Here are stories about some very special, compassionate leaders and groups in the long term and post-acute care profession: the recipients of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA ⁄ NCAL) annual awards. They will be recognized during the AHCA ⁄ NCAL 67th Annual Convention & Expo this month.

NCAL Administrator of the Year

As administrator of Aspen House Memory Care Assisted Living, Loveland, Colo., Carmy Jerome’s mission is to improve care wherever possible. This is clearly visible in the comfortable, stress-free, safe, and dignified environment she provides for residents. A local physician agrees, saying the Aspen House community is “without hesitation, one that is uniquely person-centered.”

Jerome personally examines residents’ histories to discern preferences and interests. For one resident who loves to shop, Jerome made special arrangements with a local retailer for the resident to “shop without paying,” in an effort to maintain the man’s independence and dignity.

Jerome is always willing to jump right in and assist with whatever is needed, whether that be washing dishes or singing for residents. She also acknowledges exemplary staff performance through creative awards like the No One Measures Up to You program.

Through Jerome’s leadership, staff turnover has decreased by 30 percent, Aspen House earned a 98 percent customer satisfaction score, and census is up 20 percent.

Jerome also works tirelessly as an advocate for the assisted living profession. She has a keen interest in bringing dementia and memory care issues to the forefront.

The NCAL Administrator of the Year award recognizes an assisted living administrator who demonstrates outstanding innovation, achievement, and capabilities.

Pat Giorgio
Jan Thayer Pioneer Award
Pat Giorgio never thought she’d work in long term care. More than 25 years ago, Giorgio was seeking her master’s in theology when a temporary job at a residential care community changed her trajectory forever.
Now, she is the president and chief executive officer of Evergreen Estates. Operating three assisted living communities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Giorgio is one of the most respected assisted living professionals and advocates in the country.
She has championed issues like maintaining state regulation, increasing access to vulnerable residents, and improving changing payment models. She has delivered expert testimony before numerous Iowa legislative committees, and her advocacy efforts were recognized in 2009 when she received the Joe Warner Patient Advocacy Award.
Giorgio has made it her priority to inform elected officials and shape policy affecting the assisted living profession. For nearly 15 years, she has served on the boards of the Iowa Center for Assisted Living and NCAL.
At the national level, she oversaw the development of NCAL’s performance measures, initiated work with the first-ever National Patient Safety Organization, assisted in the creation of LGBTQ training materials, and developed Iowa’s disaster planning manual.
Giorgio continues to be active on countless committees and volunteer positions.
Most recently, her collaboration with the University of North Carolina and the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living led to the development of a person-centered care toolkit for care providers, while collecting research on how to measure assisted living medication errors.
Her efforts to educate, inform, and promote quality care and professional growth continue to make an immeasurable difference in the assisted living profession and in the lives of the residents it serves.
The NCAL Jan Thayer Pioneer Award recognizes individuals who have moved the senior care profession forward, positively affecting the lives of those served and those who serve.

Not for Profit Trustee Award
Serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of Madison County Nursing Home in Canton, Miss., for 15 years, Robert Martin has not only volunteered an incredible amount of time, but he has made an undeniable impact on the residents, staff, and families.
During his time as a board member, Martin has been involved in various projects: constructing an Alzheimer’s unit, increasing the number of beds in the nursing care center, and approving the addition of television sets in the residents’ bedrooms.
“Robert serves with passion and is frequently at our nursing center looking for ways to make things better for our residents,” says Daniel Logan, administrator at Madison County Nursing Home. “It is without a doubt that I can say that Madison County Nursing Home is a better place because of Mr. Martin.”
Vincent Mor
Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award
Vincent Mor, PhD, is a name that most in the long term and post-acute care profession know and respect. His dedication and passion for research has transformed technical, scientific data into real-life quality improvement resources that have proven essential for long term and post-acute care.

For decades, Mor has studied how health care delivery affects the well-being of elders, particularly in skilled nursing care centers. He conducted some of the first research on national rehospitalization rates in skilled nursing centers that helped shape the AHCA/NCAL Quality Initiative.

Mor is also the director of Brown University’s Center for Long-Term Care Quality & Innovation (Q&I Center), an independent research center formed by AHCA/NCAL. He collaborates with providers and other innovators to test and disseminate interventions to improve long term and post-acute care. Under his leadership, Brown researchers have evaluated the impact of care practices and policies on the care of residents.

“Vince is a prolific researcher. He has done so much to promote nursing center quality, first by helping to develop the Minimum Data Set [MDS] resident assessment, and then by creating MDS quality measures that providers can use to monitor quality,” says Rosa Baier, MPH, associate director of the Q&I Center.

As a professor of health services, policy, and practice, Mor has done incredible work. Recently, he and his colleagues worked with more than 800 nursing centers on a study of high-dose influenza vaccination and produced critical evidence that the vaccine prevents hospitalizations and deaths among residents. Mor has also led a study that helped convince Congress to establish the Medicare hospice benefit.

AHCA presents the Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award to an individual or organization that has made a significant national contribution to advancing quality performance in the long term care field.

Group Volunteer of the Year

Thanks to Adopt-A-Senior, it’s all about birthdays at Bartley Healthcare Nursing and Rehabilitation, in Jackson, N.J.

Balloons, a cake, a “Happy Birthday” serenade, and presents are guaranteed to all residents on their birthdays. The Adopt-A-Senior group of volunteers works hard to make residents feel extra special on their birthdays by planning personalized birthday celebrations—complete with cake and candles; kazoos; and meaningful, personalized gifts.

One die-hard Mets fan was given “a new Mets cap that he proudly wears every day and lets everyone know where it came from,” says Joanne Ryan, vice president of quality management at Bartley Healthcare.

No matter the age, birthdays are a nostalgic event that deserve a celebration with friends. Thankfully, the volunteers at Adopt-A-Senior are exceeding expectations and making each resident feel valued and remembered. The individual recognition that these residents receive on their birthdays makes their day and puts a smile on their faces. Now that’s priceless!

Adult Volunteer of the Year
Randy McQueen is not a typical volunteer. He faces his own health concerns and has spent significant amounts of time as a patient himself at Mercy Living Plus at Mercy Hospital of the Franciscan Sisters, located in Oelwein, Iowa, where he now volunteers. However, McQueen does not let those obstacles stop him, as he finds great satisfaction in his volunteer work.

“Life was pretty dull in my little world until I started volunteering at Mercy Living Plus,” he says. Through his volunteer efforts, McQueen is deemed a living example to the residents and staff.

Indeed, he shows everyone that a zest for life, passion for new experiences, and love for contributing to society doesn’t have to be limited by one’s own trials and tribulations in life.

“His smile is the best medicine for residents,” says Terri Derflinger, site administrator.

McQueen brings excitement to Mercy Living Plus residents and staff by dressing up for them at holiday parties, and he encourages them with his overwhelming positivity. Such passion for volunteering is rare, and for that, McQueen is an inspiration to all.

John Lair
ID/DD Hero of the Year
To create an incredible program for New Hope Services, a program of Medicalodges, Director John Lair has combined his two passions: improving the lives of individuals with intellectual/ developmental disabilities and sports. New Hope Services is located in Pittsburg and Valley Center, Kan.

Lair works tirelessly to build a lifestyle, fitness, and Special Olympics program from the ground up—raising much of the money needed to build a state-of-the-art gym and fitness center by himself. As a result of his dedication and superior coaching ability, Lair has taken the New Hope Bulldogs, a flag football team, to an international level of recognition.

But Lair doesn’t stop there. His latest venture entails job coaching arrangements at local skilled nursing centers to create confidence and job opportunities for New Hope residents.

“John’s programs support the aspirations of all program participants: to live a life without boundaries enforced by others,” says Fred Benjamin, former chief operating officer of Medicalodges.

“John has in so many ways facilitated this dream for thousands of individuals.”

Brandywine Senior Living Princeton
National Assisted Living Week® Programming Award
The residents and staff of Brandywine Senior Living Princeton in Princeton, N.J., connected with their families, the community, and each other during National Assisted Living Week 2015. Brandywine took the week’s theme—”Nourishing Life: Mind, Body, and Spirit”—and ran with it.

The festivities kicked off with lively entertainment and delicious food at a family-friendly BBQ. On Monday, the community caught the attention of local media while hosting a Tai Chi demo in Princeton’s Palmer Square.

An intergenerational program revitalized souls on Tuesday, as memory care residents and local first-grade students enjoyed the company of baby farm animals.

On Wednesday, Brandywine’s nurses and therapists performed “Fit 4 Life” wellness checks, and the day concluded with residents making birdhouses.

The next day, a local organization brought in service dogs to show how they can enrich the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Later that evening, residents displayed their “Princeton Pride and Passion” by offering dramatic readings and performances to the tune of meaningful songs from yesteryear. And there was not a dry eye in the house as a Brandywine couple celebrated their 68-year union.

On Friday, the community hosted a “Tricky Tray” fundraiser, with all proceeds benefitting The Princeton Parkinson’s Alliance. To top off the week, Brandywine hosted its “Sugar, Music Video” and CD release party. Featured on Spotlight New Jersey NEWS 12, residents lip-synched and danced to the Maroon 5 pop hit “Sugar.”

The NCAL National Assisted Living Week® Programming award recognizes an individual or community that demonstrates successful incorporation of the week’s theme into their activity plans, resulting in outstanding special activities and community events.

Not for Profit Program of the Year
The Activities Program at Chaparral House, located in Berkeley, Calif., aids in the care of residents by promoting their social, physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual health. Residents are engaged in novel experiences such as drum circles, drama therapy, sewing, yoga, and much more.

The Activities Program grants the residents both meaningful interaction and personal choice, hallmarks of Chaparral House that extend far beyond the boundaries of the center and into the greater community of Berkeley.
“The program celebrates each resident, empowers their choices, and respects their right to age with dignity and grace,” says Mayor Tom Bates of the City of Berkeley.

With nine hours of activities every day for approximately 100 residents, there is something for everyone to do at the Chaparral House. Residents and staff alike benefit from some variety in their day, and the activities often help residents regain lost interests and skills, which exponentially enhances their quality of life.

Zach Severson
Young Adult Volunteer of the Year
At 16 years of age, the most notable characteristic of Zach Severson’s volunteer efforts is his dependability, which is especially important to the residents and staff of the Evangelical Good Samaritan Society in Canton, S.D.

His other great asset is a skill to interact with the residents at a maturity level far beyond his years. Severson combines typical activities like playing cards, bean bag, or Yahtzee with being present “in the moment,” communicating with each resident at any level of care.

Friends and families are also big fans of Severson. A family member once said that his interactions with her mother are “kind, gentle, patient, and completely understanding of [Mom’s] capabilities.”

Severson’s consistent dependability as a volunteer day-in and day-out has made the art of birdwatching possible at Good Samaritan. It’s not just a regular pastime that brings joy and busyness to the residents and staff. He has become the most reliable filler of birdfeeders all around the building, and everyone loves that he feeds the birds on a regular basis.

Angela Humes and resident
Noble Caregiver in Assisted Living
For registered medication aide Angela Humes, business is personal. Employed at Dogwood Village Senior Living in Orange, Va., since 1981, Humes has committed herself to providing individualized care and attention to each resident.

Humes befriends residents and their family members, taking the time to learn their preferences and incorporate them into their daily routines. She volunteers her free time to accompany residents to doctors’ appointments, take birthday shopping trips, or attend the funerals of former residents.

Simply put, Humes is a true friend, providing unwavering support to her Dogwood Village family. When the granddaughter of a resident lost her battle with cancer, Humes offered her time and prayers, providing the resident extra attention and comfort during her period of grief.

The model of what a caregiver should be, Humes always does right by the residents of Dogwood, and for that reason, she is this year’s Noble Caregiver in Assisted Living.

The NCAL Noble Caregiver award recognizes frontline caregivers, housekeeping, maintenance staff, or other staff who have improved the quality of life for residents and created a better work environment.

Stephanie Lavigne
Assisted Living Nurse of the Year

Stephanie Lavigne, RN, residential care director of Maine Veterans’ Homes - Machias of Machias, Maine, is a triple threat. With a genuine love for her residents, combined with excellent leadership skills and a resolve to find innovative solutions, Lavigne has undoubtedly improved the lives of 30 Mainers living with dementia.

Operating with an open door policy, Lavigne gives her time and attention freely. She brings her personal approach to interdisciplinary team meetings, where staff, residents, and families determine the individual needs and care of residents.

Out on the floor, Lavigne can be found helping out staff to complete any shift in order to meet the needs of residents.

It’s no secret that innovation is important for Lavigne. After attending countless training sessions, she quickly implements the evidence-based techniques she’s learned. Under her guidance, the community has decreased noise and improved lighting, and residents’ sleeping patterns have dramatically improved. And because of Lavigne’s work, the veterans’ home dramatically reduced its antipsychotic use in two years by nearly 70 percent.

The NCAL Nurse of the Year award recognizes a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse who demonstrates outstanding compassion, supervisory success, and innovation.