In Our Backyard: the Esplanade

My first exposure to the Esplanade, an independent living facility set back amongst the trees along Oak Tree Road, was a common one in our community; it is where I went to vote. That changed a year and a half ago, when my 86-year-old mother could no longer manage on her own in Williamsburg, Virginia. With remarkable courage she agreed to relocate to Palisades, and to give the Esplanade a try. Here are some observations of her adventure thus far.

After a month’s test drive with rented furniture, Mom signed a year’s lease on a sunny one-bedroom apartment. We swapped the rented pieces for her own, hung her favorite paintings and she settled into a schedule of chair yoga on weekday mornings, flower arranging on Tuesdays, weekly lectures on American history and occasional field trips to local attractions such as the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, a boat trip in New Jersey, the Met Breuer in New York City and a musical or two. Not bad. It wasn’t the action-packed life touted on the websites of most senior living communities - no such place truly exists - but it was pleasant enough, and came with housekeeping, laundry facilities, three meals a day (more on that shortly) and an honest attempt to keep residents active and engaged. Most importantly, it came with a caring and competent staff.

The outside is unimpressive, but inside, the open design really works. Common spaces are busy all day long as residents read in the small library, play cards in the sunroom, visit with family and friends in a communal kitchen area or gather by the large fireplace in the living room. In general, the feel is friendly and non-institutional, which is saying a lot for a senior living facility.

Last December, the wisdom of Mom’s decision was apparent. A case of bronchitis turned into the flu, which led to three months of shuttling between emergency rooms, hospital wards and rehab facilities. The Esplanade staff was attentive throughout, and indeed, when Mom inexplicably fell three times in two days, the in-house nurse Gillian guessed the culprit long before any outside doctor thought to check for a urinary tract infection. Attention was paid and I’m happy to report Mom is fully recovered and back in her favorite spot next to the fireplace.

She now gets extra help from in-house aides provided by Senior Home Care, Inc., the only home care agency used by the Esplanade. The aides are kind and unfailingly patient, which is golden as far as I’m concerned.

About the food…the Esplanade keeps a Kosher kitchen, which means no pork or shellfish, and no outside food can be brought in to the dining room. The general verdict from my mum and other residents is…meh…a little bland, but serviceable. Apartments have kitchenettes with under-counter refrigerators and space for a microwave and electric kettle if residents want to do their own thing, but cooking is not allowed.

None of us want to think about our loved ones (or ourselves) getting older and needing extra help, but - news flash - it will happen, and the reality of 24/7 care is more than many households can manage. I feel fortunate the Esplanade is in our backyard, and that my mother can afford the hefty price tag ($4500 monthly for a one-bedroom with a two percent annual increase – plus the cost of additional help if needed.)

Full disclosure: The Esplanade is a 10964 advertiser, but this write-up is an attempt to share one family’s unbiased experience with the hope it may be useful to others.