Compassion for the elderly and the disabled began at an early age for Deborah Platt. Her mother, a dedicated caregiver, went beyond her basic job responsibilities to make a difference in the lives of her clients, weaving them into the fabric of her family, which included her daughter Deborah, one of Long-Term Living’s 2015 Leaders of Tomorrow.
As a teenager, Platt’s relationships with these seniors grew closer. ‘George’ was one of her mother’s clients. “If I wanted to go out with a boyfriend,” Platt recalls, “I’d have to check on George first and then stop by his house on the way home.” At first, she admits to harboring a bit of resentment, she but grew to enjoy the visits and conversations they shared.
Platt’s early work history included positions in the aviation and real estate industry. She also was a certified nurse assistant, medical transcriber and even owned her own daycare center. But upon reaching her 38th birthday she assessed what she had accomplished and where she wanted to go. During that time of introspection she realized how much she loved caregiving. So at age 38, Platt went back to school to become a nurse.
Nearly six years ago, Platt was hired at Royal Oaks Retirement Community in Sun City, Ariz. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she was the MDS coordinator; Tuesdays and Thursdays, she worked on the floor, getting to know the residents. Platt, however, didn’t stop there. While continuing to perform the MDS coordinator role, her responsibilities kept growing. “In addition to completing the MDS, I also became the resident care coordinator, which expanded my responsibilities,” she says. Because of her experience in quality assurance, wound care, infection control and staff/resident support, Platt became Royal Oaks’ clinical manager in October 2012.
Platt’s determination to reach her goals has inspired staff, according to Dina Capek, Royal Oaks director of health services. It’s not easy to go to school and work full time. “Many times I wished for a clone—a mom clone, a work clone, a social clone and an exercise clone and, of course, one to clean my house,” Platt laughs. When Royal Oaks converted to a new electronic medical records system, she had to adjust her class load to be available during the transition.
Her passion and influence in continuing to support culture change is evident at Royal Oaks. “
“Two years ago we introduced ‘open dining’ to our residents,” Pratt says. This destructuring of dining protocol provides food and beverages to the residents whenever they want and as often as they want. “This is what people do when they live at home, and this is our residents’ home,” Pratt explains.
In addition to open dining, Royal Oaks has introduced a new way of medication administration—no more waking a resident in the middle of the night. Med passes are done upon waking, at midday and when the resident is ready to go to sleep.
You won’t see a resident being bathed on third shift either unless he or she wants to rise early for the day. Choice and maintaining normal living routines take precedence over equal assignments among all shifts. To balance responsibilities across shifts, Platt asks her staff to “look outside the box.” “Finding more ways to serve the residents to provide the best care is why we’re here,” she explains. “We believe that life enrichment and meaningful experiences in living are the most important values of our residents. “We offer many opportunities, even aquatic c.asses for our residents with advanced demential.
To provide leadership and prepare for the rapidly growing senior population, Platt is always looking to expand her involvement in the long-term care field. This year she was selected as one of 11 fellows in the Arizona LeadingAge Leadership Academy. “I have served on a number of committees, including participation in advocacy meetings, which has given me a broader insight into the current and future needs of Arizona’s senior citizens,” Platt says. “This exposure has enabled me to understand the importance of supporting leader organizations in the political arena, especially as it pertains to regulation and legislation,” she adds.
As the number of people who will need long-term care continues to grow, Platt predicts that the future will be both frightening and exciting. “It will be interesting to see how it plays out and discover how I can contribute to making long-term care a positive experience,” she says.
“Deb’s goal is to advance evidence-based practices that empower older adults regardless of limited capacity,” Capek says. Platt not only understands aides, but also easily connects to families. “Her personal experiences with aging parents connects her sensitivities to families’ concerns,” Capek adds.
“This year has been a whirlwind for me. I’ve learned about leadership styles and becoming a leader for social accountability,” Platt says. “I have learned so much about staying true to your authentic self and realize how lucky I am to be part of an organization that shares my values, goals and passion for older adults.”
Read about the other 2015 Long-Term Living Leaders of Tomorrow here.