Congratulations Bellringers Kathy Clarke, Betty Jo Talley, Tina Berg, LuAnn Wittrock, Cindy Jacobson, and Linda Horvath!
It all started back in July 2011 when The Wellington’s housing manager Heather Raduenz decided her newly formed activities team deserved recognition for transforming the program from acceptable to exceptional. Heather submitted an Employee of the Month nomination, as follows: I would like to nominate the entire activities team at The Wellington Senior Living for Employee of the Month. Even though all three employees have been here less than a year, we have seen some truly amazing transformations occur that should be recognized. Our activities director Kathy Clarke has a wonderful, sweet, and caring personality that brightens up the building. She works very hard to plan a variety of fun, engaging, and educational opportunities for our residents. Her positive attitude is infectious, and she strives to make every day the best it can be. She is a great leader and mentor to her two assistants Tina Berg and Betty Jo Talley. As Kathy says, “Betty Jo and Tina go above & beyond every day to make sure our residents are enjoying everything offered via our activities program. They not only put together and lead all group activities, but they also go beyond that and will go into apartments to do individual activities with residents who can’t participate with groups, they interact with residents when in between activities, and they do any ‘extra’ things residents ask of them. They are never too busy to help anyone out and will always put down whatever they are doing to assist. They communicate very well with each other so they can do their best to accommodate our residents, because they genuinely care for all of them. Every day they come with smiles on their faces and hugs to give out to our seniors, and they truly love what they do – it shows in everything they do here at The Wellington.” Kathy, Betty Jo, and Tina also supervise a number of volunteers who help with activities. Our residents appreciate the fact that they are asked to provide input regarding programming. Resident Council meetings are held monthly, and the team does their best to accommodate any activities recommendations. Kathy, Betty Jo, and Tina also assist with senior campus/ Shepard Park neighborhood events such as holiday parties, summer picnics, and National Night Out. The team makes sure our residents have plenty of meaningful and fun recreational opportunities. I firmly believe they are a huge part in preventing turnover here at The Wellington. Thank you!
Since that nomination in July 2011 things have only gotten better. According to Heather, over the past few months The Wellington’s activities team has been working hard to increase the number of activities available in the community’s Care Suites. The Care Suites’ residents typically require hands-on care, so it is harder for them to participate in regular programs. Heather states that Kathy recently developed a separate Care Suites activities calendar that offers a variety of recreational programs involving both her activities team and the Shepard Park Home Care home health aides. Some of the new programs include music therapy, art therapy, pet therapy with Peter the chinchilla and several hermit crabs, manicures, and aromatherapy. The value added to the quality of life for the Care Suite residents is immeasurable!
Heather also says that the activities team’s involvement in community service has expanded. They have helped to facilitate a Knitter’s Club that makes blankets for Children’s Hospital, have coordinated the assembly of shoeboxes full of toys and supplies for Operation Christmas Child, and have played a huge role in StuartCo’s annual charity fundraising week that benefits Simpson Housing Services. Many Wellington residents have commented on how much they appreciate feeling as though they can still actively contribute to charitable causes.
Ok, that’s The Wellington’s side of the story. Not to be outdone, The Alton Memory Care has its own side to the story. Housing manager Mike Lorenz starts off by describing his activities team with a few adjectives: Dedicated, exuberant, fun-loving, caring, committed, knowledgeable, energetic— and the list could be endless! Mike says his activities team members LuAnn Wittrock (coordinator) and Cindy Jacobson and Linda Horvath (assistants) all work very hard to exemplify The Alton’s mission, which is that everyone who lives at the community is an individual and that individual strengths are the main focus. At The Alton, Alzheimer’s Disease/dementia doesn’t define the residents; they are simply people who deserve to feel purposeful and live life to the fullest. Mike says that Mike says Linda joins LuAnn and Cindy on weekends to facilitate recreational events that include both the residents and their family members. The Alton’s team goal is to provide lots of fun for their residents, and LuAnn, Cindy and Linda make that happen!
Here are a few examples illustrating how LuAnn, Cindy, and Linda fulfill The Alton’s mission: When dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s and/or dementia, families rarely hear good news from caregivers. However, LuAnn and Cindy have really concentrated on providing monthly updates to every family via phone call or personal visit to report on the successes, not failures, their loved one has had. Cindy has also been the driving force behind the “Alton Families” program, which allows residents’ families to correspond with their loved ones via email. Cindy photographs the residents having a good time enjoying life to the fullest and then sends these photos to their families, who in return send and share photos of grand kids and other family events.
According to Mike, LuAnn is the activities team’s “rock.” She ensures that the residents’ needed structure in their lives is provided via group activities that include exercise, art/painting classes, spiritual events, baking groups, and other regular programming. Mike says Linda joins LuAnn and Cindy on weekends to facilitate recreational events that include both the residents and their family members. These events include musicians and other entertainment.
Cindy and LuAnn have also purchased activities supplies for The Alton’s neighborhoods (housing sections) so residents can have fun even when the activities team is not here. They encourage all Alton and Shepard Park Home Care team members to understand it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure the best care for the residents and their families.Cindy was recently feeling really creative (or was suffering from cabin fever—or a combination of the two!) and organized “The Alton Superstars” resident volleyball team. On Thursday, March 21st they took on The Wellington’s resident team and defeated them! Rumor has it a rematch has been challenged.
Finally, Mike exclaims, “Can we say PARTY?!” He says LuAnn and Cindy know that hosting a good party requires organizing, planning
and, most important, ensuring that everyone has fun! That includes not only the residents but their family members and the staff as well.
LuAnn’s, Cindy’s, and Linda’s efforts have dramatically increased The Alton’s resident and customer satisfaction, as evidenced by all the wonderful compliments received from the families. A recent example, as submitted to Cindy via email by a resident’s family member: “Congratulations! You did it again. You created a wonderful evening for everyone at The Alton. To see all the residents enjoying themselves is a priceless memory I will cherish forever. To see my mom sing always brings joy to my heart, and to know she enjoyed herself and was able to do something different and fun means so very much to me. In a world where they could be having little quality of life compared to others, it means so much to see them dance, smile and make a memory, even if it is a short one. I have shared last night’s experience with others, and telling them how special an experience it was literally brings tears to my eyes. I sincerely can’t thank you all enough for the wonderful job you do. Your enthusiasm, energy and commitment to making their day are just wonderful.”
Ok, it is going to be tough to top that, but we’ll try. Here’s portfolio director Stacey Neameyer’s side to this story (Stacey oversees The Alton, The Wellington, and several other properties). “I don’t work with the activities teams on a daily basis, so I struggle to find the words to express my appreciation for them. But when I visit The Alton or The Wellington and I see what they do, it puts a huge smile on my face. They have literally brought ‘fun’ to our senior campus! They are all deeply vested in their roles and take tremendous pride in their work. Each of them has a heart of gold, and they are so passionate in what they do! I literally love to watch them all at work during an activity, event, or even just walking around communicating with their residents. The joy they bring to our residents’ faces (and the families visiting) is indescribable. You can see how touched they are by the attention these ladies give them. I cannot say thank you enough for all that they do on a daily basis.”
To conclude, president and CEO Lisa Moe shares her thoughts about our two exceptional activities teams. “These six wonderful women are the Jacks (or perhaps Jills) of all trades and are highly skilled professionals. At both communities they coordinate very hectic, diverse schedules that encompass all seven days of the week. The array of fun-filled activities they host range from a recent Luau celebrating The Alton’s 5th anniversary to an annual Mardi Gras Day parade—complete with the crowning of king & queen—to a variety of exercise classes, musical performances, social dances, and outings all around St. Paul. Kathy, Betty Jo, Tina, LuAnn, Cindy, and Linda are all filled with an energy, excitement and dedication to providing an active lifestyle for our senior campus residents. I can’t thank them enough for all the effort and time they commit.”
Can any of us really thank them enough? Probably not. Perhaps we should plan a party for them…or ask them to plan it, since it’s what they do exceptionally well.