In 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?
Then, 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.
It 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.
The 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.
Our 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.
However, 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.