The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living proudly announce the 2011 Volunteers of the Year—Adult, Young Adult, and Group; NCAL Administrator and Noble Caregiver of the Year; Assisted Living Nurse of the Year; Assisted Living Week Programming Award; Developmental Disabilities Hero of the Year; and Not-for-profit Community Benefit Program of the Year. The individuals who have earned this recognition give the greatest gift of all—time spent with and for others.
Doyle Smith, Adult Volunteer of the Year
“Doyle Smith is a man of service,” says Jack Whitaker, executive director of Willow Health Care, which oversees a network of senior services and housing, including the 90-bed Mountain View Healthcare, Mountain View, Mo., where Doyle volunteers.
What does Doyle do to earn such accolades? Just about everything asked of him, it seems. “Anything you need or want done, Doyle is there,” says Mountain View Administrator Roy Pace, RN.
At Mountain View, Doyle does what everyone should do—listen, care, and give a helping hand. He can be a baker, server, grounds keeper, friend, transporter, shopper, and fundraiser extraordinaire.
As president of the volunteer program, Doyle spreads the volunteer spirit communitywide and not just to his friends, but to local businesses and organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, of which he is a member. Doyle’s nomination form for this award read like a yearly summary of a facility’s activities program, with events too numerous to list. When it comes to what the residents think, there is no hesitation: Lucille McAlister says Doyle is a “very kind man and can converse on almost all topics.”
Buster Davis says, “Doyle could be fishing or hunting, but he chooses to hang out with us old folks.”
Blanche Cook thinks Doyle can cook burgers and hot dogs really well, but his pancakes are the best!”
Robin Aman, NCAL Administrator of the Year
Robin Aman exemplifies the qualities of a committed and heartfelt administrator of an assisted living community, successfully leading her staff in enriching the lives of their residents.
Located in Stevenson, Wash., Rock Cove Assisted Living is a nonprofit, affordable assisted living community for seniors and individuals with disabilities.
Rock Cove residents benefit from Aman’s love and dedication to the greater community. “When someone moves in, we don’t just help tend to their needs, we adopt them as family,” she says.
Aman is currently working on a grant to enhance Rock Cove’s intergenerational program between local school students and her residents. She tries to keep the residents active in the community, whether it’s Easter egg hunts, an annual wine-tasting fundraiser, or taking residents out to judge the Christmas tree lights. Thanks to Aman, every Stevenson town event involves the Rock Cove residents.
Within Rock Cove, she works with residents to involve them in meaningful activities and adventures. For example, she took a resident on a hot air balloon ride for a 90th birthday celebration. She’s taken an 87-year-old-resident to a horse ranch so the resident could go horseback riding after not having ridden for 20 years.
“This award is not something that is earned by one person; it is earned together as a team,” Aman says. “I have the most wonderful team of staff that work hard and well together to achieve great things. I know my staff commitment toward our residents comes from their hearts.
“There are challenges every day, but I believe in tackling them with a smile and a positive attitude,” she says. “There is nothing we can’t accomplish together.”
Aman loves her life’s work at Rock Cove. “To see the tears of joy in residents’ eyes and make them sparkle again is so heart warming.
“They make my life complete,” she says. “So to be recognized for our hard work, fun, and dreams is an accomplishment beyond my expectations.”
Eugene Ring, Noble Caregiver in Assisted Living
During the day, Eugene Ring is the Heritage at Dover’s (Del.) environmental engineer. In the summertime, he might be grill master, and at Christmas time he’s Santa Claus.
Ring received the award because he has demonstrated outstanding person-centered care that contributed to the well-being of his colleagues and residents. His former supervisor, Executive Director Vickie Cox, gives him great praise.
“In the five years Eugene has been with us,” Cox says, “he has improved the well-being and overall morale of this community with his everyday outgoing attitude, demonstration of initiative, and by going above and beyond his regular duties.”
For instance, every year he hosts residents and staff for an annual picnic at his home. He started a resident men’s group and takes the male residents out to breakfast once a month.
Ring builds wooden cases for residents and staff to display their handmade quilts and helps them move furniture when he’s supposed to have a day off. He responds to residents’ alarms going off and calms their fears without complaint, Cox says.
Ring has implemented changes within the residence that increased residents’ safety by removing hazards that could cause them to fall.
Ring’s outstanding demonstration of customer service extends to his co-workers. For example, he performs home repairs for co-workers who can’t afford to hire someone. He helped a co-worker’s widow with her vegetable garden, which delivers locally grown vegetables to residents and staff.
“His work is his life, his life is his work,” Cox says.
Rachel Ellis, NCAL Assisted Living Nurse of the Year
Rachel Ellis is assistant administrator of resident care at Gardens at Osage Terrace, a 45-unit assisted living facility in Bentonville, Ark., that serves seniors with low incomes who are Medicaid-eligible.
“Her everyday work ethic, compassion, empathy, and heartfelt care make a difference in the lives of seniors,” says Kim Goins, administrator of the Gardens. “Anytime you see Rachel with residents, family members, other staff, or physicians, you can tell she is mindful about them.”
Ellis’ outstanding compassion and person-centered care was demonstrated when, after a resident’s daughter died, Ellis took the afternoon off and took the resident out for some ice cream just like her daughter used to do. Ellis helped the resident grieve by listening and reminiscing with her. Ellis is often found checking in on residents to make sure things are going well.
“We are so proud because Rachel truly demonstrates leadership qualities that inspire her staff members to deliver care and services that the residents find highly satisfying,” says Donna Childress, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association/Arkansas Assisted Living Association.
Ellis’ commitment to the betterment of others transcends her role as a supervisor into a role model and mentor of staff. “She knows that caring for the elderly, a team must run smoothly, have the desire to work as a unit, be well trained, and have the support they need,” Goins says. “Residents and staff in our community describe her as guiding, outgoing, respected, strong-willed, and a truly rare person.”
“True heartfelt emotions are not something you learn, it is a gift,” Goins says. “Ellis displays this attitude to everyone, and because of that she is an amazing role model, mentor, and supervisor.”
Beth Atkinson, Developmental Disabilities Hero of the Year
Beth Atkinson is the director of person-centered living at Seven Hills Pediatric Center, Groton, Mass. She takes that title very seriously and is an ardent advocate for culture change.
“Beth seeks out the best in residents and is capable of teaching others to see these qualities as well,” says Holly Jarek, administrator and vice president of this 83-bed facility. So much so that she put the town’s Memorial Day parade on the activities schedule but not just to watch, to participate.
One of Beth’s visions, honed over a 22-year career, is to demonstrate that life for her residents is not just about medical care and “medical problems.” Under her guidance, social isolation is a rare thing at Seven Hills.
That Memorial Day parade, with staff and clients participating, is emblematic of Beth’s focus on community. She knows that parades make everyone feel a sense of belonging and that everybody has a role—including Seven Hills.
Her goal was to be seen as part of the community, not in a passive role, but as active participants in an important community event. To everyone’s surprise, the facility’s entourage received a standing ovation from spectators that fine May Day and earned a new sense of belonging and of pride.
There is a lot more to Beth’s tenure at Seven Hills. For example, she originated a facilitywide “Into the Community” program whereby residents go to classes and programs at public schools at least twice a week.
“Her insight and passion is a major factor in our culture that embraces empowering individuals and families,” says Mary Cassidy, director of education and therapy. “She is a role model for staff, a teacher for many, and a loving and compassionate person.”
Maplewood Volunteers-In-Partnership Group Volunteers of the Year
The Cheektowago, N.Y.-based Maplewood facility’s volunteer group, Volunteers-in-Partnership (VIP), includes more than 60 people who collectively give new meaning to the idea of being beacons of hope.
“Where would we be without them?” says Administrator Scott West. When asked about what the VIPs do, West is definitely not lost for activities: cooking, baking, crafting, playing games, hosting themed parties, holding ethnic dinners, organizing outings, organizing pastoral services, operating the gift shop, pet visiting, friendly visiting, delivering mail and newspapers, and, in general, “ensuring that residents’ wishes come true.”
The VIPs give residents voices and choices and encourage residents to think independently. The group sounds so busy, yet David Sortisio, son of a resident, beams. “The volunteers spend quality time with my mom and get her involved. I can’t say how much this means to me,” he says. “They are a great group!” They also provide those same qualities to the staff, along with the pleasure of knowing the “community” is in the house.
“I consider it a privilege to count them as part of our activities team,” says Debbie Peters, director of activities at Maplewood.
Maple Leaf Health Care Center Not-for-profit Community
Benefit Program of the Year
“Life may change, but it never gets old,” is not part of the vision or mission statement at Maple Leaf Health Care Center, Manchester, N.H., but it certainly gives a glimpse into its culture.
The Maple Leaf program is a bi-monthly Healthcare Wellness Clinic, free to participants, where individuals can access clinicians and general health care services such as blood pressure, heart rate, and weight monitoring.
Program-wise, even after all these years, flexiblity is the watchword for Maple Leaf.
“They have been very responsive designing programs based on resident input, specific need, and general feedback, observes Dick Dunfey, executive director of ElderTrust of Florida, which manages the property.
Maple Leaf’s staff have the knowledge and resources to incorporate and manage new programs seen as needed.
National Assisted Living Week Programming Award
Living life is just what the residents of the Ponderosa Assisted Living Community, in Yakima, Wash., did during the 2010 celebration of National Assisted Living Week. Thanks to the residents, family members, and Ponderosa staff, everyone had a good time.
This recognition means that Ponderosa successfully incorporated the 2010 National Assisted Living Week (NALW) theme, “Living Life,” into their activity plans.
The theme of the first day of NALW events was “Living Life: Family Food Vacation!” Family was celebrated with a kids’ carnival that allowed several generations to share in the experience of watching grandchildren get their faces painted or getting their photos taken behind a face cutout placard.
Monday’s theme was “Living Life: Our Own Community Involvement!” During lunch, staff hosted a trivia contest about state and local news events. Another trivia game, titled, “Who Are Your Representatives,” featured questions about federal, state, and local lawmakers.
Ponderosa’s own residents, DeWitt McAbee and Bill McDowell, sang songs afterward.
“Living Life: Frugally and Financially Responsibly in Order to Live Luxuriously” celebrated how saving money can allow people to enjoy luxuries in life. After a morning scavenger hunt, resident price-watchers showed off their skills in a trivia contest about the best buys of today, food prices, and tax-deductible items.
The day ended with a lavish social hour and gala dinner.
The week ended with “Living Life: Gratitude to Those Who Serve!” A staff appreciation brunch was held. Women received facial treatments, manicures, or massages, and men took a day trip to the Yakima Flight Museum.
Braden Stover, Young Adult Volunteer of the Year
Tag this volunteer a “Rising Star.” In 2007, Braden Stover was named the volunteer of the year at the Clarksburg Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in Clarksburg, W.V.
Now, in 2011, at the age of 16, he is the Young Adult honoree at both the state (West Virginia Health Care Association) and national levels. And in between these honors Braden has continued entertaining the residents at the Clarksburg facility, while also advancing his singing and songwriting career, which includes being an American Idol contestant, recording songs in Nashville, and performing at events.
“Despite his success and hectic schedule, Braden still makes time to perform for his second love, our residents,” says Linda Curry, activities director.
Braden has performed at the facility, guitar in hand, since he was eight years old, and residents nurture and encourage his budding musical career. Not surprisingly, his Sunday afternoon concerts are extremely popular and have helped him hone a style and maturity beyond his years.
“You could not find a brighter, more active advocate for our residents,” says Phillip Donnelly, executive director of the facility.
Residents Martha and Betty summarize his value to the residents: “He is a wonderful human being who is also talented—and cute!”