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!


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!”