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Preserving a Memory and Honoring a Spirit

By Katrina Cheesman

There are few people that have a people-first, mission-driven entrepreneurial spirit, but somehow, the Stanley family got a double-dose of this passion. Steve Stanley, and his son Matt, are both Baylor graduates and founders of Sundance at Oakhills memory care facility in Tyler. The facility, founded in 2011, has been so successful that they recently broke ground for their second center in Katy.

Memory care centers are designed to house seniors diagnosed with memory disability, Alzheimer’s and dementia, but Sundance goes the extra mile. To Steve and Matt, it isn’t just about taking care of the body, but also about engaging the mind and spirit of their residents. “This is our mission field,” Steve says. “We believe in preserving the dignity of life and spirit of the resident.”

Steve is the visionary, the one who builds the network and oversees the elements. But while Steve casts the vision, his son, Matt, is the numbers guy. “I view the world through Excel spreadsheets,” Matt laughs. “I make sure everything is moving and grooving according to the model.” And that model is pretty impressive. “Our residents come into a place where they have premier care for their particular stage of the disease,” Steve says.

At Sundance, they staff heavily and train constantly to meet all the needs of the residents. Even custodians are trained by the Alzheimer’s Alliance. Five-star dining and cutting-edge technology are just the tip of iceberg.

Every resident is monitored through a system, aptly named the Memory Care Sentry (MCS), which electronically alerts staff at the first sign of trouble.  MCS acts as a virtual safety net that is individually tuned to the particular routine and habits of each resident. In addition, Sundance facilities boast a state-of-the-art Snoezelen Room. Originally designed for autistic children, this room engages the brain and de-escalates aggressive behavior.  Residents who can’t speak are often able to sing and clap when in the Snoezelen Room. “Song, dance, and rhythm are the last things to go, so in this room, they can sing when they can’t talk,” Matt says. “It is just amazing to witness.”

To Matt, it’s about the dignity of the resident. Few senior housing facilities cater specifically to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. “Sadly, many residents are overmedicated and herded like cattle,” Matt states. But at Sundance, they believe in preserving the dignity of life of the residents. “They still have the spirit within. Our goal is to provide for and connect with that spirit,” Matt firmly says. Steve agrees. “We provide a spiritual base with what we do, as well as provide for the families in this stage of their lives,” he says.

Both attribute much of their success to Baylor’s excellent academic programs and the network of alumni. “Baylor reminded me to remain consistent with what God has to do in our lives. While I was there, [the university] impressed on me what excellence is and how I can make a difference,” Steve reminisces. Both Matt and Steve rely heavily on the Baylor family. “Over half the folks we work with are alumni. Our ability to network is due to Baylor ties: accounting, legal, consulting, medical…”

As father and son, they bond further as proud Baylor graduates and fellow businessmen. “We get to build a company around alumni support…and I get to learn about how to lead from one of the best guys on the subject. It enhances and establishes the Stanley family legacy,” Matt says as his father laughs. “We enjoy a mentoring face in business,” Steve adds. And we have a common purpose, education, and love for God.”

To find out more about Sundance Oakhills facilities, please visit their website.

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