The Saybrook at Haddam has dedicated its Safe Harbor neighborhood to its very first memory care resident, Helen Shultz of Old Saybrook, who lived at the specialized community throughout its inaugural year. Members of the Shultz family joined the retirement community at a brief ceremony on May 6 to unveil a personalized plaque placed in Safe Harbor in honor of Helen’s memory.
Helen’s children attended the ceremony with their families. Her daughter, Judy Sullivan, who is executive director of the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce, was joined by husband, Dan, and son, Peter; Bob Shultz of Hudson, New Hampshire, attended with his son Matthew from Avon, Conn.; and Richard Shultz came from Norwich, Conn. Two of Helen’s children, John Schultz of Staten Island, N.Y., and Mark Shultz of Mequon, Wis., were unable to attend (but were there in spirit).
During the celebration, Helen’s children expressed their appreciation for the care she received at The Saybrook at Haddam – and for the tremendous support the community offered their own families.
“When a loved one suffers from a memory illness, the family is forced into quite a learning curve,” Judy Sullivan said. “The entire team at The Saybrook at Haddam walked us through that process, helping us understand Mom’s new ‘world,’ how to have patience, and most importantly how to continue enjoying each moment we had with her. We are indebted to this community for their care, kindness and expertise and are so honored to have Mom forever be a part of Safe Harbor.”
Helen actually moved into The Saybrook at Haddam in 2011 a few weeks before Safe Harbor was completed. As soon as the doors officially opened, she moved over to Safe Harbor. During this time, The Saybrook at Haddam was working to build awareness of its unique and personalized approach to helping those suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory-related illnesses, and the Shultz family was the first to put its faith and trust into this new community.
“We owe a debt to the Shultz’s as well, as they were the first to recognize and trust in our approach to memory care,” Kathy Ryan, executive director of The Saybrook at Haddam, said. “Of course, since Helen was our only resident for a short time, she essentially had one-on-one care and really stole the hearts of our entire community. I like to say she was ‘holding court,’ because she always had a group around her listening to stories, sharing meals, and meeting her every need with lightning speed. Although we have grown tremendously since those days, Helen helped shape the quality and personality of the community we have become.”
Staff members who cared for Helen also shared warm memories of their premier resident, talking with fondness and laughter about their experiences with her. They enjoyed her “no-nonsense” style, which likely was a result of the 40 years Helen worked as owner of the successful Shultz Appliance and TV retail shop in Old Saybrook. Staff appreciated her real sense of family and knew they had made an impact when Helen began treating Safe Harbor like her home. This was considered a milestone since Helen’s home in Old Saybrook was immensely important to her as the epi-center of very large family holidays, gatherings and memories.
“Safe Harbor really did become her home, and for us that was the true blessing,” Sullivan said. “If there was a silver lining in Mom’s illness, it was getting to know everyone at The Saybrook at Haddam. This plaque forever memorialized our connection to this community, and reinforces our hopes that other families find solace and reassurance here as they navigate through the difficult maze of memory loss.”
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