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.




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!