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Dear Residents and Families - A Letter from our CEO

James K. Curto, CMDCP

James K. Curto, CMDCP

The Birches Assisted Living, sailor, jazz fan, LTHS, Denison, Kellogg NU grad, and a White Sox fan. The spark of an idea for the Birches Assisted Living and Memory Care began when I heard about this new “assisted living movement” back in the mid-90. I found and purchased the land in 1997, and we began construction a year later... I grew up in La Grange and am a proud graduate of Lyons Township High School. My wife, Mary, and I have lived in Western Springs since 1992. I spent much of my career in hospital management, after receiving training in that field at the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.

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It is no news at all that we’re living in a great country undergoing a great challenge. Many aspects of our future are uncertain. Some have said that by mid-April, we will know whether the most-dire of predictions will come true.

Some things in our immediate future are more certain, like staying home and the imperative for each of us to take affirmative steps to keep healthy or at least put off getting sick until the wave of illness levels off.

We are very sensitive to the anguish and heartache physical separation from your family members must cause, but our decision is based on our intent to take as many steps as we can to keep those bad virus bugs out of our building.

Whenever the public health orders and advice change, and it will, we will likely be easing back in the visitor and volunteer restrictions rather than suddenly going back to the way things have been. It’s a new world out there.

I’ve been thinking about my own situation and how I would react and feel if my mother, Jane Ann, were still alive. A year ago last month, my mother died in her apartment at Birches, on hospice care from St. Thomas. She received wonderful care from our staff. If my brother and I couldn't have seen her and have her do everything from correcting our posture to complaining about our haircuts, we would have missed a lot. Not visiting and holding a hand of a loved one would be tough. I have a hint of an understanding, at least, but we are at war against an enemy who can and will kill. This war, unfortunately, requires these hard rules.

While there is physical separation, we have tools from the telephone to video chats for an “as best we can” communication experience. We’re getting a little better in being able to schedule some help times for those who need help with the phone, Facetime, or other video hook-ups. We have some other things in mind, too.

I’ve been away since March 11 and will stay away for fourteen days beyond my return from Colorado on the 15th and maybe longer.

Jackie Sander and our leadership team have been sorting through all kinds of things, from understanding how the new federal law, effective April 2 will apply to us; learning about the latest best control practices from our peers, understanding the various orders and guidance from our state and county health departments and putting them into place; further developing pertinent rules, policies and procedures; organizing training and retraining; and making contingency plans if our employed team members have to stay home for their own illness or for care of children; and more. I commend them.

Please help us support all our wonderful staff. They are all on the front lines. From the nurses, to resident assistants, receptionists, the dining team, lifestyle and activities, housekeepers, maintenance, and office, they are all needed to make this place run and be as much of a home as we can, considering the circumstances.

Our employed team members have chosen to work in this setting, not only for the paycheck, but because this is what they do. They get meaning in their lives (our lives) from serving others and helping make our organization work for our residents and their families.

Thank you for your confidence and trust in us. Hang in there. Ask your questions, and let’s help each other get through this as best as we can.


Jim Curto

Founder and Chief Executive