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NORMAL - After she fell a couple of times in late 2005, Berenice Pomerenke's doctor prescribed a blood thinner to improve her blood flow and to help her balance.

And he gave Berenice some advice.

"He said 'Maybe it's time to think about assisted living,'" recalled Berenice's daughter, Paula.

"I knew it was going to come sooner or later," said Berenice, now 94 years old. "So there was no contrariness. We started downsizing the furniture again and moved in here (Adelaide Apartments)."

Berenice's moves in recent years from her longtime home in Wenona, to a smaller ranch home in Normal near Paula, to Adelaide Retirement Apartments, an independent living facility in Normal, mirror the transitions of many older adults in Central Illinois.

Berenice knows that if she needs additional help, she'll need to move into an assisted living facility, such as Evergreen Place, and if she needs even more help, she may need to move into a nursing home, such as Heritage Manor.

A generation ago, older adults and their caregivers did not have as many choices for long-term care.

For now, she's content in her apartment.

"I have a place of my own and I like it," she said.

But the independent living facility also offers lunch in a common dining room, housekeeping every two weeks, programs such as Bingo and music, and pull cords on the bedroom and bathroom walls to call a nurse in the event of a medical emergency.

Berenice can socialize and feel safe.

Berenice's dad was a tenant farmer outside Wenona.

"I was privileged to grow up in the country," she said. "I wouldn't have traded it for anything. I had four sisters and we never lacked for entertainment."

But life on the farm wasn't easy. Bernice, who had the infamous Spanish influenza at age 5 in 1918, helped cultivate corn in summer and helped with harvest in fall. The family didn't have tractors or combines, so teams of horses were used.

Later, she worked in a dry cleaning shop, was a bookkeeper for a lumberyard, and was a seamstress.

Paula, who grew up in Wenona, taught high school English in Melrose Park and Wenona before becoming a professor of business communications at Illinois State University. Paula, 65, retired five years ago.

Berenice remained at her longtime home in Wenona until 1997. Her husband, Paul, had died and she was beginning to have trouble driving.

She moved to a small house two doors down from Paula in Normal.

"We had our independence but I was right there," Paula said.

After her falls in 2005, she moved into Adelaide Apartments, not far from Paula's house.

Independent living facilities provide some meals, housekeeping and support services but no help with medications.

"She didn't need help with her medicine but I know that she's safe here and I'm close by," Paula said.

Berenice had a heart attack the day after Easter. While she feels fine, the heart attack has reduced her exercise, her volunteer work, and her number of outings to see plays and movies with Paula. Paula helps her with grocery shopping and brings over dinner each night.

As Paula has assumed more of a caregiver role, the two women said it hasn't strained their relationship.

"She's so gracious about it that it's not hard to accept help," Berenice said.

If Berenice needs additional help, she may look to an assisted living facility, which has a 24-hour staff and provides meals, medication oversight and help with activities of daily living.

A nursing home provides even more assistance, such as bathing, dressing and grooming; rehabilitative nursing; and physical and occupational therapy.

"She doesn't need those services," Paula said. "But I know they're there."


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