Our Last Day In The Cradle of Liberty

Cheers GroupAs we set out to explore the city better known as the Cradle of Liberty, we couldn’t help but bask in the beautiful day that was set before us. Comfortable temperatures and a blue sky made the perfect setting for another day of exploration.

After a short morning walk, we knew we would enjoy this day of sightseeing together. Everyone was chattering as we climbed aboard the open air trolley car and took a seat to be entertained. As we started rolling through the city of Boston, we saw such sites as the Bunker Hill Monument, The U.S.S. Constitution, Boston Common, and made our way through the shopping district with fun narration from our guide “Gordie” the entire way.

Swan BoatIt was Gordie who told us we couldn’t visit the city without taking a ride on the Swan Boats in Boston Gardens and we agreed that we would love to give it a try.  The Gardens area was tranquil as we made our way walking through it in search of the small boats that sat out on the water. Some took the ride on the Swan Boat and some preferred to rest under the shade of the beautiful weeping willow trees planted around the water’s edge but all of us had a beautiful morning together.

After our boat ride, it was time to visit the original Cheers on Beacon Hill. We all giggled with joy as we were escorted to the famous “Back Room” for our lunch! Elders laughed about all of the “action” the Back Room saw on the show and of course we didn’t want to let down the reputation of the area so we had to have some fun of our own! Gary was thrilled to visit another place on his ultimate bucket list and couldn’t wait to order a beer in an original Cheers mug! He told me during lunch that he had always watched the show on TV and could hardly believe that he was eating there.

Ezelle last dayAfter lunch our driver, Gordie took us on an “unofficial” tour of Boston and showed us famous spots such as the Statehouse where the Declaration of Independence was signed and read for the first time, a quick tour of MIT, and the famous finish line for the Boston Marathon.

Even after all of this fun, our day was not complete without a tour of the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum. Everyone enjoyed taking a participatory role in the reenactment that showed how all of the tea came to be dumped in Boston Harbor and then a wonderful historical account of that fateful evening that prompted our Independence. Our Elders especiallly loved being part of the skit and enjoyed learning more about our past.

Corbit last dayAfter a busy day of sight-seeing our group was tired and decided to finish our time in Boston by having dinner together at Barney Fannings.  We all had tears come to our eyes as we reminisced about our time in the city and knew we would soon part ways.

Thinking back on the beauty of this trip, I realize it was only fitting that we would be visiting the city known as the Cradle of Liberty. It truly is a city in which independence runs free. While we were there, we could see independence rising in the Elders as they gained their self confidence back. It was joyous to watch them realize they could in fact do things they may have doubted they could accomplish only a week earlier. The lessons we learned about independence and true liberty will reign in our thoughts as we view our Elders with new eyes. Eyes that see their independence, know their resilience, and admire their perserverance. The city known as the Cradle of Liberty has forever impacted our lives and for that we are grateful.


Exploring Boston’s Hidden Treasures

Erin stingraysAfter sleeping in and having a leisurely breakfast from Max’s Deli Cafe delivered to our rooms, everyone was ready to explore the city of Boston! Energy was high as we started on our journey to the New England Aquarium! The New England Aquarium, being one of the largest aquariums in the northeast, held alot of hidden treasures to find within! The Elders were enthralled by the penguins and marveled at how they “took care” of each other. They all took a turn touching the stingrays except for John, who said he had experienced those “first” hand and didn’t want anything to do with them!  We all loved searching for Myrtle, the 50 year old sea turtle, who reigned magestically in the center tank for everyone to see.

Jackie BoatAfter a quick break at the harbor this fearless group of explorers determined to grab a ferry over to Hingham Shipyard and eat lunch at Wahlburgers! The ferry boat added to our sense of adventure for the day. Some of the Elders climbed on top to feel the wind in their face and catch some good pictures of the shoreline as we traveled. Jackie, a former Navy Officer, felt right at home on the “high seas” and shared some stories of other times he had passed through Boston in his life.

Arriving at Hingham Shipyard, the group anticipated a tasty lunch at Wahlburgers. The restaurant, known for it’s variety of special burgers, lived up to our expectations. Gary even said the “Surf’N’Turf Burger” was better than the “Baconator”.   Everyone enjoyed a leisurely lunch at this famous hangout before making their way back into the city.

Rhonda WahlburgersAfter a short rest (and some ice cream) at the hotel we were ready for an exciting evening. We had a delicious dinner at Bertucci’s, where everyone relaxed,laughed and just enjoyed each other’s company. After dinner, there was still some exploration left to do as the group visited Faneuil Hall. While exploring Faneuil hall, Corbit sat for a caricature of himself and we all marveled at how much it resembled him. His excitement could not be contained at the piece of art (being an artist himself) and he coudn’t wait to call home to tell everyone all about it. Some explored the shops and bought souvenirs while others explored the culture of Boston and enjoyed the street dancers and entertainment that Faneuil Hall had to offer.

Wahlburgers groupLike all great explorers before us, we have gathered our treasures and are taking them back with us. However, our treasures might be a bit different than those you’ve read about in history books. We’ve found treasures of love, happiness, joy, and meaning. We have discovered there is great value in laughter and that living in the moment is without price. We’ve learned that it’s healthy to take risks and to live without limitations. However, most of all, we have learned that our relationships with each other are the true catalyst to the change that we all seek.  And in the end, these treasures were housed within us all along.

Our Field of Dreams

Group Fenway Our group of 26 Elders and Stakeholders from Signature Hometown homes in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida arrived in Boston late yesterday with only one thing on their mind-FUN!  Even after a long day of travel, the Elders were excited to get out and sample some of the “night life” that Boston has to offer by having a late dinner at Barney Fannings Pub before retiring for what was “left” of the evening!

FrankThis morning some of  the Elders joined us for an early morning walk around the city while others enjoyed sleeping in. There was no mistaking the excitement in the air as everyone picked out a Red Sox cap to wear to the game today!

Laughter surrounded us as we waited outside Fenway Park. Everyone chatting and giggling over the ball park foods we would eat today, the pictures we would take, and if the Red Sox would pull off a win! Even if you didn’t “love” the game of baseball, you couldn’t help but become enthralled with the excitement our group was creating!

CorbitToday our small group caught some big dreams! Gary Kidd, an Elder living at SHC Pikeville in Pikeville, Kentucky shared that he had always wanted to go to Fenway Park as a young boy. He talked about how he never thought he would actually be in the park that he had always wished to be in. He also shared about how his dreams had been fulfilled today! The beauty of this is that it was not only our Elders to have dreams come true  but we also had a few Stakeholders cross the dream of visiting Fenway Park off their bucket list today. For example Brett Brown, Administrator at Washington Care and Rehab in Chipley, Florida and Jaime Larimore, Quality of Life Director at SHC Glenview in Louisville, Ky had also always hoped to visit America’s oldest ball park one day.

GaryThese are the moments that take our breath away. Those moments when you can see the joy of living life that captures the faces of our Elders. The moments when you see an Elder holding the hand of a nurse to calm HER nerves during takeoff as Corbit did on the flight into Boston.  The moment when an Elder jumps up to “Shake It Off” to Taylor Swift’s latest tune as Jack did this afternoon.  Really there are no greater moments than the ones that demonstrate the pure, compassionate love that our Stakeholders and Elders hold for each other.

Jack and AngieOur evening finished up with much celebration, even though the Red Sox lost. We enjoyed dinner at The Littlest Bar, loved each other’s company and knew in our hearts that we would hold all of these moments near and dear forever.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventure…..

Rockcastle Care and Rehabilitation Welcomes New Additions

Kenneth and bunniesWe never know what could be a catalyst to create change within our organizations. It could be something as small as three little bunnies!

Kelsey Adams, Quality of Life Director, at Rockcastle Care and Rehabilitation recounts their story below:

“Every great story starts with a humble beginning and ours is no different. Rockcastle Health & Rehabilitation Center is located in the quaint town of Brodhead, KY. They who live here have backgrounds ranging from farming to small town business owners. Our Elders grew up in a simpler time where food was grown and clothes were made. This type of lifestyle is ingrained into every aspect of their life.

It is no small task to take on culture change. We purchased a greenhouse and all of the necessary supplies to start it up.  We have a small courtyard that was hardly ever used and was in need of a lot of TLC. After the greenhouse was built amazing things started to happen; Elders began going outside to work in the greenhouse and Stakeholders from different departments began assisting with the courtyard.

The courtyard draws a crowd of Elders, family members, and Stakeholders almost every day, especially now that we have three new additions to the RHRC family. Three baby bunnies were donated to our home from Tony Bullock who is a local farmer and thanks to his wife, our Administrator; they received a nice house to live in. The Elders named them Tippy Toes, Shelby, and Sweet Pea. They are a huge hit with everyone that comes into our home. Several family members will get a bunny from their cage for their loved ones to pet in their rooms and even some of the Elders will pick them up and sit with them outside petting them.

Kenneth Adams, who lived his life as a local dairy farmer, has become our “rabbit guru”.  He feeds the rabbits by hand almost every day. His daughter, Lavada Adams, has donated different varieties of flowers.  Kenneth has taken responsibility to plant them and take care of everything. He recently has started growing carrots for the rabbits. Julie Hammons who is a SRNA here says, “I’ve seen a change in him since he came back from the Elder vacation and the rabbits arrived. He is a human being again. He just glows.”

Kenneth gardeningSometimes the biggest obstacle to redefining culture lies within ourselves. We measure everything we do in terms of “greatness”.  In our frustration it’s easy to miss the smallest of victories that nudge us down the path of growth and change.

Kenneth is celebrating his passion and purpose. There is nothing that can ever become more “great” than that.

The Best Things In Life Are Free

I’ve heard the quote “The best things in life are free” repeated to me over the years more times than I can count. However this morning as we start Memorial Day Weekend, I find it’s really true to reflect on such a statement as it relates to person directed care.

In my life, the things I really enjoy the most are completely free. The smiles of my family, the feeling of sleeping in late on a holiday weekend and of course the joy of just being and not “doing”.

It’s Memorial Day after all. We are celebrating this weekend, those who fought and passed to ensure we could have these personal freedoms. The very freedom we take for granted everyday that Elders living in long term care communities around the world do not always experience.

Sally Rineker, QOL Director at Sunrise Manor in Hodgenville Ky, shared this beautiful story about how precious freedom actually is

We don’t think of Elders living in our home as people who are grieving for others.  If they weren’t in a home this Memorial Day weekend they would most likely be planning a visit to the cemetery to decorate the tombstone of a spouse, child, parent, sibling or friend.  So why do we put limitations on them when they are in a nursing home? 

 Today we accompanied some Elders in our home to decorate the tombstones of their spouses, with flower arrangements they had made this week.  It was such a rewarding experience that touched the hearts of all of us. Words cannot describe accurately the gratitude these Elders had to have this moment of remembrance.

One elder went to her husbands grave for the first time since he had passed away two years ago.  It was the first time seeing the tombstone, the first time decorating it and the first time talking with him there.  As we assisted her with putting the flowers in the ground she stated “These are for you sweet man!”  We then gave her some time alone.  As we returned to the grave she was admiring the engraving on the back of the tombstone on her husbands side. It had a baseball bat and glove because he loved baseball.  We chuckled when we saw that on her side of the tombstone was a UofK shirt — because she LOVES the University of Kentucky Basketball team.  Once back in the van she started to tell us the story of how she chased him down and she knew that he was the man she was going to marry.  They were married 61 years.

 Things we take for granted mean so much to Elders.  We shouldn’t feel like life ends when coming to a nursing home or that grieving for a loved one is different when you become older or live in a long term care community. 

This beautiful story teaches us so many things. The distinct purpose of creating flowers for the tombstone for her loved one. The beauty of having those cherished moments at the graveyard to honor his memory and then the connection made with those around her as she shared those memories. This is real life. And many times real life is free.

Many people ask “how do I bring true culture change without the budget to do so?”. Individualize care to the point of creating real life for those in our care. If there’s a road to person directed care, this would be the express route. Moments like these build true relationships. And again, relationships are free.



What A Wonderful World

DSC_0208“I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” Tonight as we were finishing our last evening together this song played overhead. I couldn’t help but reflect back on the week and think how very fitting it was to end our vacation adventure!

This week we set out to “catch a wave to mayorvisit (1)adventure” and that’s exactly what we did. Today actually, it was more like a “whirlwind” of adventure! The day began with three ladies who dreamed of parasailing. These ladies couldn’t wait to board the boat to go out into the ocean and get up into the air!  Once in the air, Ms Nina proclaimed about how high up she was and how beautiful it was up there. She said she felt “free as a bird”! As a matter of PCB 110fact, she loved it so much, she did it twice!

Another group spent the morning shopping for souvenirs to take back to their friends and families! The very best part of vacation is always looking for the perfect souvenir to take back home.  They also enjoyed touring around the Panama City Beach area and had a great lunch at Sharky’s on the beach!

We  had many that enjoyed free time on the PCB 115beach and around the pool today. The Elders loved  getting into the ocean, riding the rafts and spending time basking in the sun. Kenneth shared with us how excited he was to be sitting on the beach resting as he never thought he would be able to do things like this!

This afternoon Mayor Oberst of Panama City Beach greeted all of the Elders at the resort. She welcomed them to the city and shared a PCB 146brief history of the local area. Everyone was delighted about meeting and spending time with her this afternoon.

The day ended with a sunset dinner cruise on the Betsy Ann Riverboat. The cruise took us out into St Andrews Bay and we even spotted a few dolphins on the way. We had such a wonderful time sharing memories from our week together. The Elders reflected back on how much they had experienced and it wasn’t PCB 165long before the tears started flowing! One Elder threw her arms up and declared “this is heaven”.  Another lady shared how she had made so many new friends on this journey.

This week has indeed been an adventure. I must agree with Nina, it really is a little piece of heaven. Even after eight vacations, I still squeal with delight and enjoy spending this time with our Signature family.  So tonight as this vacation comes to a close, I leave you with the last verse to the song that made us reflect so heavily.

groupphoto“The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky. Are also on the faces of people passing by. I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do. But they’re really saying, I love you. “


Riding The Wave of Adventure

June and Angie“Life is too short not to enjoy every minute of it”, are words that Nina Whitson lives by each day.  She woke up this morning with no expectations for the day, except that she would set out to enjoy it. And enjoy it she did.

Nina, along with the rest of our group, loved spending the day at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach. Elders much of the day visiting animal exhibits and taking in shows at the park.

The group also had other opportunities to experience the animals in new and different ways. Nina for example, was given the chance to hold a large snake! She was determined to make a new friend and experience something she had never had the chance to do before! Other Elders enjoyed holding the rare birds after the Putnamshow and touching the dolphin fins!

The afternoon held even more adventure as three Elders decided to take part in the dolphin encounter! All it took was one time in the pool for the Elders to completely fall in love with our dolphin, “Cajun”. Clara, June and Caroline loved touching, holding, kissing and even hugging the dolphin. Ms June, who is celebrating her 87th birthday this week, even got a special birthday serenade from Cajun before she left the pool.

11137105_10205817325206291_6667232615889536127_nThe adventure continued back at the resort where some Elders got in the ocean for the very first time. Others kicked back and relaxed by the pool or enjoyed one of the many activities the resort has to offer its guests.

Today has been one of the most rewarding days of my career. I can’t think of another when my heart has been so touched by the love of our Elders. From the hug of thanks for helping to see a dream come to fruition to a dance of pure happiness from just having an afternoon on the beach, this day has been like no other.

If only we open our minds to the possibilities of what could happen, our hearts will lead us in the direction we should follow. And if we are lucky, that direction will be the best thing that’s ever happened to us.





“Ocean of blue. I walk along the beach. Just me and you”-Rollon Gass- Elder, Westmoreland Care and Rehab

PCB-Catching A Wave To Adventure

PCB 2015 400The first Elder Vacation of 2015 is off to a wonderful start! Today 65 Elders and Stakeholders from 5 states made their way to Panama City Beach! The theme for the beach vacation is “Catching A Wave To Adventure” and that’s how the day has been for everyone!

The week has already began with many firsts! For some it was the first time flying, for others the first time on vacation and for many the first time to see the ocean!

The afternoon was free from distraction as most rested by the pool or put their toes in the sand! The sun was shining brightly and everyone enjoyed some free time this afternoon to do whatever they had their heart set on.

PCB 2015 387PCB 2015 355PCB 2015 368For dinner we ate at Margaritaville in Pier Park.  Margaritaville is an old favorite from our vacations and this year’s meal did not disappoint. Elder Council Presidents from Signature HealthCare at the Courtyard and Chautauqua Care and Rehab shared the meal with us and extended a hearty welcome from them to all the visitors of the area.

PCB 2015 364As the evening begins to slow down and everyone starts to prepare for tomorrow, I find myself thinking about this vacation and all of the joy I’ve already shared with the Elders today. During dinner I could overhear the laughter from the Elders, our most precious gift. I overheard some plans being made for tomorrow. Plans to go shopping, swim with the dolphins or take a walk on the pier. Those are all sweet dreams that will get fulfilled this week. Because this week we are on vacation and anything is possible.  This vacation happens to be our 8th Elder Vacation! After 8 vacations I’ve learned alot, but one thing is constant, and that is the smiles and joy that grace the faces of those who attend. Luckily this one is no different! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update and see where the wave takes us!!


Home Sweet Home At Riverview Health Care Center

DSCN0295-400x4007The idea of creating home. It is a topic that is tossed about frequently in discussing key points of infusing “culture change” in any long term care setting. It seems simple in nature but in reality IS truly like searching for a gem that is always just out of our grasp. Or as we say in Eden Associate Training-pursuing the elusive Tiger’s Whisker.

The past few years I’ve had the pleasure to watch Riverview Health Care Center make this difficult transition from the institution that determined the course of each day to a culture in which the Elders navigate through days filled with choice and autonomy. Recently I was reminded of how far they’ve come on their journey when they opened their new community library.

Phillip Ramey, Director of Spirituality for the home recounts their latest accomplishment below:

DSCN0324-400x400The grand opening of our new Fred Harris Memorial Library was held on Thursday, April 16th.

The library is equipped with a large variety of books, magazines, a smart tv, computers, and of course a real librarian. The library will also be issuing real library cards to the Elders in our communities.

An Elder living there, Marlene VanHoose says “It’s wonderful to have these kinds of things here, it’s just like being at HOME”

DSCN0326-400x400Not only do we have a chapel, café, post office, and beauty shop, we now have a working library!

Marlene said it best. The elusive “home” word that we are all in search of. The feeling that is far reaching above the physical transformation the home has accomplished. The feeling of belonging and acceptance that only comes with really being at home. I would say that Riverview has started to truly make the leap that crosses the great divide between the institution and that place we can call home.


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.