Like many educators, Marcy Hotchkiss, St. John’s Green House Homes Board Member, says of her mom Suzanne (Sue) Bement, that she was flexible, agile, and especially good at planning; her being a former speech pathologist for Monroe BOCES 1. It was this gift for organizing that Marcy believes prepared her mother for what was to come in her life. “She saw the writing on the wall,” says Marcy, who notes that when her mother was in her sixties and her father, Lyman “Beans” Bement, was in his seventies, Sue began going to the open houses of area independent living communities.
According to Marcy, the family, including her mother, saw some growing health issues in her father Beans. Therefore, Sue wanted to “plan ahead” and proactively attended sponsored-events, like musical performances, sample lunch opportunities in the cafes, and guided tours at senior community campuses, and would bring along her somewhat reluctant husband. “They enjoyed it, but the purpose was (from Sue’s perspective) ‘let’s find our next home,'” says Marcy.
Beans lived well into his eighties and did not pass until May 2016, so Sue and he did not move together into a senior living community. However, Sue’s research would ultimately come in handy when her own health transitioned and her needs changed. Shortly after Bean’s death, Marcy said that she and her brother noticed a difference in their mom. The changes were beyond the normal grieving process that could certainly be expected after the loss of a spouse of over 50 years says Marcy, “Our mom was different and we started to notice things in her.” Although the family doctor did not think a move was necessary immediately, it was Sue again who took the initiative.
“I am one of seven children, and then I went to college and had four roommates, and then I married your dad. I do not want to be alone. I don’t like that. I am not used to that,” Marcy says Sue told her. Marcy said it had almost surprised her and that it was hard to see that her mother was such a “social being” because her father was so outgoing, friendly, and often led the conversations when the couple was together. Beans was a Pittsford School District principal and knew so many people because of his career says Marcy. “He genuinely liked to get to know people and people felt that.”
So with a definitive end goal in mind, according to Marcy, Sue went back to her research and began regular conversations with the sales team at St. John’s Meadows to prepare for her eventual move. Sue moved in to a St. John’s independent living apartment in December 2017 and initially did very well says Marcy. “She loved her friends there. There was a nice group of women that adopted her,” says Marcy. “They would regularly check up on each other and they all sat together at dinner.”
Marcy says that Sue also liked getting her hair done in the salon, the exercise classes, and learning new things, such as Wii bowling, which Sue’s friends taught her. Marcy also noted that their mother-daughter relationship blossomed during that time with their going on shopping and golfing outings, having spa days, and taking many side trips together.
The financial aspect of living at St. John’s was also a piece that was important to Sue according to Marcy. “My mother was still very keen on the finances,” says Marcy, who notes that through the dementia, “she almost forgot how frugal she was and how good she was at investing.” Marcy says that St. John’s was very competitive in terms of pricing and that the deposit was very reasonable. Marcy also recalls that it was very important to her parents that they have money to leave behind to the family and to be able to provide philanthropic support to their church and universities.
Sue would ultimately have to move to a higher level of care due to her progressing dementia in August 2020 and passed in January 2021. However, Marcy believes St. John’s had a significant, positive impact on her mother during her time here, which the family will long remember. “I am just so thankful to St. John’s. I feel like the experience, the environment, the community did extend her life and kept her happy and safe,” says Marcy, who adds with a smile, “and well fed!”
A favorite quote of Sue’s from Dr. Seuss perhaps says it best though: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”