Gardant Management Solutions recognized three communities for enriching the lives of residents through the work that their staff members do every day.
John Evans Supportive Living, Prairie Living at Chautauqua and Heritage Woods of DeKalb were honored during the 2016 Administrator and Shining Star Holiday Luncheon that was held on Dec. 8 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kankakee, Ill.
Read the award entries below to learn how these communities are going above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of the residents they serve.
1st Place – John Evans Supportive Living
“They are sending me to the cemetery one piece at a time”, Norman told us, only half-jokingly, as he waited for the bus to take him to his doctor’s appointment. There was some truth to what he said.
Norman came to us in May of 2009 with little more than the clothes on his back. He had finished a rehab stay at the local nursing home after the removal of some of his toes. Although relatively young at the age of 67, a hard scrabble life had taken its toll on his health. Never married, he had no children and only a handful of nieces and nephews scattered about. “Maybe a half-sister in Texas, but she is probably dead by now,” he told us. A Vietnam veteran, he had lost part of a finger in an explosion, but never applied for a Purple Heart. “It’s not like getting shot,” he said. Although he favored the taste of vodka – a lot – he had always worked, mostly as an auto detailer. He was thankful he had always had a roof of some sort over his head. “We always drank under the bridge, but I never had to sleep there,” he jokes.
While rehabbing at the nursing home, Norman met and formed a friendship with Nancy. He encouraged her to investigate life at John Evans, and she moved here shortly after he did. They became close friends, dining together at every meal. Norm maintained his independence and individuality and managed to still get the occasional bottle of vodka out of his $90 a month and drink in moderation. Unfortunately, the enemy – diabetes – got the best of him, and the doctor told him he would lose his leg. After he had his leg amputated in April of 2010, he moved out of his apartment while he again rehabbed at the nursing home. We visited and encouraged him during his stay, and his only goal was to get back to John Evans.
Norm returned in September of 2010 with a new leg , a new lease on life, and again, barely more than the clothes on his back. We cobbled together mismatched furniture for him, as his was all gone. Unfortunately, Nancy had moved back to the nursing home because of illness. He adjusted to his prosthesis, and we would take him to the nursing home to visit Nancy. She rehabbed and moved back and all was well. They were named Valentine’s Day King and Queen. Although Norm feigned nonchalance and embarrassment over it, he kept his “King” sign on his door for years. A little too much “celebrating” one Christmas Eve ended with a minor fall after he forgot to put on his prosthesis and tried to walk! As time passed, Nancy again left for the nursing home, this time for good. Although Norm made another “close friend”, his heart remained with Nancy, and they continued to keep in touch. We moved him to a closer apartment, as it was a long, difficult walk for him from his apartment. It was the ideal spot – close to the dining room with a nice view.
In July of 2016, after an illness sent him to the hospital, Norm received the news that he had cancer and would require surgery, a colostomy and another nursing home stay. It was devastating and scary for not only Norm, but for us. He had become our family, and we had become his family. Again, he moved out, and his furniture was gone. His motivating force and goal has always been to return to John Evans. We were all he had. We visited him, encouraged him, and by September 1st, he was back. We obtained new furniture for him, retrieved his meager personal possessions out of storage for him, and he was back in business! He and Nancy still keep in touch, and we will bring her to visit at Christmas.
The story of Norm, like many of our residents, is a story of how we have not only enriched a life and given someone independence and dignity, but a family: an anchor and support system in times of trouble and uncertainty. We have given him an apartment: where he can be himself, do what he wants, have relationships, even party – on occasion! He has given us his friendship and wit and his story; he has entrusted us with his life and all he has. “Going to the cemetery one piece at a time?” Not yet, Norm. Not yet. You’ve still got a lot of life left to live!
2nd Place – Prairie Living at Chautauqua
Enriching lives means to enhance or improve the quality of said life. We here at Prairie Living take pride in doing so on a daily basis.
Sometimes, it is just the little things that we do that provides enrichment – things like assistance with activities of daily living or the ability to enjoy a home-cooked meal without the bother of having to cook it or clean up afterward, that provide enrichment. Often, we do not consider these actions as enriching someone’s life because we do them on a daily basis and they become like second nature. Our residents remind us that these things do make a difference.
There are other times things happen on a much grander scale that give us immense pride in what it is we do and reminds us of why we get up every morning and come to work. We would like to share some of these stories with you.
Mrs. Maureen, who has been with us for six years, recently attended our social hour. It was there that she ran into one of our newer residents Mrs. Elnora. Apparently the two had been friends for many years before they moved into Prairie Living and lost touch. They had spent many years with their husbands, playing cards together at Mrs. Elnora’s house. Mrs. Elnora had an old barn on her property that was falling down. Mrs. Maureen’s husband requested some of the old wood from this barn to make picture frames as he was an artist and loved to paint. In return for the wood, Mrs. Maureen’s husband painted a picture of the barn for Mrs. Elnora and framed it with some of the wood from the barn. After social hour, Mrs. Maureen invited Mrs. Elnora to her apartment to show her the painting she’d received as a gift many years earlier. Needless to say, this meeting brought back many fond memories for both ladies and an old friendship was rekindled.
The next story we would like to share belongs to Mr. Ben, who has been with us for a year and a half. Mr. Ben is a veteran and was recently honored in “The Commanders Club” with the 2016 Disabled American Veterans Award. After his service to our country was competed, Mr. Ben settled in Chicago, working at the Downey Center for 40 years. Upon retirement, Mr. Ben moved to Murphysboro, where he lived in the same apartment building for 31 years, caring for his elderly father. Upon first meeting Mr. Ben in his apartment during his assessment, he told us that he had spent some time in rehab after a fall. During his stay, someone had entered his apartment and destroyed the few things he had left. His bed was broken. His couch was dilapidated, and as we sat down at his kitchen table, the leg fell off. He appeared very sad but maintained a friendly attitude and charming manner. Mr. Ben moved in shortly after that meeting and used his incentive for furniture. On move-in day, he slowly walked through the apartment and then sat down on the bed and sobbed. We asked him why he was crying, and he said, “I have never lived anywhere this nice. This is a true blessing.” Mr. Ben always has a smile and a handshake for anyone he meets. He was recently voted Prom King by his peers and represented Prairie Living in the Apple Festival Parade. Mr. Ben is not only a hero for his service to our country, but he is a hero to us because of the way he lives his life.
These are just two stories of the many we could have shared. To write them all would take a book. We are proud of the work we do on daily basis and feel privileged to share in the lives of so many. So when we are asked if we enrich our residents’ lives, our response is always, “Not nearly as much as they enrich ours every day!”
3rd Place – Heritage Woods of DeKalb
Our community absolutely embodies the meaning of enriching. The definition of enrich means to make fuller, more meaningful and more rewarding. Heritage Woods of DeKalb is able to enrich lives every day, not by doing anything spectacular or life shattering but by caring for our residents in the way we do.
Every team member at Heritage Woods of DeKalb cares about not only the work that they accomplish but the way the work is completed. Every team member has tasks and goals that have to be met, but our team is able to accomplish those tasks and goals successfully while putting the residents first. Every team member understands that we are here to care for our older adults, and we are not here for a paycheck. This is shown in so many little ways every day from every department at our community.
Here are just a few examples of how the team at Heritage Woods of DeKalb is enriching lives every day through love, kindness and compassion:
Cindy, a dietary aide, discovered that a resident was attending her oldest grandson’s wedding. This is a grandson that our resident is extremely proud of because he is a United States Marine. On the Saturday of the wedding, Cindy took it upon herself to come to Heritage Woods and do the resident’s hair and makeup for the wedding. This resident was so beyond words, filled with gratitude, that her makeup had to be done twice because of the tears she was shedding.
Laurie, a certified nursing assistant who is currently on FMLA due to a physical injury, will stop by our community every 10 days or so to check on residents. She drives 20 minutes to Heritage Woods of DeKalb just to stop by to visit with residents, make their day a little brighter and show residents that they truly matter to someone.
JoAnn, a housekeeper, looks outside the box when in resident’s rooms and notices safety issues. If she notices a resident having difficulty moving around in their apartments due to congestion, she offers a suggestion to rearrange the apartment to make more space. JoAnn has taken time to assist residents with putting on and tying their shoes, so they could get to bingo on time, so they do not have to wait for a C.N.A. to come and assist them. JoAnn understands that doing these things for residents will ease their minds, prevent falls and help them avoid being late to activities that is important to them making their lives fuller.
Dave, our maintenance director, engages with residents while he is in their apartments to change heating filters, hanging pictures or doing other jobs. Dave asks about their families and their life prior to coming to Heritage Woods of DeKalb to show them that we are here, not only to do a job, but because we care.
Lindsey, our resident services coordinator, has taken the time out of her day to play cards with just a few residents. She understands that an activity does not have to be attended by 20 or 30 people to be fun or entertaining. Smaller activities, such as playing cards, will improve the quality of life for those residents in that moment. It could even make their entire day.
Carmela, our staff nurse, provided a special gift for one of our residents who was having a difficult time adjusting to living at Heritage Woods of DeKalb. Carmela really got to know what this resident liked to do for fun, what he enjoyed in his youth. This resident enjoyed working on and riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Carmela’s husband also enjoys riding. One Saturday, she and her husband drove his Harley to Heritage Woods. Carmela went inside the community, escorted the resident outside in his wheelchair. They spent over an hour looking at the motorcycle and talking about riding. The smile on our resident’s face that day still has not faded.
As you can see, the team at Heritage Woods of DeKalb does not go out and attempt to shatter records with love, kindness and compassion. We look at every interaction, no make how small, as an opportunity to enrich our residents’ lives with love, kindness and compassion.