Assisted living for those who need it – or just want it

“Assisted living communities like The Bristal are critical in providing a safe environment that allows seniors to thrive during the golden years,” says Maryellen McKeon, senior vice president of operations for Ultimate Care Management, which provides guidance and oversight for the communities.

The Bristal Assisted Living has 23 communities in the tristate area, including White Plains and Armonk. Ultimate Care Management, a division of Engel Burman, provides oversight and guidance for the communities, with each led by an executive director who is supported by a team that includes directors of community relations, case management, wellness, recreation and more. Besides opening communities on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in Bethpage on Long Island, The Bristal is set to begin construction on its first location in Florida in 2022.

Recently, Maryellen McKeon, senior vice president of operations for Ultimate Care Management, took some time to answer our questions:

1. Tell us a little about the history of The Bristal.

“Our first community opened in East Meadow in 2000 and from there grew to 23 communities across Long Island, Westchester, Manhattan and northern New Jersey. Each community offers a unique atmosphere but delivers the same excellent care that residents and their families have come to depend on.”

2. Who is The Bristal designed for?

“The Bristal Assisted Living is for seniors who can live on their own but either choose not to or require a little assistance each day. Residents in an assisted living community don’t require the medical attention that nursing homes provide but might need help with common daily activities like bathing, dressing or use assistance with managing medications. The Bristal offers individualized care plans, which are adjusted as needs change — allowing residents to age in place.”

3. How can moving to The Bristal benefit not only seniors but their families?

“Residents are often relieved at the freedom they experience after moving to The Bristal. Daily chores like cooking and housekeeping are no longer a worry, which frees them to spend their time as they wish. There are numerous activities, including cultural programs, lectures and community outings that are both enriching and engaging. Families are provided with peace of mind knowing that their loved one is in a safe environment with a caring, compassionate team ready to provide assistance when needed. There are different types of physicians, a lab and pharmacy and even an X-ray company that come to The Bristal as a courtesy to their patients, thus eliminating the need for family to make appointments and take residents out for these services.” 

4. What kinds of services are offered?

“The Bristal offers numerous upscale amenities that include three gourmet meals per day, daily housekeeping service, weekly linen service, an on-site cinema and hair salon and scheduled transportation to local stores, museums, restaurants and more. Help with everyday tasks like bathing, dressing and medication management is also available when needed. Each of The Bristal communities has a private neighborhood called Reflections — a highly customized and individually paced memory care program that specializes in helping aging adults manage Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-related cognitive disorders.”

5. Describe a typical day.

“Every day is different at The Bristal, which is one of the things residents love most. There is a daily calendar of activities scheduled all throughout the day. From morning exercise classes each day to movies in the cinema or an afternoon game of mahjong or bingo, there’s something for everyone. In addition to the daily programs, there could be a trip to a local farm stand for seasonal produce and flowers or there might be a lecture delivered by a local expert on a topic selected by residents. We offer a wide variety of activities on any given day led by our director of recreation, and residents are free to participate in as many as they wish.” 

6. What about the food?

“The Bristal recognizes the important role that food plays in our residents’ physical and mental well-being. Our food services teams create gourmet meals using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. From fluffy omelets to melt-in-your-mouth brisket, our teams deliver meals that are meant to be savored while talking with friends. Our registered dietician works with our director of food services at each community to ensure that our meals are both nutritious and delicious. We also support special diets like gluten-free, no-added-salt and heart-healthy. For residents that have difficulty chewing or swallowing we offer mechanically altered diets. Our food services team members have received extensive training to ensure residents on mechanically altered diets have the same dining experience as other residents.” 

7. What have your tenants told you they like most about The Bristal?

“Residents choose The Bristal because of the luxury lifestyle we offer and the close proximity to family and friends. However, they are often surprised at how seriously we take their needs and preferences into consideration. The Bristal believes that we are at our best when every individual is given the opportunity to shine. Whether it is forming a knitting group to make hats for premature infants or starting a photography club, our team members encourage and support residents as they pursue the things they enjoy most.” 

8. How did Covid affect operations? 

“From the beginning of the pandemic, The Bristal worked closely with the state and local departments of health along with implementing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to help ensure resident and staff safety. As you can imagine, many services required adjusting — including dining and recreation. Our team members rose to the challenge, thinking of creative ways to maintain a high level of service while adhering to newly implemented safety protocols. They are truly extraordinary, and the pandemic reinforced just how lucky we are to have them.”

9. What lessons have you learned and which have been rolled into post-Covid policies?

“The Bristal has infection control policies and procedures that have always been in place. The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it a new set of challenges, so our established procedures were revised to include guidance and directives issued by the CDC and state Department of Health specific to this new disease. One of the most important things that this pandemic revealed, though, was the dedication and commitment of our outstanding staff. They are truly the unsung heroes. The team worked tirelessly and selflessly, answering the call to assist others without the need for fanfare. They responded to crisis with quiet determination that the task at hand might incur risk but their actions would benefit the residents they serve. It’s an honor for me to take every possible opportunity to commend their quiet heroism.”

10. What does The Bristal see for its future and the future of the aging process in America?

“As more individuals are living longer, the need for senior living communities continues to grow. A recent report from the Administration for Community Living estimates that a majority of adults 65 years and older have nearly a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care. Assisted living communities like The Bristal are critical in providing a safe environment that allows seniors to thrive during the golden years.” 

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