Seven Minutes Of Renewal

image2Sometimes all it really takes is seven minutes to gently remind us of our path in life. It’s almost certain that in the whirlwind of our business a moment of quiet clarity can erupt that will forever change us.

Sarah Stewart, Administrator at Oakview Care and Rehabilitation in Calvert City, KY shared how she found that moment of clarity over the weekend in the touching story below:

I just wanted to share a story with you from my weekend! It was a nice reminder of why we do what we do! Sometimes after a long week, even as Administrators, we need a little reminder!

There are times it’s a little harder to find the “blessings in the business” than others. Saturday night, just minutes before the UK vs. Notre Dame tip-off, was one of those moments. I was called in to the home to regarding an issue that had arisen right before game time.

Dressed in my UK gear, I headed out to Oakview. When I entered the home, I was immediately greeted by Oakview’s own Big Blue Nation, posted up by the big screen! They were throwing their own Elite Eight party, complete with soda, chips and dip, and Oreo cookies!

As I worked in my office, and walked the halls, it wasn’t necessary for me to have view of the television, or see the score – I could hear how the game was going by the cheers and yells from the Elders!

I finished my work with about seven minutes left on the clock, so I sat down with the Elders to watch the end of the nail biter. We all cheered and were stressed out together. One Elder said “I aged 20 years watching that game! It was an exciting game! I’d like to believe we helped lead the Wildcats to victory!”

Blessings come in many forms. After a long week of work, it can be tough to leave family at home on a weekend, to go take care of our second family at work. The elders are, in fact, our family. Seeing their smiling faces when I walked through the door, and the joy in their eyes after the UK win, made it totally worth the trip in on a Saturday night! Those seven minutes, sitting together watching basketball, were the best seven minutes of my day! I was blessed to spend the time with them, and it was a reminder of why we do what we do! I’m already planning to bring my family to Oakview for a Final Four party next weekend! I wouldn’t want to watch the game with anyone else! Go Wildcats! Beat the Badgers!

Seven minutes can change our attitude and vision! My challenge to each of you today is to seek out your seven minutes of clarity! It’s all around you, sometimes we only need to open our eyes to it.




The Power Of Music

Billy M&MThere’s nothing quite like hearing your favorite song come on the radio. There’s something that bubbles up when we hear those all too familiar lyrics start playing that has the power to change our mood and even brighten our day!

Just ask Billy. His days are definitely brighter thanks to a innovative music program titled Music & Memory.

Billy lives at Prestonsburg HealthCare Center in Prestonsburg, Ky. He was one of a handful of Elders who initially tested out the program for us. The benefits started for Billy almost from day one of being handed his own IPOD with a personalized playlist on it. Billy, who was instantly moved by the music on his IPOD went on a mission to share this with as many Stakeholders and Elders in the home as he could.

Billy & AndrewIn fact, he took on the role of “Choir Director” at the home in Prestonsburg to encourage his peers to also reap from the same benefits as he did. Not only did he become the Choir Director but he also became close friends with the Chaplain’s son, Andrew who volunteers at the home assisting with the choir. Billy had never done anything like this before and was clearly inspired by the music he was hearing!

Because the Stakeholders at Prestonsburg HealthCare know Billy so deeply, they are able to use the Music and Memory approach as a proactive measure to get ahead of situations that might otherwise complicate his day. Cindy Porter, Quality of Life Director, told us that its “as if the music soothes his restless spirit and gives him an inner peace that lasts long after his personal headphones have been removed.”

And as for Billy, he just wanted to add that “Music makes me feel good, I just love it!”.

Music, it’s powers are infinite. It’s reach is unlimited. It’s hard to fathom where it can take the Elders in our homes if we only open our hearts to the possibilities of it.


More Than A Vacation

Emma2Since 2011 I have had the opportunity to travel with Elders to several different parts of the country. I have been fortunate enough to spend time with them doing various things as they live their dreams on a vacation experience of their choice. Even after all of these years, the stories of hope, promise, and self confidence that erupt as a result of these mini vacations continue to inspire me.

The past year was no exception. Below is Emma’s story of restored hope as it was recounted by Roni Scheurer, Regional Quality of Life Director.

Emma1After suffering a stroke in 2011, Emma never dreamed she would be able to go on vacation again.   When the QOL Team at The Bridge @ Highland began talking about the 2014 Elder Vacation to Walt Disney World, Emma set her eyes on the prize of being able to go and never looked back.  She desperately wanted to be selected to attend the vacation of her dreams but knew she would need to work hard to make this dream come true. Emma shared with me that she has always had a strong will power and faith in herself that she could accomplish anything in life that she wanted. Emma soon began working diligently with the Therapy Team to build her strength and endurance for such a mission.   She had set high goals for herself and she started to see that they would come to pass after all! She told me how she began researching all of the rides offered at the Magic Kingdom with the stakeholders in the home.  She wanted to see which ride she would choose to “tackle”. Then she found the ride which would later become her crowning achievement! It was  “Splash Mountain”.  Why Splash Mountain?  Emma shared her inspiring answer to this question, “Not only was I going to make my dreams come true but I had the desire to face my fears as I am also scared of water”.  Emma recalls that even while she was waiting in line for Splash Mountain that she was a little giddy and even a bit fearful.  She said, “I thought to myself, Oh Lord, what am I doing?  I am not sure I am going to be able to get on this ride. But I  did, I really did it!”

Emma stated “I think going to Disney World and having this experience made me a better person.  It was perfect!  I wouldn’t do anything different.  I had a ball.  I felt like a kid again and I would compare the entire trip to Christmas morning.  You’re not sure what is going to happen or what you’re going to receive but you know it’s going to be great.”

Emma shared that the entire experience from the plane ride, resort stay, food, and companionship was fabulous.  She said ”The fun did not stop for our group when we  got back to the resort at night. We would lay in bed and giggle like a bunch of kids about all we had got to do that day and what we would get to do the next day!”

Even now when she talks about the trip to friends and family she becomes tearful.  She said, “I am so proud of what I accomplished and how I set the goal for myself to do it.”   Emma shared with me that she has a current goal to reduce the swelling in her legs so she can start walking again.  She said “I know if I can go to Disney and accomplish everything I’ve done in 2014, I can certainly do anything!”

Restored hope is a beautiful thing. We never know where it will come from but when it hits us it propels us into our destinies. For some this was just a vacation to Disney World. For Emma, it was reaching the mountain after several months of climbing!

Disney Castle

Oliver, The Most Popular Pig!

photo 4oliverIt’s no secret that the benefits of having animal companionship in our lives are many. In recent years, we have seen long term care communities start to “relax” around the idea of providing animal companionship to the Elders who live there.

It was on this journey that Chautauqua Rehab and Nursing Center in Defuniak Springs, Florida discovered the variety of animals the Elders who lived in their home wanted to add to their Human Habitat!

photo 5pig

Sonya Brown, Quality of Life Director shares the story of Oliver the Pig below:

While most homes have cats, dogs and birds for pets our home has some unique animals that have become more popular than your “average” pet.  In addition to having dogs at our home we also have an 80 pound tortoise and most recently Oliver, the pot bellied pig. Oliver has become quite popular within our community!  Just recently Oliver was called upon by First Christian Academy to participate in their kiss the pig contest. Oliver, being a good sport, was up for the challenge. The Academy was able to raise $1,000 by collecting over 10,000 box tops. In exchange their principal would kiss the pig! Guess what? They met their goal and Oliver received a nice big kiss from the school’s principal. Oliver has become so popular now among the Elders, that everyone is playing with him while the dogs watch from the sidelines! There have been many times when Oliver is sitting happy and cozy inside the home on someone’s lap while the dogs are outside watching through the window. You can almost see the quizzical question on the dogs face, “Now how did I go wrong?”  Oliver is even friends with the tortoise and they often share lunch together. Happy as a pig in the mud?  No, not Oliver, he’s happy in the lap of an elder.

While Oliver may not be the “typical” pet, he is most certainly a well loved one by the Elders in this home! I think sometimes it only takes us breaking free from the formal traditions that hold us back and taking a risk to embrace something new. For this home, embracing the idea that Elders can have meaningful relationships with many different animals has helped to enhance Well-Being for all in their community!


The Path To Renewed Purpose

IMG_1304 I can remember screaming out on so many different occasions in my life the one question that I am sure we have all asked, “what is MY purpose?”. Over the years, I’ve often thought if we could help Elders discover their purpose, we could then begin building the road to true well-being in their lives.  This would be the ultimate ticket to eliminating loneliness, helplessness, and boredom in so many long term care homes. This mere act of finding and facilitating purpose would change culture on so many levels within the community itself.

Matthew Reed, Chaplain at Signature HealthCare of Pikeville in Pikeville, Kentucky recounts a story below of how the discovery of purpose has changed their home:

WP_20150107_007“Our home recently underwent a massive renovation and one of the new features  added was a general store. Many would pose the question, why would you put a general store in a long term care home? Our  general store is important is because it constantly provides our Elders with a choice. Simply put, they have the choice to buy a candy bar if they want to, or a soda, or maybe even a hand knitted toboggan if they so desire.

This may seem trivial to some but this is much more important than most realize. Not only does the general store provide the Elders with a choice but it also allows them to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. We take for granted how readily available things are to us. If we want a bag of chips or a soda we could stop at any number of gas stations on the way to work to get them, yet in most long term care homes these are not easily obtained. Our general store remedies that.

WP_20150107_009 So how can this one room, this room filled with choice and simple pleasures, how can it renew purpose? Another excellent question. Part of having a store is selling products, maintaining inventory, and handling cash. Who better to do those things than one of our own Elders. When the idea was brought forth there was one name that immediately came to mind, Gary. With his warm personality, friendly demeanor, and inviting smile we knew that he was a perfect fit.

WP_20150107_008 Unbeknownst to us, it was more than that. It was easy to see that this was something he wanted to do. Eagerly he wakes up every morning and opens the store at shift change so those Stakeholders leaving and those arriving can have a chance to buy his wares. He breaks to smoke and for lunch and then he is right back at it. He tracks every purchase, constantly mindful of what is leaving, what is selling best, what needs to be restocked. His passion for this store is undeniable, and he is thankful for the opportunity to manage it. When asked about what he thought of everything he only had this to say. “I have a reason to get out of bed again. I used to just sit in my room and do nothing all day, but now my life has meaning. Now, I have a purpose.”

WP_20150107_010 What is truly great is that the store’s reach is not limited to just him. Our home has been blessed with women who are the craftiest I have ever seen. Linda said, “I want to help. I’m not able to do a lot, but I can make booties, boggins, and scarves!” Other women have jumped on the craft bandwagon and are making everything from doilies to yarn owls. It’s amazing to see the handmade crafts fill the store, but what is even better is to see the positive change it’s having on our Elders.”

The mere act of one man discovering his purpose in this home has led to many others also discovering their purpose. The path to our passions lie ultimately in the discovery or renewal of purpose in our lives. These things do not change as we age. Every single living person wants to feel needed, loved, and like they are contributing to the world around them. How can we help others to discover their purpose and maybe, just maybe, we will discover our own path as well?




‘Tis the Season of Giving

Darla Borthwick. Regional Quality of Life Director Hometown Region 2, shared the following recap from a recent Christmas event:

It will be a Very Merry Christmas indeed! Elders and Stakeholders from Hometown Region 2 Homes gathered at the First Christian Church of Winchester, KY on December 15th to celebrate the “Season of Giving”.

During the past month the following homes each held drives to collect toys and other gifts to be donated to families in need: Bracken County Care and Rehabilitation, Danville Care and Rehabilitation, Fountain Circle Care and Rehabilitation , Harrodsburg Care and Rehabilitation, Lee County Care and Rehabilitation, Liberty Care and Rehabilitation, Signature HealthCare of Pikeville, Prestonsburg Care and Rehabilitation, Riverview Care and Rehabilitation, Rockcastle Care and Rehabilitation, and Signature HealthCare of Trimble County. 


Each home arrived with all of their gifts, which totaled over 320 once combined, and spent some quality time together wrapping them. A pot luck feast offered a bountiful variety of delicious choices for everyone at lunch, and the rule for the day quickly became “Start with dessert, and work your way back from there!”

The day was filled with more holiday joy, as Santa Claus arrived to spend the afternoon with everyone! The Elders (and even some Stakeholders) were thrilled to talk with Santa and have a picture taken with him. In keeping with the spirit of connectedness, Santa Claus also helped out with a very special gift exchange; The Elders gathered in a circle, each with a wrapped gift that had been brought for the event.

Santa visited each person and had them draw a card with instructions out of his bag which instructed them in their gift exchange, such as “Swap gifts with someone who grew up on a farm”. After they read their card to the group, any Elder who connected with that statement raised their hand, and they chose who to swap gifts with! 

Prizes were also given out to Signature HealthCare of Pikeville and Riverview Care and Rehabilitation for the “decked-out for the holidays” group attire contest. Harrodsburg Care and Rehab, Signature HealthCare of Trimble, and Prestonsburg Care and Rehab also took awards for creating the best “home-made holiday centerpiece” contest. Elders were also able to win gifts for participating in a Candy Cane Guessing Game, and many other door prizes were awarded.


Added significance was brought to the day as Elders Margaret Gibson and Marge Appleman were reunited. These two ladies from different homes recently became acquainted on the Disney Elder Vacation. They quickly became the best of friends and were overjoyed to spend some quality time together again!

Another Elder shared that they had not been able to celebrate Christmas since the passing of their son, until now. The Administrator who passed along this touching story said it best, “That’s pretty much all-inspiring!” It is our hope that this individual can build on these new and happy memories, while honoring the memories of their loved one and years past, and find renewed joy and meaning in the Christmas season. These are the priceless intangible gifts that we can give to the Elders who we love and care for!

“It humbled me to witness the truest spirit of Christmas through the blessings of giving. The smiles on the elders’ faces, the laughter and Christmas carols in the air, the joyous simplicity of wrapping gifts together, sharing a fabulous meal, and the expressions of love that can only be shared by a family – together these things filled my heart to overflowing!

Time after time, I find that the things we do to bring meaning and purpose to the lives of Elders comes full circle to fill our own lives with meaning and purpose. Elder Alpha Carroll summed it up best at the end of the event, when she exclaimed to me with great enthusiasm ‘I couldn’t have asked for a better day!’ It truly is a Wonderful Life!”



Paving The Path To Transformation-A Reflection of Our Journey

DSC01231In September of 2011, we began a journey of a million miles, so to speak.

In many ways, we had good homes – good homes that did good things for the Elders who were in our care. For example, that was the year we took our first Elder vacation to Walt Disney World, the second year of our summer camp program, the year we made great strides in stakeholder engagement and many other very successful ventures. At that time, we were quite comfortable with where we were, not easily seeing past the continued success we had accomplished. How could we really get any better?

jug bandThen, it was as if destiny rose up to answer the question we had thrown out to the universe. In taking a good hard look at ourselves, we saw room for improvement. Yes, we had done good things, but we wanted to achieve more. Our company is, after all, built on a mission and vision that exudes with the term “revolutionary.” As a company, we are always striving to be revolutionary and looking for ways to advance our mission and vision. We are continually searching for progressive ways to serve the Elders by enhancing their quality of life and quality of care.

Eden Pictures 015It was at this same time that we had the opportunity to learn more about the Eden Alternative. With our goals being similar, we entered into a partnership with them to bring their philosophy of engaging Elders, stakeholders, and the community in general in a life worth living through the teaching of their 10 Principles. It was this step that started to truly pave the road we are on today.

_DSC3891The question then became: How do we transform the lives of the Elders who are in our care for the better? For us, it was through education, education, education. It wasn’t enough for our leadership team to be educated about culture change and the Eden Alternative – there had to be more. Leadership teams at our homes needed to be educated, and so did our precious nursing assistants who work tirelessly to provide quality care for the Elders. It became apparent that, indeed, everyone must be educated. Education became the weight that eventually tipped the scales in the direction of change for us. We invested in it heavily, teaching at every Facility Advisory Board meeting, every regional meeting, every leadership retreat, and infiltrating every department with a challenge to open their minds and hearts. Soil that was once hard and cold towards the idea of change soon became fertile ground to plant the seeds of our vision within. And more than ever before, we saw the need for change.

Ms Sims hanging out her laundryOur leadership teams began to dream BIG dreams. Dreams of changing their organizational structure, giving Elders their autonomy back, and changing their processes. It wasn’t long before homes started emptying out offices to create more living space for Elders and taking a introspective look at their own leadership abilities.

Today we have 20 homes on the Eden Alternative Registry, with the promise of a few more before the end of the year. We have worked steadfastly to transition to the ‘neighborhood model’ in all of our homes, and we’re almost there. This transition alone has given us a deeper understanding of the importance of deepening relationships and creating “family” units within our homes. We have been able to introduce “Simply Me” to give our Stakeholders detailed information about the Elders they care for daily, and it also reminds us to learn the stories that are locked within the Elder. We’ve seen anti-psychotropic drug use be reduced through a continued focus on relationship building and the introduction of huddles among several homes. We’ve been on vacation with almost 300 Elders over the last four years, put together over 20 summer camp programs annually, raised over $4,000 with our Elders for Elders in South Africa, and many other wonderful things. Collectively, we have made good strides in culture over the last few years.

Angie and RayneHowever, there still lies deep within the sense that we have not done enough, created enough or moved fast enough. Yes, it is true, we have done much work. However this is not the time to “settle” in where we are. There is much work yet to be done in the field.

As we enter  into 2015, I challenge you to look introspectively once again, as we did a few years ago. I challenge you to allow the passion that is deeply rooted inside you to continue to drive you to lead the revolution, to pioneer change, and to spark innovation through your leadership. The most precious gift we can give to the Elders is a life transformed through the care that we are able to provide.


Blazing a Trail To The Holistic Caregiver Model

Washington Team HCWashington Care and Rehabilitation Center in Chipley, Florida is moving forward in person directed care with a “Get Real” mentality. The home, which was added to the Eden Alternative Registry in 2012 has been working steadfastly to bring about many positive changes for the Elders who live there.

Their success shines with a psychotropic drug use reduction in their home of over 50% in this time frame and their participation in the Pioneer Network’s National Learning Collaborative. Through their participation with the National Learning Collaborative they were provided with education and support to make critical leaps such as drug reductions among Elders, the implementation of nursing assistant huddles, reduction in falls, removal of alarms in the home and adding nursing assistants to their weekly care plan meetings.

Last week the team at the home took one huge leap to further deepen their commitment to the Elders living in their home by embarking on a journey to transform to the Holistic Caregiver “model”  care throughout their home.

The Holistic Caregiver model was chosen because of it’s closeness to the Elders. In this model housekeeping staff, quality of life staff, and nursing staff are all “cross trained” so they can easily do all things the Elder may have need of. Yes, it’s a big change from the traditional institutionalized model of care.

The Washington team introduced the new model to their Stakeholders last week in a Learning Congress format. The Learning Congress provided them education on not only the Holistic Caregiver model, but also encompassed empathy training, deeper culture change training and some team building challenges for all involved.

roads wcrcWhy do this? Why shake up the world we live in to this extent? Eden Alternative Principle Eight teaches us that in order to truly move forward with person directed care, we must begin to empower not only the Elder but those that work most closely to the Elder. The move towards the Holistic Caregiver model will align us perfectly to make this a reality. The Elders who live with us deserve the best care they can receive. The Stakeholders who work for us deserve the best opportunity to give that care. With those two important things in mind, it is easy to see how this piece of the puzzle fits perfectly into place.

It is easy to become “satisfied” with where we are. Collectively, we have achieved great milestones in transforming culture. Deep reflection brings enlightenment into the depths of what we are truly transcending to be and in this reflection we oftentimes see the murky truth of where currently exist. This reflection shines a light on all we could become if we only opened our minds to deep systems change.

The Washington team is determined to challenge the status quo once again. Their determination is to create the path that others can follow. Their motto is “Roads? We don’t need roads. Where are going, there are no roads.” I believe their enthusiasm will become contagious as they continue to transform lives.

Lights, Camera, DISNEY!

10393879_10100734263397570_4469433512732121062_nhollywood studios group 10806355_10100734264111140_31523430317382337_n “Magical” is the word of the week as 85 Elders and Stakeholders from SHC Hometown arrive at Walt Disney World for the final vacation of the year! The group arrived on yesterday afternoon at the Grand Floridian Resort on Disney property with shining eyes and wide smiles! Even though tired from travel, they were so excited to get to the Magic Kingdom last night for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! Everyone adored the decorations, snow on Main Street USA, the Christmas Parade and the Christmas Wishes Light Show. Some Elders stayed up late into the night to do some shopping bhollywood studios groupefore returning the resort! As Margie Appleman said today, “less sleep and more play, that’s what I came to do!”

The magic group 1continued today as the group visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Several Elders started the day riding the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster!  Pam Batts, an Elder living at Sunrise Manor, told us she LOVES thrill rides and couldn’t wait to do them all! The day also included some beautiful shows such as the Muppets 3D show, Beauty and the Beast, The Indiana Jones Stunt Show and Frozen Sing A Long.

Everyone met together for a private catered dinner at the Backstage Prop Shop. The room boasts of hundreds of past “props” from different 11355_10100734264036290_2635281597940051354_nmovie sets! After dinner, our special guests, Mickey and Minnie,  made a heartwarming appearance with time for pictures with each and every person in the room! There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as the Elders made their way to the front, one by one, to get some time with Mickey and Minnie!

Tonight as each Elder hugged me on their way out of the event, as I saw their beautiful smiles wide as the ocean is, as I felt their gratitude and thanks for a time well spent, my heart filled to overflowing. I felt blessed and humbled to be able to serve our Elders and Stakeholders in this capacity. I know that our love and vision to change the way our Elders are being seen by others is spreading rapidly and it spills over onto everyone we meet.

The “magic” continues tomorrow!




Moments of Joy

Gatlinburg-WEB-0557Gatlinburg-WEB-0571Gatlinburg-WEB-0368Gatlinburg-WEB-0474Where do I start? Another beautiful week of joy and overwhelming emotions as Elders from 14 SHC homes enjoyed their time in Gatlinburg TN!

The first full day started off with a beautiful view of the mountains as the fall color was in peak season while we visited. The Elders gushed at the deep reds and oranges as they appeared new each day. The first day focused on choices! How could we ensure everyone got to do everything they dreamed of doing while visiting the beautiful mountain towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? By offering several different choices for the day!

Many chosGatlinburg-WEB-0419e to take the scenic tour of Cades Cove in hopes of spotting a bear (they did not see one). They did however, enjoy the beautiful scenery as they drove for multiple hours through the historic Cades Cove area. They stopped at the Old Mill and had some photographs snapped with the beautiful scenery behind them!

Another group had the shopping bug as they experienced all Pigeon Forge has to offer in the of shopping! They way up on the essentials and made some fun purchases too!

Everyone met up at Wood Grill Buffet for what could have been the largest lunch offered in Pigeon Forge before an afternoon of more shopping! Some Elders chose to go to the outlets, somGatlinburg-WEB-7062e chose to visit the Island, and some chose the souvenir shops that lines the Pigeon Forge Parkway!

After an afternoon of shopping the entire group met up at Dixie Stampede for an amazing evening of food, fellowship and entertainment!

Day 3 started off with a quick group shot with the beautiful mountains behind us and then it was onward to the GatGatlinburg-WEB-0771linburg Aquarium! Many of the Elders loved the aquarium and spotting the different marine life living there.

After the morning at the Aquarium, they were on their own for lunch and the afternoon. Some of the Elders chose more shopping on the Gatlinburg strip while a few were more adventurous and choGatlinburg-WEB-0851se to ride the Ski Lift to Ober Gatlinburg and take a wild ride in a Hot Air Balloon!

Then after a quick late afternoon rest for everyone we were on our way to the Hatfield and McCoy’s Dinner Show. The show was the hit of the trip as the Elders and Stakeholders laughed in harmony the entire time! They loved every part of it!

As I look back on the week, I realized that we are so blessed to share these experiences with the Elders in our homes. There is no better way to build relationships and give true quality care than to spend these precious moments just living and enjoying life together. To hear the words that it has been the “best day of my life” from an Elder and know it is sincere is comparable to nothing else in the world. The reward alone of knowing that you played some small part in making this happen for that person is the most soul satisfying experience that you could take part in, I am convinced. How can we create more moments of joy just like these? I challenge you to determine your role in creating such moments in the lives of others and then taking action on your thoughts. You won’t be disappointed.