are not staffed to be able to care for anyone that needs help.
I visited Winter Growth. There are about 15 small bedrooms, decorated by the resident, for assisted living residents. The individual bathrooms are shared - access is from the hall, except there is one pair of bathrooms near the entrance that can accommodate several people at a time. They have a big adult day program - about 40 - 50 people, split into two groups in the morning and smaller groups in the afternoon, participate. They also offer short or long-term respite care. Before admission to any program, a doctor's form must be filled out + a TB test (or chest x-ray), and the person who will participate must come for a preview day. The staff I have talked with are informative, helpful and caring.
My husband spent a day at Winter Growth to see if he liked it or not but he didn't care for it. The rooms were fairly small and there were a large number of people in the room, so he had trouble concentrating on what people were saying. It was just distracting having that many people in one room. They had a support group but we weren't able to get to them because no one answered the door.
My wife, who has early onset Alzheimer's, participates in the day program four days a week. A little over a year ago she started with two days a week, and we moved to four days since her disease has progressed. I am very happy with the staff. They are friendly, accessible, and flexible. My wife enjoys the activities - there is always something going on - and she also usually enjoys the food, which is great since lunch is her main meal of the day. I chose Winter Growth for the location, cost, and transportation. The facilities do show some wear, but overall they are in good shape. In my opinion, the staff, the care, and the program are more important than the carpet.
My mother has been associated with Winter Growth/Montgomery Center since the summer of 2006, first as a day program attendee for 18 months and, then, as a resident since January 2008. With very few exceptions, she has been happy and at home there from the beginning.
It’s very hard to consider placing an elderly loved one, and our own vision can be clouded with emotions, causing us to sometimes consider our own needs and desires above those of our parent. Since Mom’s move to Winter Growth nearly six years ago, I’ve learned a few things about the process.
It’s important to honestly assess your parent’s (or other loved one’s) personality, current needs, and what would make them happy. Take yourself out of the equation, unless your dad wants to live under a bridge or something. My mom has always been a very sociable person and enjoyed membership in many groups, clubs and associations. She now has dementia, and it’s difficult for her to initiate and retain the memory of conversations/relationships, so she benefits from the structure of organized group activities. Winter Growth has been a nice fit for Mom because of its wonderful day program, with activities ranging from musical guest performers and dancing, manicure days, exercise programs, word games, crafts, religious services (for those interested), parties, etc. Her cognitive abilities are impaired, so this level of mental activity is gratifying for her. I always like to spy on her for a few minutes and watch her participate during these times, before I make my presence known and take her for lunch and a drive.
Do the best you can to anticipate your parent’s future needs. For me, Mom’s dementia diagnosis clarified things a bit. She definitely entered Winter Growth functioning at a higher level, but her reading skills and vision have deteriorated, she no longer crochets her famous dishcloths and can sometimes forget who she’s talking to on the phone or not recognize family members. She needs more prodding and guidance when getting around. This process will unfold for her, regardless of the environment. Thankfully, she is still upright and using a walker. As a small facility, with about 15 bedrooms or so, it’s easier for Mom to get around, both physically and memory-wise, at Winter Growth. Once, we were offered a tour of the facility at Mom’s memory assessment clinic, and I was dismayed as I imagined Mom trying to navigate its miles of corridors. For Mom, Winter Growth’s modest size has become a plus.
While first impressions of any facility are somewhat important, they are not nearly the whole story. When we were looking around, we visited a few places that had tastefully-decorated, shiny-floored lobbies, but I also noticed the few, solitary residents gazing out of the windows with no one to talk to. Some of these places were rather tomb-like—cavernous, quiet and still. Winter Growth is an aging facility, but its profusion of colorful bulletin boards, plants and flowers, central courtyard, buzzing activity and cheerful staff (some of whom have been there longer than my mother—an important observation, to me) outweigh the facility’s physical shortcomings, as compared to other, newer facilities.
At Winter Growth, my mother is engaged as much as she possibly can be, she feels comfortable because of the place’s home-like qualities and familiar decor, and she is as safe and well-looked after as is possible for any frail person who is still mobile. She frequently mentions her delight at having her own room, with all of her own things surrounding her, rather than having to share a bedroom. She doesn’t seem at all troubled by sharing a bathroom, either, especially as there is one adjoining her bedroom, just outside the door!
Winter Growth meets and exceeds my mother’s needs, given her physical and mental condition. She seems happy and emotionally and psychologically buoyed there. That’s all that really matters.
Winter Growth Inc. - Montgomery Center provides adult day care services in Olney, MD. Services offered include organized daily activities in a community-based setting, transportation, meals, and professional supervision. Contact Winter Growth Inc. - Montgomery Center for more details on respite care services and rates.
Location of Winter Growth Inc. - Montgomery Center