STERLING – When Helen Conway, 90, had bronchitis, COPD, and emphysema all at once in 2009, the Heritage Woods resident would ring the nursing staff by pushing the alert button, and they'd come running, she said.
So it might not come as a surprise to her that the supportive living center was one of two local facilities that made the list of the top 20 assisted living centers in the state as named by Assisted Living Today.
The online publication also named Liberty Court in Dixon in its top 20 list.
The award was based on nine criteria, including positive testimonials from residents or residents' family members, a range of living options from independent through skilled care, use of new technologies to benefit residents, unique services or amenities, and high regard for residents' safety.
Yost Management Company, based in Charleston, owns Heritage Woods, which has about 75 residents. Yost is also building Country Lane Apartments, low-to-moderate income housing, on Sterling's west end.
BMA Management Ltd., based in Bradley, manages Heritage Woods.
The Sterling facility has a meditation room and fitness center, and about 75 residents.
The staff at Heritage are always open to suggestions and requests from residents, said resident Nonie Slifer, 93, formerly of Rock Falls and Sterling.
"They listen to us, they sure do, probably more than our children do," she said.
Conway described the facility as "brotherly."
"I have the feeling that we're all brothers and sisters," she said.
Dawn Powell is administrator at Heritage Woods.
The facility has fostered a friendly atmosphere, she said.
"It's like living in a dorm, where everybody knows everybody," she said. "This is their home and this is a community."
Liberty Court, which has about 33 residents, is operated by Lifehouse Health Services, based in Culver City, Calif.
It provides pet therapy, occupational and speech therapy and works with various hospice services of residents' choices. There's one staff member for every eight residents.
Pat Ricia, 83, formerly of Franklin Grove, has lived at Liberty Court for 3 years. She has enjoyed living at Liberty because "it's a nice, clean place," she said.
"They're always so cheerful," she said of the staff. "And if they can put up with us old buggers, I think they're wonderful."
Diane Hawkins is administrator of Liberty Court.
"We have a very home-like environment," Hawkins said. "Because we're a small home, I feel you're able to get to know families and residents very well and vice versa.
Genesis Hey is director of community relations at Liberty Court.
Liberty Court is "meeting the needs of the times," Hey said.
Increasingly, families are keeping their loved ones home longer and waiting longer to move their loved ones into an assisted living facility, Hey said. As a result, some of the incoming residents need more care, she said.
Liberty provides respite care, in which people may stay there temporarily in cases when their full-time caregivers are leaving town or need a break.