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In the community room

Stories & advice from members

There is something about spreading out a box of puzzle pieces. It lures people in. Some people jump right in, while others sit and watch. Whatever the case, the conversation ebbs and flows. At Prairie Place, while putting together a puzzle, a few residents shared their stories about moving from their homes to independent living.

Real-life experiences moving to an independent living facility

Donna Cahalan

I have eight adult children, one who passed away when he was 50. Off and on, my kids tried to get me to move from my home, which was built in 1927. I told them I’m going to stay in this house until I go to the nursing home or the funeral home. Well, my daughter told me she was going to check [Prairie Place] out anyway. So I joined her. Once I saw the place, I just knew. I’m especially relieved that I no longer need to care about maintenance, yard work or snow removal. I mean, look at this winter’s weather! I’d be stranded at home and worried about falling if I did go out. Instead I’m sitting in this room putting puzzles together with these ladies. Everyone is so supportive and kind. I feel like God had a hand in this. He wanted me to be here.

Marlys Nelson

My husband had dementia. We were living in a home that was built in 1976, and I was worried about the upkeep. My daughter pushed me to visit this place. Upon visiting, I decided right there and then that it was the right decision.

When we moved in, my husband thought he was living in a hotel. He wanted to go home. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I could no longer care for him. So, he went across the street to the nursing home. I can easily visit him every day. Many of the other residents understand what it’s like to have a spouse with dementia, or what it’s like to have a spouse in a nursing home. It’s therapeutic to talk with them.

Barb Johanns

I've never felt like a stranger here. Also, Dick, my husband, really enjoyed it here. He was a "talker" and loved getting to know the people. He passed away in April 2018.

Before moving here, we lived on an acreage, owned horses, and had a large collection of horse equipment, including buggies and even a sleigh. When Dick was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), it limited his outdoor activities. So that left me to do the outdoor work alone. I’m used to driving skid loaders and working with other heavy equipment. But doing it alone took me several hours per day. Dick would watch me from the window. He suggested moving, but it was my daughter who took action.

In a period of three weeks, we auctioned off the house and its belongings, and we moved in here. Yes, it was hard to give it all up. But it’s gone now, and surprisingly, I just don’t worry about it. I like the feeling of safety I have here, and all the new friends I've met."

Frequently asked questions: after the move

What was hard for you to leave behind?

"It was hard for me to leave behind all the books. I am a 'book-oholic'. I brought too many with me, still. I do miss 'The Game of Life' board game I left behind. Over the years, I collected six different versions. I teach this course at the local community college called 'Games People Play' and I wish I had kept some of those treasures to share with others."

— Burton Everist

What do you miss most?

"I miss the dark. I lived in the country, so I’m talking about country dark. Here, there are so many street lights, you don’t get that beautiful view of the night sky."

— Sharon Heimbuch

Any tips for downsizing personal items?

"Over the years, I had collected so many special items in my office. When I retired, I gifted these items to faculty and friends. I invited them to stop by my office to select an item. There were so many stories behind those items, and giving them away allowed me to retell the story; to pass it on. It was satisfying, even uplifting."

— Norma Cook Everist

What have you kept, and you're still not sure what to do with?

"I just love adult coloring books and I have books full of pictures I’ve completed. I keep them all. When I’m gone, my kids can throw them in a dumpster. But me, I know how much work went into them, so I plan on keeping them as long as I live."

— Donna Cahalan

What was the hardest item to part with when you moved?

"When Paul and I were first married and he was stationed in the Air Force in Japan, money was tight. I took classes and learned how to knit. I knitted several different matching sweaters and skirts. They were beautiful, and for me, they represent a simpler time. They were perfectly preserved after all these years, but for a different time and era. I had a hard time giving them away, like many of the items from our early years in Japan."

— Evelyn Grandgenett

Don't miss out on the "Leaving behind the family home" series

Our three-part "Leaving behind the family home" series details real-life stories on the transition of moving into an independent living facility. Just in case you've missed out, catch up with parts 1 and 2: