National Assisted Living Week: Retired doctors stay in the neighborhoodMoving is stressful, especially when it’s sudden. That was the case for John Sanford and Julie Moller, both retired physicians.
By: Thomas Vaughn, Duluth Budgeteer News
Moving is stressful, especially when it’s sudden. That was the case for John Sanford and Julie Moller, both retired physicians.
“We couldn’t believe we’d ever need assisted living,” said Sanford, who is now recovered from hip replacement surgery in August. “But, I’m never going to be able to drive again.”
During Sanford’s recovery at The Fountains, a short-term care center located on the Ecumen Lakeshore campus at 4002 London Rd., the couple agreed that the time had come to find an assisted living residence.
Former residents of an apartment complex called The Chateau just one block away, they had enjoyed walking by the Ecumen construction site each evening, watching it rise. Moller also remembered doing rounds at Lakeshore Lutheran Home, a former nursing home torn down when Ecumen built its current care facility. After the new campus opened in 2005, the couple volunteered time escorting residents who needed help getting to the dining areas, physical therapy rooms or other in-house locations, and also befriended residents.
Now, they live in The Shores, a section of the campus set aside as assisted living apartments. With birthdays only ten days apart, they will both turn 86 within the next 30 days.
Both expressed gratitude that they were able to remain in their neighborhood. After they both joined the Duluth Clinic in 1957, they raised their four children in a home near Congdon Elementary School. Moller was the first woman physician to practice medicine with the Duluth Clinic.
“The attitudes here are wonderful,” said Sanford during a discussion about assisted living in the couple’s living room. “The staff knows our names. They love us here.”
Rita Walker, assisted living and memory care director, works with both incoming residents and family members who help with the transition.
“Most important, it reduces people’s anxiety level,” Walker said when talking about the distinctions between assisted living and living independently at home. “People relax, become more comfortable, and worry less about small things. That all reduces anxiety.”
Ellen Altman, Sanford and Moller’s daughter, lives a few minutes from The Shores. Her brother Paul also lives nearby. Together, they managed the paperwork and moving logistics for their parents during the recent move.
Ellen agreed with Walker, and added that anxiety levels also go down for other family members.
“It’s good for my parents to be in a place where they don’t have to shop, prepare meals or do laundry,” said Altman. “They get their medications given to them — that was a really big concern. So, they’re getting what they’re supposed to be getting when they’re supposed to be getting it. We just feel like we don’t have to be worried like we would have been if they were still on their own.”
Living closer to friends is also a benefit. Sanford and Moller have known Jack Birk since 1971.
“Coming here is a big change in one’s social life,” Birk said. “If you know somebody — that they’re here – that they’re very welcoming — then it’s a wonderful place to be. It makes it pleasant.”
“You know that you’re not by yourself. People are also here for the same reason you are. You see them in the hall or at activities,” said Helen Browne, who has lived at The Shores for 6 years and has known Moller and Sanford for decades through their church. “If you call, somebody’s there. I don’t think I’d want it any other way. I’m glad my family found this place for me to live.”
Sanford and Moller continue to serve others now by being present for them during meals and conversations.
“Julie and John are just so pleasant and welcoming. Even though they just went through a rough patch in life, they are very positive,” Walker said. “Sitting at the dining room table, they include everyone in their conversation and they make it feel like it’s family dining time. They value everybody’s opinion and input.”
“We appreciate that people we know do live here — there’s a lot of satisfaction in that,” Sanford said. “We just feel it’s God’s grace that we’re here. It’s a blessing in the truest sense of the word. This place is one of God’s blessings.”