Doctor Richard and Margaret Hart moved into Cedarhurst’s Columbia, Missouri, assisted living community three years ago. Like many people, the Harts had never expected to need assisted living—a story that is familiar to a lot of folks.
Another part of their story is also familiar to many families. Margaret had dementia, and, although she had hired in-home care during the day, Richard was retired and acting as her primary caregiver. Richard had no complaints about being a caregiver. He loved his wife very much and was happy he was able to help her.
Then Richard injured his leg, and his injury required extensive therapy. Suddenly, Richard went from being a caregiver to needing his own caregiver. He went from being physically active to being bedridden and needing physical therapy. Richard realized that the injury meant he was no longer going to be able to provide Margaret with the care she needed.
Although Margaret had in-home memory care specialists helping her, they were only there during the day, and now Richard was unable to be Margaret’s caregiver at night. After much consideration, the couple decided to give Cedarhurst a “three-month try” while Richard recuperated.
That was just the beginning of a new chapter that involves new experiences, new friends, and the beauty and joy of butterflies.
Butterflies? Yup. We’ll explain—but first, let’s take a look back.
Richard is a well-respected Professor Emeritus at Northwest Missouri State University with an incredibly impressive resume. He holds a PhD and an MS in Entomology, an MS in Biochemistry, and a BS in Chemistry. In addition to his academic accomplishments, Richard is also a Korean War veteran whose military career took him around the world, to places including Saudi Arabia. This is a man who takes advantage of all life has to offer and who never wants to stop learning or growing.
When he was a younger man, the Missouri native married the love of his life—Margaret. They made their home and raised their family in the Columbia, Missouri, area, putting down roots and becoming respected members of their community.
Through the years, Richard made good use of his field of study and had created his own butterfly garden, where he would raise caterpillars and then release them when they were ready. (Spoiler: He now shares his passion for butterflies with his fellow Cedarhurst residents, but more about that in a moment.)
They raised their children and enjoyed life as empty nesters. Although Margaret’s dementia was challenging, Richard loves his wife very much and enjoyed taking care of her needs.
After Richard’s leg injury, home care for Margaret was no longer an option. Richard contacted a senior care advisor and began the search for a community. They were looking for the right place where they could both live together in the same apartment, where he could get assisted living services, and where Margaret could get the memory care services she needed.
When they chose Cedarhurst, they really expected that after three months—as soon as Richard was physically able to care for Margaret again—they’d go back to their house.
However, not long after arriving at Cedarhurst, Richard realized the three-month stay had to be extended. While Richard was dealing with the full extent of his leg injury and recovery, Margaret had a heart attack, throwing their “early days excitement” out the window. It was a stressful way to make the transition to a senior community, and the fact that this series of events happened during the already difficult times of 2020 didn’t make anything easier.
But those early trials and tribulations were part of what convinced Richard they were in the right place. He knew that if they were still at home, the outcome of Margaret’s heart attack may have been much worse—tragically worse. The staff at Cedarhurst ensured that Margaret’s emergency needs were completely met as she recovered. Additionally, physical therapists continued to work with Richard on his long road to getting back on his feet.
Richard admits he never expected to be in an assisted living community or that his wife would need memory care services. “Nobody thinks about senior living until something happens,” he said with a smile. “And once you move in, you realize you moved in about two years too late.”
As Richard recovered and regained his strength, he realized they needed to make a permanent move to Cedarhurst. While he enjoyed the care and services at Cedarhurst—and was really enjoying Cedarhurst amenities—his real motivation was watching his wife flourish in memory care.
Knowing that his beloved Margaret was in great hands, and that he didn’t have to worry about her when he wasn’t around, was a giant relief for Richard. At that point, he realized he had underestimated how much care Margaret really needed, and he was glad that she had the specialized care that was helping her live her best life.
Given that Richard is an expert entomologist who loves butterflies, Cedarhurst supported him 100 percent when he suggested they build a butterfly garden. Cedarhurst of Columbia’s Director of Sales started conversations with the University of Missouri to ensure that Richard could bring his idea to reality. Working together with the university, Cedarhurst staff, and plenty of residents, Richard created an enchanting butterfly garden for everyone to enjoy.
Richard and other residents raise caterpillars, and as the weather warms throughout spring into summer, residents will gather around the garden at 4 p.m. to watch the release of the new butterflies. Richard loves the butterflies, and he loves that the residents love them too. It’s not just his garden—it’s for everyone, and so many of his fellow assisted living residents enjoy the experience maybe even more than Richard does.
The best part? Richard knows that the garden is great therapy for his beloved Margaret, and it’s something she’ll always enjoy.
Richard is thrilled that he and Margaret are both comfortable, safe, and happy, but Cedarhurst is about much more than comfort and safety for him—it’s about thriving in assisted living, which he never expected. At Cedarhurst, he has access to lectures and presentations on all kinds of subjects from the people who’ve been there. He never imagined that assisted living could be so vibrant and active, and he wishes he had considered it sooner.
There’s even more to the story about this amazing couple. Check out the Harts’ Resident Story, and be sure to watch the video to hear from Richard himself. You won’t want to miss his wisdom and insights!