Brenda Bacon

Brenda Bacon
President & CEO, Brandywine Living

It matters where you live

Brenda Bacon believes everyone should have a chance at a better life – no matter how old you are.

“Senior care can change someone’s life,” says Bacon, president & CEO of Brandywine Senior Living. “Someone who is 85 – their family isn’t around, they’re stuck in a 2-story house worrying about cooking, getting in and out of the tub or getting up the stairs, you can change all that. In a way, you’re helping people get their lives back.”

At first, if you had told her she’d be helping people have better lives, she would have thought she’d be working with children, says Bacon, one of the founding board members of the Boys and Girls Club of Camden County. But she turned to healthcare on a broader scale, hoping to create change through policy. Bacon served as a Camden County Commissioner (known as Freeholder at the time), worked under Gov. Florio in healthcare administration and served as the vice chair of the transition committee for the Department of Health and Human Services for the Clinton Administration.

Co-Founding Brandywine was a big leap, but an exciting one, she says.

“I loved the idea from the beginning. I understood that people should not have to be in a nursing home when all they needed were support services,” says Bacon. “I wanted to find a way that older adults could still maintain their quality of life without being in an institutional setting.”

“Now, they call their mom and say, ‘I’m coming over at 3 pm to visit,’ and she’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I have a bridge game at 3, can you come over later?”

Bacon always knew she wanted her life’s work to be meaningful. That work became especially important when the pandemic hit, she says.

“Covid hit seniors especially hard,” she says. “Older adults were more isolated than ever. But being in a community meant they had a support system. Human beings need engagement with others. It was really impactful to be there for them in that way.”

Now with more than 30 communities in 7 states, she’s helped reshape the lives of many, many older adults and keep them safe in a time when they were most vulnerable.

“We had to take a lot of measures to keep our residents safe during the pandemic, but by being with us during the time, they and their families knew they were in the best hands to stay healthy without having to completely isolate from the world,” says Bacon. “Our community is still as vibrant as ever, and you can see how happy they are for that.”

She also has met adult children who are now living with much less stress and worry.

“The adult children of our residents and potential residents have been really stressed in the last year and a half as they worried about the pandemic’s impact on their parent’s physical and emotional health,” says Bacon. “They have seen their parents suffer the pandemic isolation, from not being able to go out and see their friends or go to the mall or go to dinner. But with these services, adult children get a bit of their lives back, and so do their parents.”

“Now, they call their mom and say, ‘I’m coming over at 3 pm to visit,’ and she’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I have a bridge game at 3, can you come over later?” says Bacon. “There’s nothing they want more than to see their mom or dad smile again, and we’re able to do that for them.”


What to look for in senior care

Knowing the older adult in your life needs extra help is hard, and figuring out who to turn to for that help can be even harder. Brenda Bacon, president & CEO of Brandywine Senior Living, has some tips.

Visit several communities

Physically visiting a community is the best way to truly get a feel for daily life there, says Bacon.

“Look around when you walk in,” she says. “What does it feel like? Are people happy, talking, doing activities? Or are they sitting in chairs, separated from each other and not engaged? Do residents look well dressed and well taken care of? Ask staff how long they’ve been there. That gives you a sense of longevity, training, passion and dedication.”

Ask for recommendations

More people have experience working with senior care services for their loved ones than you’d think, says Bacon.

“The best recommendations come from people you trust,” she says. “Ask around, do your research and even take a look at the Google reviews. You aren’t going to choose who will take care of your mom based on the opinion of strangers online, but it will help narrow down places that might not be the best fit.”

Know your needs

There are so many quality services, says Bacon, but just because a place does a good job doesn’t mean it’s going to be the right place for your loved one.

“Not every place will be right for everyone,” she says. “Some will be very healthcare based, some will focus on hospitality. Some will be more independent than others. Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference.”


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