Liz Ryan’s Story

“We were thrilled when we were able to get mom into St. John’s,” says Pamela Ryan, of her mother Liz, who has been in St. John’s Home for almost six years now. Liz has been living in the same neighborhood for all that time and according to Pam, the staff members and unique qualities of what has recently been officially converted into St. John’s Beyond Memory program are a big reason for the family’s long-standing satisfaction with their mother’s care.

When it was time for Liz to make a move into a higher level of care, Pam says that the family took the list of area facilities provided by the staff at a referring assisted living community and conducted many tours so that they could make an informed choice. The number of activities and layout of the neighborhood at St. John’s Home, as well as the staff turnover being low at the time, were some of the reasons that the family preferred St. John’s over the others. For Liz, the choice stemmed from an “emotional” connection. “My mom was absolutely tickled when she saw the ice cream shop,” Pam notes with a smile.

Having staff members understand her mom’s personal needs and appreciate Liz’s sense of humor has also been so helpful according to Pam. “We have been blessed with some very good aides and caregivers. They are not only patient with her, they appreciate what makes her so special and they take the time to really know her,” says Pam.

Communication and connection are also of great importance to Liz’s entire family. In fact, Pam notes that she visits at least once weekly and Liz’s other daughters and granddaughter, who live on the West Coast, visit at least a couple of times a year. Liz’s youngest daughter, Lisa, also calls her mom every day. Nieces, nephews, siblings, grandchildren and long-time family friends were also among Liz’s regular visitors before the pandemic. Even though the closures during the pandemic were challenging, the family does note witnessing St. John’s commitment to health and safety while maintaining a vibrant culture of activities to keep residents engaged and happy during this this time.

On the neighborhood, Liz is known for her playfulness and  bountiful energy that has persisted despite some physical limitations due to her decreasing balance. St. John’s “Now We Drum” program, regularly offered before COVID, was one of Liz’s favorite ways to add movement to her day. Liz also loves music and dancing, says Pam, who says that her she and her mother often enjoy concerts in the courtyard during the summer. “She and my dad were fantastic swing dancers. She loves to move to the music.” Pam even helps Liz to “dance” safely while sitting in her wheelchair during those times when she wants to “jitterbug.”

Liz being not as comfortable using a smart phone for video calls, COVID has been somewhat challenging for her in terms of connecting with her family (outside of the daily calls with Lisa, which continued throughout the pandemic). However, Liz was absolutely overjoyed to have one of her favorite visitors return recently to help her celebrate her birthday. Often accompanying Pam with her visits to Liz before the pandemic closure was her nine year-old granddaughter Riley. Riley and her great grandmother are “best buds” according to Pam, who notes one of their favorite shared activities is visiting the ice cream shop.

Nicknamed “Miss Hollywood” by St. John’s Recreation Therapist Lamonda Robinson because of her love of sunglasses, Liz has been positively impacted by living at St. John’s believes her family. “Our mom has always lived a very active life. It’s pleasing to us to hear that she cannot get to the phone because she is taking part in an activity,” says Pam.