We Remember Moments

IMG_5463We don’t live for days, we live for moments. The moments that fill our lives with sweetness, love and joy. Those are the moments we aren’t likely to forget-the ones that take our breath away. The 2016 Atlanta Elder Vacation has been filled with too many life changing moments to ever count but I wanted to share a few that stood out to me this week:

IMG_5275It was the moment that the Elders arrived full of joy and excitement, wondering what this adventure would hold for them.

It was the moment that Skip showed up to the Braves game in his new Braves helmet, so excited to meet new friends and make memories along the way.

IMG_5444It was the glee in two Elder’s eyes as their families surprised them with visits during the trip!

It was the pride in our Elder’s face’s as they proved to the world what they were capable of doing!

It was the passion of Mr Curtis as he shared every Braves statistic with us.

IMG_5425It was the moment that our Stakeholders realized anything was possible in this revolution.

It was the insistence of Mr Charlie on purchasing an item everywhere so he could “prove” he really came.

It was in the laughter of everyone as it floated through the air and intrigued others around us.

It was the overwhelming moment that Maria realized 75 people were singing Happy Birthday to her.

It was the spontaneity of dancing IMG_5423after dinner and not caring about who was watching.

It was the love of friendship and the familiarity of being with family even though everyone just met a few days ago.


IMG_5519These are only a few moments that were captured from this week in Atlanta but there were so many more. From the awe of visiting the Georgia Aquarium to the fun of tasting Coca-Cola from around the world, every second was beautiful. For all of us it’s a beautiful promise of tomorrow that captures our hearts and teaches us that we have yet so much life to live. As this Elder vacation comes to a close IMG_5445tomorrow, we are reminded to live fully in the moments that life hands us as they are truly what’s important.




A Home Run In Atlanta

Stan at the Braves“Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”-Babe Ruth

Such a powerful quote to share as our first Signature Hometown Vacation kicks off in Atlanta this week. 75 Elders and Stakeholders traveled to Atlanta, Georgia yesterday to begin a fun few days of exploring the city.


Creekside at the gameAs the Elders arrived, we began to hear their stories and their plans for the week! Many of them are so excited about the promises of a major league baseball game or even seeing the seals at the aquarium! No matter what it was, everyone had an idea of what their vacation would be like this week!  After everyone got settled in their room it was time to head out to the Braves game! Excitement was in the air as everyone boarded the buses to travel to Turner Field.

Courtyard at the gameCurtis, an Elder living at Signature HealthCare at Courtyard, eyes lit up when speaking of his beloved Atlanta Braves.  He shared with me the history of the team along with every statistic for the past several years. One thing was clear, he loves the Braves and couldn’t wait to see them play!

Then we got to meet Jimmy, an Elder living at Mallard Bay, who was overjoyed to be at his first Major League baseball game! He wanted to go shopping to have “proof” that he had actually been to a game!

The game was packed with joy for the Elders. As I looked around at them, they had smiles of contentment on their faces! They were wrapped up in life’s special moments, whether it be trying to get on the “jumbotron” or enjoying the taste of a ball park hot dog.

Ezell at the gameWe never know the joy we can bring to our Elders unless we try. It’s all about getting up and swinging the bat, hoping for a victory! The Elder vacations are simply about living life, enjoying the moment and being renewed in every sense. I would say the first day was a home run, but stay tuned to watch the joy unfold for our Elders this week in Atlanta!




A Hole In One For Culture Change


2 I’ve had the pleasure to watch Riverview Healthcare Center transform from a institution to a true home over the past four years. Their journey has been one of the most inspiring stories to share over and over again. Even when frost sets in, their determination to do the impossible pushes them forward to another level.


Phillip Ramey, Director of Spirituality shared this beautiful story today about the latest developments at Riverview.

7Our culture change journey here at Riverview has been much like a golf game. Sometimes the course has been very challenging. Sometimes you think things are going great and other times you may feel like your game is not exactly up to par. Today however, we hit a hole-in-one on our culture change journey.

As we’ve journeyed from becoming an Eden Alternative Registered Home to accomplishing Milestone 2 and pressing toward Milestone 3, there’s been many noticeable transformations that have taken place. We’ve transformed individuals by educating them. In doing so, we’ve seen people not only have a change of mind but also a change of heart. We’ve also transformed organizationally. Everyone is a partner together in care here, and person directed care is what we believe in when it come to the elders and their well-being. Along with all this, there’s been some pretty noticeable physical transformations as well. Our Mugg-Z Café continues to grow in popularity and has become a daily lunch destination for many people in our surrounding area. We’ve had lots of enjoyment out of our Riverview Theatre that is not “like” a real movie theatre, it is a real movie theatre. Our Fred Harris Memorial Library, Riverview Chapel, Neighborhood Post Offices, Riverview Barber Shop & Boutique can been seen as you stroll through the neighborhoods of our Riverview community, and we can’t forget our Riverview Restaurant & Grille that provides a real restaurant experience for the Elders.

02Today marked the grand opening for another wonderful addition to our Riverview community, as we officially opened the Riverview Country Club. Now the elders can enjoy the beautiful scenery that surround them and enjoy a relaxing nine hole game of miniature golf. A special ribbon cutting ceremony was held and the elders hit the links to sink a few birdies. A cold “Arnold Palmer” and cookies was served under the gazebo connected to this new golf course.

It was certainly a wonderful day and memorable mile marker on our culture change journey. Just another reminder that no matter how much of a slump you may feel that you’re in, keep on swinging because you never know when you’ll land your next hole-in-one on your journey to culture change!-Phillip Ramey, Director of Spirituality

00Phillip is correct, our culture change journey depends on us. We have to lay the groundwork by showing up to play! In order for our great visions to come true, we have to go swing the club! I can’t wait to see what Riverview “swings” at next!


A Hero’s Flight

honor flight 5There’s nothing more moving than seeing a Veteran being honored for service to this county. The feeling of joy and pride that must swell up within them upon the very mention of the service he or she provided for all us, I’m sure can be very moving. Recently, J.W. Southerland, an Elder living at Signature HealthCare of Greeneville, was honored with the opportunity to take a “Honor Flight” to Washington D.C. out of Knoxville. Norma Hollifield, Quality of Life Director, recounts his story below:

It all started in 2004 when the finishing touches were being put on the National World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. It was at this time that a Physician’s Assistant living in Ohio began to question his patients honor flight 1to see if they would like to go visit it. Earl Morse, in this job saw these patients month after month, knowing that their dream of seeing this new memorial would probably fade away. In most cases they lacked funds for air travel or stamina for such a long car trip. Morse was also a retired Air Force Captain and pilot and he began to offer flights for Veterans to see the memorials there. Soon he recruited other pilots and the Honor Air organization came into being.

On April 13th, 2016 a Korean War Veteran by the name of J.W. Southerland, living at SHC Greeneville was chosen to participate in the Honor Air flight from Knoxville, TN to Washington D.C.  He had Honor flight 2faithfully served his country with the U.S Air Force during the Korean War.

The day began with a special commencement ceremony and then a small prayer. It was time to make our way to where we would board the plane. As we walked there were military men and women standing on both sides of the aisle saluting all the Veterans. That moment really set the mood for the emotional journey we were embarking on that day.

It was during the flight that J.W. shared some fascinating stories of the Security Krypto Unit and his responsibilities. He shared stories and made remarks the entire day. As we toured the honor flight 3Korean War Veterans Memorial he shared with me that the coats weren’t as warm as portrayed on the statues here! We visited all of the war memorials, Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We also were moved by the changing of the guard. J.W. had the honor to meet Veterans from all ranks and services.

On the return flight home, the Honor Air crew re-enacted their version of “mail call” for the Veterans on board. This time quickly became emotional as each Veteran was given mail from family members, friends and even strangers! J.W. read his letter from Tyler, a 6th grade student at Karnes Elementary School who took time to write to thank J.W. for his service and honor flight 4sacrifice. Tyler invited J.W. to be his pen pal, which brought tears to his eyes. A quick tap on my shoulder was the Veteran behind me who wanted to share his mail with me. He was a Navy Veteran who was holding a picture of himself in Guam in 1945. With tears in his eyes, he said he was stationed there and his daughter had sent it to him as a reminder. I felt both blessed and emotional to be given such a wonderful opportunity to share this experience with them.

When we landed in Knoxville, there were so many to welcome us! The sounds of drums roared in the air while men, women and children lined the walkways! There were many from different branches of the service there to welcome our heroes home! They shook each Veteran’s hand honor air 7as they came by. J.W. couldn’t believe all of this was for them! There were tears and smiles everywhere as we approached the end of the walkway. There were familiar faces waiting for us too! There stood J.W.’s family and friends along with Cammie to welcome us back.

It was truly an honor to have been a part of this experience with JW. I will be forever thankful to Signature Healthcare for their encouragement to the Quality of Life directors to fulfill an elders dream. A special thank you to Honor Air of Knoxville for have given J.W. and I the opportunity to participate in their 20th Anniversary flight to Washington, DC.


Norma Hollifield, ,QOL   Director at SHC Greeneville

I imagine this was a beautiful thing to behold. It must have been so meaningful to J.W. to take this trip. It’s opportunities like this that give Elders a way to showcase their rich history and wisdom. I’m sure the flight was full of beautiful stories of days gone by that only those who were there would ever understand. These are the moments that make life special, the little nuggets we hold on to forever that shape who we will become tomorrow! Congratulations J.W. on making the Honor Air Flight!

Westmoreland Care and Rehab Launches 1st Annual March Madness Tournament

westmoreland-march-mad-1What’s better than college basketball in March? Not much unless you are an Elder living at Westmoreland Care and Rehabilitation in Westmoreland, Tn! This year the home launched their own version of March Madness with a complete basketball tournament! Quality of Life Director, Danny Ray shares their story below.

We started the game by introducing players from each team. Chaplain David Spears sang the National Anthem and everyone else sang along with him! The game consisted of three six-minute quarters that was followed by a fourth quarter skills competition. It was a 3-on-3 wheelchair basketball game. Teams received points by both making and blocking shots. The game was neck and neck throughout!

The skills competition gave each Elder an opportunity to score points for their team. The skills competition had three different skills, lasting one minute each for each team. We started the competition with a “Give and Go Contest” this skill involved two players passing the ball to each other and one player shooting a shot to try and score for their team. The three-point competition had one elder from each team attempting to make as many three-point shots as possible in a minute. The last skill competition was a dribbling contest. Players received one point for each successful dribble they made in one minute. Michael Stone, an Elder living in the home, shared “I love the idea of the skills competition. It really gives each of us a chance to score and help our teams.”

westmoreland-march-mad-4While all players scored points for their team and were able to contribute to the game, an MVP was declared! Kathy Jernigan became the MVP of our first March Madness event! She played a great game overall but her best contribution to the team came during the “Dribbling Contest”. Kathy surprised everyone in the room when the dribbled  110 times for a minute straight without losing the ball.  She scored 110 points for her team in 1 minute! Kathy said with a huge smile on her face, “I knew if I was chosen to dribble the ball that I could do great with it. I told myself I could do it for one minute and I did!”

There are so many good things that can happen from a simple competition as this. Events like this promote overall health by encouraging Elders to get MOVING instead of spending their day in stationary positions! This is also a wonderful way to help Elders regain self confidence. Too many times, we see Elders lacking confidence in their abilities but encouraging them to try new things helps generate a sense of pride that is often lost!



An Unconventional Memorial Service

group1The true measure of culture change comes only when we can see the depth of the relationships that surround us. Phillip Ramey, Director of Spirituality, at Riverview HealthCare Center recounts a recent experience below:

Several months ago we lost an Elder here at Riverview that has been greatly missed. He was a man who was well known by many, and known by all for his great love for basketball. He particularly loved high school basketball. In fact, he loved high school basketball so much that he had amassed a nearly unbelievable streak. For the last 54 years of his life he had attended the Boys Sweet 16 High School State Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington , KY. For the past few years, I personally had the privilege of being part of this wonderful journey to help keep his streak alive. He had become such a fixture at the state tournament, that everyone knew him and everyone looked for him. I knew that this year would not be the same in so many ways. Perry would not be there for the first time in 55 years. That just didn’t seem right to me.

rupp1I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful man’s funeral service when he passed, but since then I’ve also been planning a memorial service for him. It was kind of an unconventional memorial service, but very fitting. To honor him we decided to keep his streak alive. So I designed some t-shirts, we gathered up a group of Elders that love basketball, and we journeyed from our home in Prestonsburg, KY to Rupp Arena for the “Perry Jones Memorial Sweet 16 Trip.”

shirtsIt was a great trip and a great experience for the Elders, but the greatest moment for me personally was the very moment we got off the bus. Two men immediately looked at our shirts and approached us. These men, like most everyone that journeys to Rupp for the Sweet 16 each year, knew Perry and commented on how ‘cool” it was that we were keeping his streak alive.

At Riverview our motto is “honoring our community one elder at a time” and when we really form relationships with these individuals we can do this… not only in life, but even beyond. The joy is in the journey, and the journey continues!

True person directed care begins and ends with the relationships we are able to not only form but continue to grow. What a powerful moment it must have been for those at Riverview to honor their friend in this way.

Learning At Any Age

Roni and GwendolynI think a true sign of a transformed culture is when the Elders living in the home are afforded the same opportunities of growth as the Stakeholders. When we can all grow together to truly set a vision for tomorrow, a clear path towards culture change is being built.

At Signature HealthCare we have trained hundreds of Eden Associates over the past few years. Through all of these trainings, we’ve never had an Elder express interest in attending until recently.

Connor McChurch, Administrator at Westmoreland Care and Rehabiition Center recounts Gwendolyn’s story below

As Gwendolyn Brown was being assisted into my front office Thursday morning, I could see the joy that she was feeling by her shoulder shimmy dance moves and the spark that lit up her face. Just 24 hours prior, Gwendolyn had achieved a milestone that she admitted “I didn’t think I could ever get at my age – I feel proud.” Gwendolyn had participated and completed a three day training program through The Eden Alternative called ‘Certified Eden Associate Training’. The training was hosted by Westmoreland Care & Rehabilitation Center where Gwendolyn currently lives as an Elder.

Knowing by her body language of how she was feeling, Gwendolyn confirmed when I asked “How does it feel to be an Eden Associate” by quickly responding “it (certification) made me feel good!” Gwendolyn went on to explain how much she enjoyed the training, particularly how interactive the training was, saying “my favorite part about the training was when everyone was acting out the training skits; I could see how much fun everyone was having”. One main part of Eden Associate training is getting the trainees to recognize how important being well known is through their elders’ eyes. One way to “be well known” during the training is to make your last name rhyme with your first and must contain a type of animal. Gwendolyns’ name she picked was “Jean Jax”.

Gwendolyn closed our conversation by remarking about the facility, “This place is always good.” “I feel like it’s my job to tell people how good you all treat me.” She went on to say she was apprehensive about first coming to Westmoreland Care & Rehabilitation Center over two years ago but admits, “It was better than I thought it would be.” Gwendolyn went on to say she enjoys her morning exercise, Friday Happy Hour, and friends – “all in that order!”

Principle Two of the Eden Alternative  teaches us that the “solution” to fighting the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom is to create a Human Habitat. In fact, this Human Habitat is a place in which relationships are not only formed but are nurtured to growth.  The beauty of this week for Gwendolyn was that during the training, she was “one of the classmates”.  She was not limited to what others thought she could do. This has to be the key to creating a life worth living.

The Joy of Falling Snow

12548958_1095140857184701_2313172715474656656_nWhat is it about a fresh snowfall that makes our hearts leap with joy? Maybe its the excitement of watching and waiting, never quite knowing what the end result will be. Or possibly it’s the pure joy of feeling snowflakes on our face as we look up towards the sky.

With a big snow forecast in Kentucky, the Administrator of Oakview Care and Rehabilitation Center, did as any servant leader would do. She packed her bags to spend a few nights at the home so she could be there if needed. It was during this time of giving that she received her largest blessing.

 12592347_1095140830518037_9089752967934504908_nSarah recounts the story below:

With the impending forecaset, I decided to spend the night at our home. I woke up around 3:00 a.m. and decided to check out the snow situation. I saw several nurses and nursing assistants had gathered at the front door to take in the scenery. The freezing rain had finally stopped and converted to snow. Leann Gardner, one of our nurses, stopped to tell me that one of our Elders had been waiting up all night for the snow to arrive! She said he was so excited when it finally began and that they had stood by the window together to watch. She also mentioned that he could hardly wait to touch the snow. It was then that I grabbed my robe and snow boots and headed down to his room.

1915384_1095140927184694_4136196577564154304_nWhen I walked into his room, he couldn’t believe that I was there in the middle of the night. After I explained why, I asked him if he wanted to go outside and see the snow. I got a definitive YES!. After he was dressed, we linked arms together and we made our way to the front door.

Once outside the snow was so beautiful. Mr. Hack commented on how the flakes felt wet when they hit his face. We just stood and watched the snow fall together. After standing quietlly and taking in the view, he was ready to walk back to the porch.

He turned to me as we approached the porch and said, “You know its been a long time since I made a snowball! Do you think this is good packing snow?”.  The snow had already piled up pretty high on our porch rail by then so I simply scooped up a handful to see if it was wet enough to pack. I offered it up to Mr. Hack and he began to pack it! I could tell he was “itching” to throw it, so I offered myself up. I told him, “Go ahead, just throw it at me!”. He looked at me like there was some kind of catch or I was setting him up. He agreed to throw it at me but only if I would cover my head! We tossed around a little more snow, then decided to go back inside. He had the best smile on his face and so did I.

12400625_1095141037184683_2596072472808874477_nMr Hack went back to his room and I went to mine. I was now wide awake and my heart was so warm. It felt so good! We often talk about “simple pleasures” but it was in that moment that I knew what had just happened! I had been given an opportunity to help him experience something that he hadn’t done in years. Better than any medicine, we conjured a memory and added another experience to Mr. Hack’s “book of life”!

Someone once said that “a snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship”. I can’t imagine any more perfect way to celebrate the first big snow of the season than between two friends sharing a special moment in time.



The Gift of “Giving”

CHRIS AOver the past few weeks as I passed in and out of busy department stores preparing Christmas gifts for loved ones, it was certain that i would pass many bell ringers for the Salvation Army. In fact, it’s so ingrained into our holiday season that I’m almost certain we would miss the faint ringing of those bells if it were not present.

This week, something special happened for an Elder living at Signature HealthCARE of Putnam in Cookeville, TN. An opportunity to continue living a life that he’d always led.

Shelly West, QOL Director, of SHC Putnam shares his story below:

When you stop by Signature HealthCARE of Putnam County in Algood, Tn, you will most likely find Chris Alexander volunteering his time to work in our Country Store, but recently he has added a new vocation: Bell Ringer for the Salvation Army.

Prior to coming to live at Signature, Mr. Alexander, who worked for the Sherriff’s Department, enjoyed helping several different charitable organizations, particularly at Christmas time. He collected toys for Toys for Tots, delivered Christmas dinner to shut-ins, and volunteered for the Salvation Army. He says volunteering helped him to keep a thankful heart and made him feel appreciative of being able to provide for his family and others. He also says he was very depressed when he first arrived at Signature, but the opportunity to work in the store gave him a sense of purpose and made him feel important.

This week, when one of his favorite CNA’s jokingly suggested he could ring a bell and collect money like at the stores in town, Mr. Alexander took the idea and ran with it. “Why not?” he thought. He set up a collection pot and began ringing his bell to collect money for his favorite charity, the Salvation Army. Before long, the news had gotten around, and a representative from the local chapter of the Salvation Army came right over to bring Mr. Alexander all the official gear of a Salvation Army Bell Ringer. He raised over $50 in a matter of hours! So now, when you visit Signature HealthCARE of Putnam County, you will find Mr. Alexander in his red Salvation Army apron with his Santa Hat and red collection pot ringing his bell proudly, enjoying being able to continue giving back to the community he loves.

Eden Alternative Principle Four teaches that by creating opportunities to give care as well as receive care we are able to combat the deadly plague of helplessness. While Mr. Alexander may have more purpose this holiday season, he also is spreading a more timely message. I see this as a gentle reminder from our Elders to slow down, enjoy the season and keep a thankful heart for what we have.


Mary’s Holly Jolly Fudge

V__A776“Will I get to sign autographs?”, Mary Thomas, exclaimed to those around her when she learned she was the first winner of Signature HealthCARE’s “Taste of Hometown” competition!  Mary Thomas is an Elder who currently lives at Clinton County Care and Rehab in Albany, Ky. Her recipe for “Holly Jolly Fudge” was chosen over 55 other recipes submitted for the event’s kickoff.

Mary shared with everyone how making this fudge reminded her of Christmases long ago. It sparked memories of Mary and her sister, V__B1EFIzetta, growing up and making this candy together.

Today Mary Thomas became famous in her own right. We have learned over time that honoring identity is one of the best ways to promote growth and spark culture change in our communities. There is no better way to honor identity than to share the special memories that encompass our Elder’s lives including their favorite recipes!

In fact, becoming well known is a key tenet of The Eden Alternative. It is Putnam1through the process of helping our Elder’s to become well known in their communities that we encourage relationships to form and be strengthened. Today that is exactly what happened for Mary. Thousands of people in 56 communities were able to not only taste Mary’s Holly Jolly Fudge but were also able to take her written recipe and special memories home with them.

So I’m finishing this story by sharing Mary’s special recipe with each of you.

Mary Thomas recipe