Old-San-Juan | Hillandale Communities

Some people think of Rita Moreno in West Side Story when they hear about Doverwood resident Julia Casteda.  After all, Julia grew up in Puerto Rico just 30 miles from where the Academy-Award-winning actress resided. Like the movie character, Julia was a life-long seamstress and took great pride creating wedding gowns for friends and family.

She probably could have worked in a bridal shop but opted for a different career: education. Now the 80 year-old former school teacher requires some help with day-to-day activities as her Alzheimer’s Disease worsens. But it certainly doesn’t prevent her from being a fierce bingo competitor or escorting her three children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren for some ice cream and a movie on Doverwood’s Main Street.

“I heard about Doverwood from a woman I casually met whose father lives there,” recalls Julia’s daughter Elaine Ayala. She raved about the care and the staff. “I called and asked for a tour. Right away I knew it was the place for mom. You don’t see a bunch of people sitting around in wheelchairs, the staff is attentive, the food is wonderful and there are enough activities to keep mom’s mind flowing.”

Elaine was amazed at the efficiency of the staff. The referral and assessment were completed on a Tuesday and by Friday, Julia moved into Doverwood Village.

“I saw positive changes almost immediately states an elated Elaine. “At the old facility mom would ask, ‘when am I going home.’ Now she says, ‘what are we going to do next?’”

There are times when Julia breaks into Spanish and the staff gently remind her to revert to English. She likes arts and crafts because it transports her back to the days when she put herself through school as a seamstress.

While she has a sweet demeanor and infectious smile there is one thing difficult for Julia to remember: her life-long, tireless spirit of giving as she invited over a dozen special needs foster kids into her home over the years. Elaine remembers the family would take on up to two kids at a time. At one point, Julia cared for her own children and foster kids with Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome.

Julia is just another example of how senior living at the Hillandale Family of Communities brings out the best in people no matter what stage of care is needed.