“I like having my hands dirty,” says Carol Laniak, a resident at St. John’s Green House Homes in Penfield. “I would rather get the cows in at night than bake,” Carol jokes as she describes life growing up on a farm. She recalls plowing and bailing hay with her father while her sister handled the cooking and baking with her mother. A native of Avon, New York, Carol eventually moved to Rush after meeting her husband David on a blind date. “After our first date, I was his date every night,” smiles Carol.
Carol worked as a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital before becoming a stay at home mom with two boys, Mark and Todd. David obtained a successful job at Rochester Gas and Electric, working for 37 years and eventually becoming the Chief Operating Officer. David would travel quite often and in 1978 the whole family went to Europe. One of Carol’s fondest memories during her travels was experiencing the Louvre Museum in Paris. She saw her two favorite works of art up close – the Mona Lisa painting and the Venus de Milo sculpture. “I’ve collected lots of artwork throughout the years,” Carol recalls, looking at all of the paintings around her bedroom, some of which she painted herself.
In 1997, Carol’s husband passed away suddenly at the age of 62. In the years that followed Carol’s son Mark decided to remodel her split level house after Carol’s knee replacement. For nearly two decades, she lived alone, moving into a townhouse with assistance from Lisa Kraft, her companion who helped with light housework and cleaning. Despite the help of family and friends, Carol suffered a devastating fall in her kitchen last spring, breaking her hip. “It just about sent me over the edge,” states Carol. She was admitted to the hospital before being transferred to St. John’s Home for rehabilitation.
After a few months in rehab Mark found the St. John’s Green House Homes in Penfield and helped move Carol into her new home in July. “Lisa took great care of packing up all of her personal things and helping Carol with the transition,” states Mark. “It’s really tough when you’ve been at the same house for 40 years.” Like many individuals who have to leave their home, Carol was worried about the unfamiliarity of a new place. “It was really difficult at first,” recalls Carol. “Everyone wants to go back home, but the truth is, sometimes you can’t go home.”
As Carol adjusted to her new life in her new home, she realized how much her social life began to change from when she was living alone. “I have gotten to know mostly everyone and they all have taken me under their wing,” Carol states. “I am really happy here.” While Carol has made numerous friends with other residents, she also has developed strong relationships with staff members, such as Polly, Joyce, Jillian, and Mirama. “Just about everyone makes me feel at home.”
Between the daily activities and helping prepare meals, Carol has become pleasantly surprised with how happy she is. “Here I’m with people – I am not alone,” Carol explains. “We do a lot more here than I would have done at home.”
Mark can also attest to Carol’s overall health and wellbeing since moving to the Green House Homes. “Before she came here she was living alone and not interacting with people,” states Mark. “If you have in-home care they can drive you places and everything else, but you miss those social interactions, which in my opinion is going to keep you younger longer.”
Now at 81 years old, Carol is thriving at St. John’s Green House Homes. She enjoys getting up early and starting her day with a “good laugh.” Above all else, Carol enjoys conversing with other residents and staff members and enjoys her Sunday visits with family. “If you need to know anything, go to Carol,” says Lorrie Kennedy, LPN. Also known as “the mother of the house,” Carol makes it a priority to be a voice for other residents who may not have the capability to speak for themselves. “It’s so unusual to have a person that isn’t nice, and usually they don’t stay too long if they aren’t nice,” jokes Carol. “I just love it here.”