It feels like a bed and breakfast where nobody wants to, or is asked to check out. However, three square meals are served a day and a full nursing staff heeds to residents’ every beck and call. This family is almost 100 strong, with 40 residents and 50 staff members.
Shady Oaks was Connecticut’s second assisted living community, built 42 years ago at 344 Stevens St. in Bristol by Vernon and Kay Belanger. Their youngest son Tyson bought the home in July 2016 and is honoring his family’s legacy with full allegiance.
He’s made it his duty to fulfill residents’ every wish and need, whether it’s an old-fashioned candy or a rare book they’re determined to get their hands on, be certain it happens. When people prioritize care for their loved ones, they discover the best at Shady Oaks.
Since Belanger came aboard, he’s made $400,000 in improvements to the building. An elevator, central air, a new common area and five renovated rooms with walk-in showers are just a few highlights.
The facility has several Hoyer Lifts, whose hydraulic arms are designed to lift patients carefully out of wheelchairs, placing them comfortably in their beds. Each bed offers side rails for ease of exit and entry, with adjustable height to accommodate mobility changes. Shady Oaks is also improving care for people with memory disorders, especially those who tend to wander and get lost outside. Staff invented a door alarm system to alert them to anyone exiting at night.
On any given day, residents can be found laughing and playing games, gathered around a television watching an old movie or enjoying an entertainer. Decorative touches grace each room. It feels warm and inviting, like a real home.
“We try to fill the space with plants, beautiful flowers and paintings,” Belanger says. “Wherever I go, when I see something bright and cheerful I pick it up and find just the right place for it.”
He’s worked tirelessly to procure benefits for residents so that they can remain in Shady Oaks. Over the last year alone, at least 10 people have begun receiving assistance.
“We love them,” Belanger says. “This is another way to keep our community together and strong.”
The VA Aid in Attendance Pension provides up to $1,830 monthly for veterans and Survivor’s Pension provides $1,176 monthly for a surviving spouse. He also identified the CT Private Pay Assisted Living Pilot Program, a less costly alternative to Title 19 Medicaid. This program can provide up to $2,360 monthly in medical costs, adjusted by the level of personal nursing services an individual requires.
Belanger has combed through the state’s complicated regulations and simplified jargon for seniors, many of whom are struggling to get by on fixed incomes. He encourages families everywhere to learn more about financial assistance opportunities available in our state, on the ‘Blog’ secti on of Shady Oaks’ webpage, www.shadyoaksassistedliving.com.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps with a PhD from Harvard University, Belanger served five tours overseas and has pledged his life to service. This commitment continues here, in the community he calls home. In fact, he lives in the house next door.
“The families have my phone number,” he says. “They’re welcome to call anytime and they do.” Unlike some other assisted living communities, Shady Oaks provides around-the-clock care.
“Our view is that assisted living can be an alternative to a nursing home,” Belanger explains. “Even those who do go into the hospital for surgery or another reason prefer to recover here, in their home, rather than at a rehabilitation center.”
Supervising Nurse Debbie Jawin-Sheak has been a part of the family for 20 years.
“We’re also very proud of our CNAs,” Belanger points out. “We do our best to pay them well and give them the respect their hard work deserves.”
Chef Becky Lazauskas, another member of this family, has full reign of the kitchen. Her creati ve freedom is flourishing in the daily menus, tailored to the personal tastes and nutritional needs of residents.
“My papa made me wait years for his recipes; now they’re all here,” Lazauskas says. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. It’s fun and every day is different.”
Vernon Belanger passed away in Jan. 2018. His mother and mother-in-law both lived at Shady Oaks. Now their grandson is head of the family home.