An Act of Independence

An Act of Independence  Patient Story

Jeri Graves finds the right community at St. Mary’s Highland Hills

Watch a video of this heart-warming story.

At 80 years old, Jeri Graves is active and independent. The matriarch of her family, Jeri spent over 30 years in management with BellSouth, then went on to have second and even third careers post-retirement. Jeri is not one to settle down.

When it comes to family, Jeri has learned that it’s the time you spend together that means the most. In 2008, with nine grandkids to spoil, Jeri found herself looking for a place to live closer to her children. She relocated from Macon to a small home in Winder, halfway between family in Athens and Auburn, but soon started looking for something more manageable.

“I owned homes all my life, but I always welcomed the thought of moving into a retirement community” Jeri says. “I found St. Mary’s Highland Hills and the more I learned about it, the more I loved it.”

A sense of community

“There were some comforts of home I didn’t want to lose,” she says. “I love to cook, so I knew I needed my own kitchen. I wanted a quiet, secure community, close to my children, with enough room to keep my plants.”

She found everything she wanted at Highland Hills. Located on 55 beautiful acres in Oconee County, St. Mary’s Highland Hills Village is a retirement community that provides all the comforts of home. With independent living apartments, assisted living, St. Mary’s Center for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care, and St. Mary’s Hospice House all on site, Highland Hills offers more dedicated levels of care than any other senior living community in the Athens area, helping residents to age in place gracefully.

“Our residents devoted many years to work and family,” says Ann McCannon, RN, Director of Highland Hills Village. “Now, at Highland Hills, they have the time and opportunity to experience new things and build meaningful relationships with fellow residents and staff.”

That sense of community is important at all stages in life, Ann says, but especially for older adults, many of whom are at risk of becoming socially isolated as they age.

“Unlike living alone, here residents are surrounded by their peers who are at a similar stage in life,” Ann says. “With that comes a sense of support and security.”

Jeri agrees.

“I moved in in October 2008 and I haven’t looked back since,” she states. On days she doesn’t cook for herself, Jeri eats and socializes in the dining room. Dinner is included in independent living rentals, as are housekeeping and laundry services, recreational activities and transportation to shopping and doctor’s appointments.

“The calendar of events and activities stays right next to my door,” Jeri explains. “I choose a couple things each week that interest me and I stay just busy enough.”

Commitment to caring

Not long after moving to Highland Hills, Jeri developed health problems that required special attention. She didn’t have to go far for quality care. Older adults who need special medical attention can benefit from living in a community associated with St. Mary’s Health Care System.

Under the care of Oconee Heart and Vascular Center cardiologists, Jeri was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital with chest pains and underwent nuclear cardiac testing. She was released soon after with a clean bill of health and returned to her Highland Hills home. Back at Highland Hills, the level of care she received went above and beyond her expectations. Personal care assistants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide urgent care and peace-of-mind, Ann says, but what stands out for Jeri is the compassion she feels.

“There have been times, for various reasons, I haven’t felt myself,” Jeri says, “but dinner will be delivered right to my room.”

According to Ann, it is this sense of caring that sets St. Mary’s apart.

“St. Mary’s vision states that we will ‘respect the needs and value the dignity of every individual we serve’,” she says. “At Highland Hills we embrace this vision and continually work to treat every resident with the respect they deserve.”

“This is the easiest place not to lose my independence,” Jeri says. “I do what I love to do every day, and on top of that, the staff goes above and beyond to see to it that I am comfortable.”

She pauses and smiles. “I chose Highland Hills and I am grateful for that decision every day.”

St. Mary’s Highland Hills Village is located at 1660 Jennings Mill Road, conveniently close to shopping, physician offices and all the amenities of Athens. For more information, including rates and services, or to arrange a tour, visit these Highland Hills web pages or call 706-353-8840.

Highland Hills Village at a glance

  • 76 independent living apartments (1- and 2-bedroom suites available)
  • 18 assisted living apartments
  • 34 Alzheimer’s/dementia care apartments (1- and 2-bedroom suites available)
  • Caring, knowledgeable staff, including full-time activities coordinator
  • Wide range of amenities, activities, exercise classes, and on-site barber/beauty shop
  • Restaurant-quality daily dining for independent living residents
  • 3 meals a day plus snacks for assisted living and memory care residents
  • Medication assistance, housekeeping and laundry service available
  • Resident care coordinated by a registered nurse
  • Licensed nurse on-site 24/7 in memory care
  • Free transportation 5 days a week to medical appointments and planned activities
  • Competitive rates