McAuley Residence: Where It All Started
by Linda Buchalo
This visit takes us to the largest living area on campus—McAuley Residence, built in 2004. The building, situated at the back of the campus, was constructed specifically to meet the needs of its current residents. McAuley was first occupied in 2005, as Misericordia South had outgrown its original location on 47th Street on the south side of Chicago.
McAuley is divided into six neighborhoods, with each unit named after the benefactor for that neighborhood. Included are one all-male neighborhood, one all-female, and four co-ed. Each neighborhood can serve 20–21 residents. Each has bedrooms with 2–4 residents and one single room, which allows for hospice services, as needed. Four neighborhoods have wall-equipped oxygen to serve those who require more nursing care. The current population is 113, although McAuley is licensed to serve 125 people. The ratio of staff to residents is 1 to 5 on the AM and PM shifts. The overnight shift has 2 CNAs on each unit and a nurse is assigned to each unit 24/7.
A large rotunda provides space for group activities, including daily recreation and leisure groups. A therapy wing has a hydrotherapy area and a pool, classrooms for in-house school and training, and a sensory room. The therapy area and sensory rooms have a built-in lift system to assist with positioning residents. Trolley rooms in between these rooms are used for bathing. Doorways are large and up-to-code to accommodate wheelchairs and Arjo lifts. The building also has a full kitchen to prepare meals for the residents.
McAuley has two outdoor spaces with handicap-accessible swings and a large patio for outdoor group activities. The area is beautifully landscaped; both the flowers and landscaping are maintained by staff and parents of former residents, a tribute to their love for Misericordia.
McAuley is home to Misericordia’s most fragile population, which includes children and adults with profound physical and cognitive disabilities. The people who live here are mainly non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and totally dependent in all areas of care. But don’t let this description mislead you—each resident has a daily schedule, and they leave their rooms and neighborhoods daily to attend programs and spend time with roommates and staff.
Younger residents attend school off campus or in-house. Older residents attend developmental programs across campus at Conway Center or in-house. Residents also attend sensory and recreational therapy on a rotational basis. The in-house pool and hydrotherapy at McAuley accommodate residents with tracheostomies and other medical complexities.
Many activities are conducted by the recreation department at McAuley, which consists of two recreation therapists and one music therapist—who doesn’t love music? The recreational therapists have modified activities based on residents’ preferences. Examples are modified bean bag toss, adaptive volleyball, pet therapy, and life-size board games. Outdoors, the residents enjoy scavenger hunts, the pool at Moore (accompanied by recreation staff), and music. The recreation department holds several sessions daily, throughout the day. In addition, residents can participate in a daily supper club.
Because of Covid, mingling with others on campus has been curtailed, but previously, McAuley residents interacted with other residents at Conway, attended parties across campus, and hosted events at McAuley that were open to the rest of the campus. Residents and staff look forward to a return to pre-pandemic activities, such as putting on school plays, the annual Halloween party with a DIY haunted house, and helping in the courtyard garden, followed by a weekly General Store, where residents sell snacks and veggies grown in the courtyard to staff.
Like all areas of Misericordia, the residents at McAuley keep busy and exude a happy and upbeat attitude. Although residents are unable to speak for themselves, staff have come up with quotes to describe them and share their interests. Here are a few:
- Holly is the mayor of the Umber unit
- Phillip is the medical assistant of the Green unit
- Sherita’s bright smile will make anyone feel welcomed
- Matt J is the culinary specialist
- Jack and Jenna are the group DJs
- Glen is the switch greeter
- Bella is the hand-over-hand specialist
Although part of the Misericordia campus, McAuley is sometimes called its own Misericordia as it has its own therapy department, nursing department, recreation department, in-house school, and in-house developmental training. This living area provides 24-hour nursing care for its residents, who range in age from 2 into their 60s. McAuley is the perfect example of a Misericordia residence that offers a continuum of care to residents as they age.
McAuley is indeed a wonderful example of the love and care that represents the true mission of the Misericordia community, where we believe that people with developmental disabilities not only have a right to life, but to one worth living.