With New Health Care Center, Community Celebrates Legacy, Embraces Future

Al Hennig lived in a residential cottage at Eden Hill Communities for almost 25 years. But the 89-year-old transitioned into assisted living in January after falling several times last year.

“I haven’t broken any bones, but I knew it was time,” says Hennig, a retired United Church of Christ pastor who joined the New Braunfels, Texas, community and CHHSM member ministry in 1991.

Hennig knew he made the right decision when he first moved into the new Health Care and Fischer Rehabilitation Center. The three-story building, which offers 101 apartments for assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and memory care, opened on Jan. 19.

“The new center offers rehabilitation and assisted living services, and the apartments are very nice,” Hennig says. “Now I don’t have to live by myself anymore.”

The health care center is the culmination of the 25-acre retirement community’s $72 million renovation and expansion, which also included new residential apartments and assisted living cottages. The building is named after Elmo Fischer, who served as administrator between 1961 and 1968 and opened Eden Hill’s original rehabilitation center in 1966. Fischer moved into the community in 2000 and remained there until his death in 2014.

Eden Hill’s board of directors began planning for the new center about a dozen years ago. Unlike the old health care building, the new space features small neighborhoods of 15 one-bedroom apartments clustered around common and dining areas. State-of-the-art technology, such as fitness equipment and a simulated automobile, supports people who need therapy or rehabilitation services. The person-centered design is similar to other newly-constructed buildings on campus, such as The Pinnacle, a four-story residential apartment community which opened in 2013.

Residents appreciate the private rooms and person-centered care, says Ann Whitis, Eden Hill’s director of independent living. “The environment is more peaceful and the intimate design encourages interaction,” she says.

The variety of therapy and technology at Eden Hill is indicative of a nationwide shift away from long-term care and toward short-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing at health care centers across the country. At least a third of residents who receive skilled nursing have chronic medical conditions, and a majority of people live there for less than a year, the American Health Care Association found in a 2012 study.

Whitis has also seen an increase in referrals from local hospitals in New Braunfels. “We got 79 referrals last month—twice what we would normally see,” she says. “We’ve built a reputation as the best place for care in the area.”

Hennig enjoys the private rooms and common areas, but he really appreciates the extra assistance and personalized care. Before moving to the new center, he often ate frozen dinners or fast food instead of cooking for himself.

“I guess I should have moved in earlier,” he says. “You have to make decisions about what’s best for you, and I knew I’d be happy here.”

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