A selection of LTC programs that made a difference

Reprinted from past editions of the Not-for-Profit Report

For the past eight years, in our Not-for-Profit Report, we’ve had the privilege of highlighting some true success stories in long-term care-people and programs that have put a warm and welcoming face on this always difficult profession. While focusing on not-for-profit organizations, in our continuing collaboration with the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, nothing in these stories forbids their emulation by the for-profit world. The stories are widely varied but share a common theme: organizations going an extra mile to enhance quality of life for their residents.

As a holiday present to the field, we are offering some of the most inspiring, enlightening, and entertaining stories we have published in the Not-for-Profit Report over the past several years. Although it’s conceivable that these programs have changed to one degree or another in the months or years since publication, revisiting them can engender its own reward: an encouraging feeling that despite all the problems posed by the outside world, the unsung professionals of long-term care are doing good things for people under their care.

Happy reading!

From the publisher, editors, and sales staff of Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management


An intergenerational debut at the art gallery

It wasn’t an exhibition of Old Masters or a collection of modern avant-garde artists-or was it? In June [2003], visitors to the Esther M. Klein Art Gallery were treated to a body of work conceived and crafted by a collaboration of Philadelphia-area nursing home residents and schoolchildren. The Klein Gallery, located at The Science Center in Philadelphia, hosted the premiere of the one-month exhibition, “Comfort & JoyÖ, Celebrating Intergenerational Artistic Achievement,” an exciting amalgam of art and cultural achievements by the residents of the six nursing homes in the NewCourtland Elder Services’ network and area students.

NewCourtland originally designed Comfort & Joy in 1997 as an arts and entertainment experience, but it has since evolved into a hands-on, interactive, goal-driven program. Prior to embarking on a project, everyone involved-the artists (accomplished professionals who dedicate their time and talents to this enrichment program), staff, residents, and children-receives sensitivity training to help him or her understand others’ perspectives on life, age, and the world. The fruits of that training are evidenced by the close affection shared by all parties. Pam Mammarella, NewCourtland Elder Services’ director of corporate communications and creator of the Comfort & Joy program, says that many of the volunteer artists continue to stop by just to say hello to their elderly friends.

According to the Klein Gallery’s Director and Curator of Exhibits Dan Schimmel, the gallery has always emphasized art and science exhibits-its historical focus has been on the parallel relationship between the scientific and artistic approach to solving problems-but in the last 10 years many community outreach initiatives have been incorporated in the gallery’s mission, such as the Art & Community Series, which showcases local organizations that use art to enhance the lives of their members.

While searching for the right intergenerational partner for this exhibit, Schimmel heard about Rodney Whittenberg of Melodyvision, Inc.-a nonprofit sound, music, and video production company-who had been a guest on WXPN-FM’s Kids Corner and is heavily involved in NewCourtland’s Comfort & Joy program. On this children’s radio program, Whittenberg introduced “Intergenerational Moments,” a series of 10-minute radio spots that would run on Kids Corner to discuss the dynamics and positive outcomes of NewCourtland’s initiative in which students and residents jointly participate in arts and cultural projects. Schimmel contacted Whittenberg and together they approached NewCourtland with their plan to exhibit NewCourtland’s intergenerational creativity at the Klein Gallery. The exhibition became reality. “The partnership with NewCourtland was a natural match for us to meet our outreach objectives,” says Schimmel.

“This was such an exciting venture,” agrees Mammarella. “It gave us an unparalleled opportunity to show the public what our residents can do. Blending elders with students gives both groups unprecedented opportunities to learn, teach, interact, and react not only to each other, but also with the professionals guiding the various projects. It is so rewarding to see residents discover their untapped talents. For many, their lives are now richer and more diverse than when they were living on their own.”

Among the displays the visitors enjoyed throughout the gallery were mosaic murals, handmade quilts and dolls, a small-scale village based on the reminiscences of elderly residents, and more.

“A photographic display of mosaic murals that residents created on the walls of our various facilities was displayed at the gallery so the public could experience the beauty and intricacies of these large works,” says Schimmel. Mammarella confirms that, despite the murals’ complexities, residents were involved in every aspect of the project-from design to final execution. “At the Care Pavilion facility, kids from Andrew Hamilton School joined the residents in creating a mural based on people and events of the 20th century, which included mosaic images of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Neil Armstrong.

“Although most residents don’t have the manual dexterity to draw freehand,” explains Mammarella, “they can trace images and can use a small hammer to break up tile and put it up on the wall as well as anyone.” The students enthusiastically shared their ideas and skills to assist the residents with concept suggestions, preliminary drawings, and some of the higher-placed tile assembly.

As the murals depict shared history, so did the Sacred Village and Dollmaking projects give the students insights into the personal lives and histories of their elders. Through interviews for the Sacred Village project, the children learned what life was like when these residents were young. For instance, they would ask questions such as, “What place do you remember fondly?”, “What was your school like?”, and “Where did you feel safe?” These reminiscent sights and locales were translated to paper, glued on balsa wood, assembled, and became the Sacred Village-a town built from many legacies. “It is wonderful to look at these little buildings and revisit the stories associated with them,” remarks Mammarella. In a similar project at other facilities, interviewers asked residents about how they saw themselves, how they used to be, or how they would like to be seen. From this information, dolls that reflected residents’ self-images were created. For example, if a resident loved to cook, the doll wore an apron and maybe had its hair tied back. Like the Village buildings, these dolls also serve as reminders of each person’s individuality.

Meanwhile, residents at some facilities created composite depictions of their histories that were sewn together to make Talking Quilts. At the exhibition, the student-resident interviews that inspired the quilts were played so that visitors would understand their meaning. As a post-9/11 variation of the Talking Quilts, NewCourtland residents got together to create a Healing Quilt in the style of an American flag to honor Philadelphia’s fire and police departments. Embroidered on the quilt were personal sentiments, messages, or words of gratitude from the elders and students. This quilt has touched so many hearts that, when it travels to various locations around Philadelphia, it is escorted by a color guard provided by the safety forces that it honors.

The exhibit had other audiovisual components, as well. The latest flat-screen video monitors ran another, more technologic endeavor-the stop-action animated film Time Brings On Change. According to Mammarella, the residents at the Cheltenham York Road facility wanted to create a puppet show. “We decided to take the puppet show concept one step further,” says Mammarella, “and with help from Melodyvision turned it into an animated video.” The youth involved with this project were part of Operation Understanding, an organization that had been sending African-American students to Israel and Jewish students to African countries to learn about cultural diversity. Because of current world conditions, it was decided to teach the students about cultural diversity on a local level, with the added bonus of exposing them to age diversity. This group of 11 students and 13 residents wrote their own script based on a resident’s actual experience, built miniature sets, created clay-like characters, and acted their parts. “Everyone worked together beautifully to create this story about a local hospital being razed and through community activism, the neighborhood coming together to build its own medical clinic to serve its needs,” explains Mammarella.

In another section of the Klein Gallery, a DVD player ran a series of two- and three-minute video vignettes about the Comfort & Joy program that ran on Philadelphia’s PBS station, WHYY. “These segments ran on the senior-focused program Wider Horizons, and continued to run as bumpers between other programs. They have been so successful that we will be doing new spots for WHYY in which children and residents will tell what working together has meant to them,” says Mammarella.

Meanwhile, the sounds of the Voices of Ages Intergenerational Choir permeated the gallery, and even the Golden Eagle Scouts, NewCourtland’s senior scouts, were featured in a special area. “Although this group did not create any artwork for display,” says Schimmel, “they certainly deserved recognition, so we designed a display that featured photos of their activities with local troops from the Boy Scouts of America’s Cradle of Liberty Council’Western District, such as cooking and camping. Their troop flag was displayed along with a uniform. It was important to acknowledge their achievement because it is, at present, the only senior scout program in the country.” Mammarella adds that one of the most heartwarming moments for her was when some of the Golden Eagle Scouts arrived in full dress uniform, sat in their display area, and fielded questions from visitors.

Not only did the residents enjoy seeing their work in a professional presentation, but the students were also moved. “The exhibit was incredibly touching,” says Thomas Fuell, a senior at Masterman School in Philadelphia. “I saw not only the Time Brings On Change video project with the group of elders and students I worked with, but also saw the projects of others. I hadn’t realized the scope of these projects until this event, but when I did, I felt a wave of emotion wash over me because I realized that other people were given the opportunity to form similar bonds and have experiences similar to mine. It made me smile.”

He was not alone in realizing their participation’s importance. Anna McGorman, a junior at Friends Select School, comments, “It was one thing to enjoy the weekly visits and projects with the elders, but it was really extraordinary to see how all the work came together. The exhibit not only reminded me of the many wonderful memories created by the project, it also allowed me to join together with my new friends and celebrate them. I will never forget the looks on my friends’ faces when they saw our creation.” According to Mammarella, Anna’s observation was right on the money: “The residents were mesmerized watching themselves in some of the documentaries or seeing their work on display. Their happiness filled the room.”

Since NewCourtland’s facilities are in the inner city, many project themes or depictions are Afrocentric. “One of the visitors to the exhibit was Justine Cox, executive director of the African American Museum in Philadelphia,” relates Schimmel, “and there are plans to have the Comfort & Joy exhibit move to that venue after it leaves the Klein Gallery. In addition, there is a possibility that all or part of this exhibit may become part of the Art in City Hall project and be displayed at Philadelphia’s City Hall. Needless to say, this exhibit has received attention.”

“Working with the Klein Gallery has been a wonderful experience and we plan to collaborate on future intergenerational activities,” says Mammarella. “Meanwhile, our Comfort & Joy program continues to grow.” For example, at NewCourtland’s Maplewood Manor facility, plans for a wandering garden are underway. To add interest to the path and make it their own, residents want to paint or tile totems that visually describe who they are. This project has generated interest not only from school groups, but also community organizations, thereby incorporating adult participation to add a multigenerational dimension to the program.

From scouting activities to sharing the magic of music and art with their neighbors, the residents of NewCourtland’s network happily give as much “comfort and joy” as they receive. Although they live in nursing homes, these seniors stay connected to life by sharing their ideas and memories with children and making them come alive-together.

For more information, contact Pam Mammarella, NewCourtland Elder Services, Director of Corporate Communications and creator of the Comfort & Joy program, at (877) 769-9953, fax (215) 965-1909, e-mail info@newcourtland.org, or visit www.newcourtland.org.
A collaboration of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging and Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management Not-for-Profit Report, appearing in every issue of Nursing Homes magazine, addresses issues of particular interest to long-term care’s not-for-profit sector. It provides nonprofit aging service providers with an additional information resource. Topics have been identified in collaboration with the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Nursing Homes welcomes comments and suggestions for future coverage.

A Veterans’ Day of tribute

As young soldiers and sailors, they fought in the Ardennes forests, the Pacific waters off Midway, the jungles of Khe Sanh, and the mountainous terrain of Heartbreak Ridge. World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam-brave American men and women served their country in these modern wars with courage and valor, as others continue to do today. These veterans have now grown old. Many of them were never celebrated when they returned home.

Since current world tensions have resurrected memories of the sacrifices of past generations, Deer Meadows Retirement Community, a CCRC of the Baptist Home of Philadelphia, decided to pay a long-overdue tribute to every veteran in its “family” with “A Salute to Our Military Family.”

When Michael J. Jacobs came on board as Deer Meadows’ executive director in November 2002, he expressed a desire to put together an event to recognize the veterans who live here for their service to our country. “We need to thank them in a big way for their unselfishness. Some of them came back wounded, while others returned home alone after losing their friends on faraway battlefields,” says Jacobs.

The executive team gave its full support to the project. Jacobs adds, “You know what, we’re a family here. Let’s include not only resident veterans, but also veterans on the board and staff.” Everyone swapped ideas, solicited donations, and offered creative suggestions that would make “A Salute to Our Military Family” one of the most moving and ambitious celebrations ever to take place on a long-term care campus.

With only 5+ months to pull the event together, the planning committee hit the ground running. There was entertainment to plan and a program to develop; there were speakers to schedule, props to rent, and dignitaries to invite. The “salute” was to be held in Deer Meadows’ parking lot, “rain or shine” (and, unfortunately, it did rain, but we had planned for it and rented a large tent that covered the parking lot).

Finally on Sunday, May 18, 2003, 1,000 people gathered on the Deer Meadows campus to officially honor 52 brave male and female veterans, who represented every branch of the armed forces. Guests came from across the country, and it was truly a star-spangled day throughout the community. Flags waved across the Deer Meadows campus-on porches, in windows, and along walkways. To open the ceremony, a color guard led a procession of American flags carried by more than 100 Junior ROTC cadets representing six inner-city high schools in the Philadelphia school district. Led by Lt. Col. Russ Gallagher, these young men and women were crisp, dignified, and precise in their presentation. Many also served as escorts for our honorees.

While the cadets stood at attention, everyone joined in the singing of our national anthem. Under the direction of John Bryant, pastor of Calvary Church, 50 residents, family, and staff performed as the Friends of Deer Meadows Choir. Higher Call, the Calvary Church choir, also performed, and lent their voices to the Friends of Deer Meadows renditions, as well. Interspersing songs of patriotism and inspiration throughout the program, the choir inspired young and old alike. Thirty members of the Tri-County Band volunteered their time and talents to provide musical accompaniment. Lorraine Guyton, Deer Meadows’ director of environmental services and security, remarked that when the Higher Call choir performed Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” she saw and felt the tears of remembrance, recognition, pride, appreciation, and joy that filled the eyes of the audience.

In this emotionally charged atmosphere, with flags waving and patriotic songs echoing throughout the tent, each veteran received a small flag name tag and a citation of thanks, and each was presented the colors (the familiar triangular-shaped folded flag) of our nation. Young ROTC cadets saluted each honoree. As Deer Meadows’ Director of Information Technology Dot Biela remarked, “It seems that there was one more vet there that day, although only I saw him. My father, a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, passed away two years ago.”

Following this presentation, Capt. (Ret.) David Christian, the country’s youngest and most highly decorated Vietnam veteran, who retired at age 21, addressed the assembly. When we planned this program, the war in Iraq had not yet begun and, although Christian, a national Fox News television consultant, had heavy responsibilities at the network, he arranged his schedule to ensure that he was here to share his thoughts and memories with his fellow servicemen and -women. Christian later commented that he has participated in many veteran functions, including funeral ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, and was touched by what we, as a care community, were able to do in honoring our military family.

Along with Christian’s remarks, the audience heard proclamations from Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, Esq., and Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, as well as greetings from President George W. Bush, who wrote, “By answering the call of duty, our brave men and women in uniform, along with their families, serve as examples of courage, dedication, and sacrifice. America is grateful for their selfless service.”

Although the rain was falling outside, inside the tent spirits soared. Some family members had been concerned that dredging up wartime memories might be painful. But after the program, they realized that these residents truly appreciated being recognized for their sacrifices. Some of the residents had as many as 17 family members present. One resident’s out-of-state daughter was hesitant about attending because she assumed that her father would be a shell of the man she remembered. When she left, she left happy. Her father told her that he didn’t come to Deer Meadows to die; he came to live. Hearing comments like this from families reminds us that what we do is a calling, not merely a career.

“A Salute to Our Military Family” was a one-time event that required more than 1,000 volunteer hours in planning and execution. It was an ambitious-and yes, expensive-undertaking. Replicating an event such as this on a smaller scale can be just as powerful and meaningful, however. The important part is to thank the people who helped protect the freedoms we enjoy today. As Christian remarked, “I want all those who have fallen on the battlefields of our many wars to look down and say, ‘Job well done, Deer Meadows family. Thank you.'”

Liz Harbison is Director of Public Relations and Marketing at Deer Meadows Retirement Community. For more information, phone (215) 624-7575 or visit www.deer-meadows.org.

They call it puppy love

This award-winning CCRC set out to sponsor a guide dog-and ended up sponsoring four

The concept of using animals as therapeutic aids for residents has been around for many years. The benefits of residents playing with puppies, kittens, and even pet rabbits have been well documented over the years. The residents of Freedom Village, a CCRC in Bradenton, Florida, have decided to “give back” to the animals in their own unique way: by sponsoring a puppy to be trained as a guide dog through the Southeastern Guide Dogs Association.

Southeastern Guide Dogs is one of nine schools in the United States that train puppies to become guide dogs, then place the dogs with the blind and visually impaired, free of charge. The organization receives no state, local, or other government funding; hence, Freedom Village was even more eager to help. “We have been involved with them for many years,” explains Freedom Village’s Director of Wellness and Community Relations Lothar Sachse. “At one time we also had an employee who had raised a guide dog here; she brought the dog to work and was affiliated with Southeastern Guide Dogs, as well. There have also been some residents in the past who had donated money on their own. So the relationship was there.”

That relationship continued to grow when Freedom Village residents began to volunteer as “puppy huggers.” While obviously not a difficult job, puppy hugging is vital to acclimate the puppies to all types of people and situations that they might encounter in their future jobs as guide dogs. In mid-2002, Freedom Village decided to take the next step and started the Paws for Independence fund-raising campaign.

“We decided we wanted to participate in Make A Difference Day, which takes place in late October every year, and is sponsored by USA Weekend,” says Sachse. “We put a committee of residents together and discussed what we were going to do and how to go about it, and decided that we wanted to adopt a dog. The cost of sponsoring one guide dog was $1,500, for which you get to name the dog and follow its progress as it grows up and goes through training.”

The 12-member committee started to plan special events designed to generate interest-and donations-for the program. “We have a very creative activities department-now called our Lifestyle Department-and they came up with a wonderful way to raise funds,” says Sachse. “They contacted a company that makes stuffed dogs, all different sizes, and came up with the idea that for a donation, you would get one of the stuffed dogs. For instance, with a $5 or $10 donation you would get a small dog, for $25, a larger dog, and so forth. I think the most expensive was $100, for which you received a pretty good sized golden retriever!”

In August 2002, Paws for Independence was launched at Freedom Village at a special “Puppy Preview Tea,” organized so residents could meet the newborn puppy for the first time. As part of this event, residents could make $1 donations in exchange to suggest a name for the puppy-a sort of naming raffle. After the resident committee reviewed the entries, the puppy-a black lab-was named “Scout,” and the proceeds were split between the winner of the contest and Southeastern Guide Dogs.

In September 2002, Freedom Village threw a “puppy shower” for Scout, donating more than $1,500 worth of toys, food, and other items. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston appeared at the event, and Florida Governor Jeb Bush sent an autographed harness for Scout. All the while, the fund-raising goal of $1,500 was in sight for the deadline Freedom Village had set for itself, October 26.

When the big day rolled around, Freedom Village held another event-Hot Dog Day. Conceived as a thank-you for the residents’ generosity, the event included more than 250 residents, Southeastern Guide Dogs representatives and, of course, puppies, dining on hot dogs and/or similarly themed treats. Residents who had donated to the program received their stuffed dogs, and Southeastern Guide Dogs was presented with a larger-than-expected check. “We started out with a goal of sponsoring just one dog, but we recognized that, with the way that it was going, we would have more money,” explains Sachse. “So we just let the project go its own way and raised enough to sponsor three dogs, about $4,500.”

Freedom Village recently presented Southeastern Guide Dogs with a check for a fourth dog, who will soon join Scout, Velvet, and Taffy as Freedom Village-sponsored guide dogs in training. In addition, Freedom Village was presented with AAHSA’s Community Service Award in recognition of the Paws for Independence program at the AAHSA National Conference in Denver on October 29, 2003.

According to Sachse, the program will continue indefinitely because of its success: “I think it’s a wonderful program, and the creative minds on our activities team really went all-out. Residents who no longer have dogs of their own still have the opportunity to see these dogs grow up and to follow their stories, and just get out there and play with them for a day. We’ve also had testimonials from vision-impaired people who have gotten dogs from Southeastern Guide Dogs, so we know that we are really making a difference in their lives, as well. We look forward to continuing this program.”

For more information on the Paws for Independence program at Freedom Village, please contact Lothar Sachse at lsachse@freedomvillage.com. For more information on Southeastern Guide Dogs, visit www.guidedogs.org.

Photos by Tammy L. Geraldson, courtesy of Freedom Village

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