When outsiders sing a nursing home’s praises

It’s one thing to have industry peers tout your successes but it can be especially sweet and validating when an outsider sings your praises. That certainly can apply to this year’s OPTIMA Award winner, who shall remain secret for just a bit longer. The nursing and retirement community presented an impressive case for its revamped resident-focused dining program, which wowed our judges with its well-developed plan, staff buy-in and expandability for other communities.

(To those unfamiliar with the OPTIMA Award, Long-Term Living annually recognizes long-term care communities that are proactive with programs that go “above and beyond” routine care for their residents.)

But none of that mattered to Rick Friedman, the freelancer I hired to shoot photos of the community for our September issue article on the winner. Rick typically covers high-ranking politicians, celebrities and influential businesspeople for major publications like The New York Times and USA Today. (When last we spoke he was traveling to photograph Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.)

During my conversation with Rick after the OPTIMA shoot I found myself apologizing for the less-than-glamorous nature of his assignment. His reply surprised me and made me feel ashamed for making apologies for our industry. Rick had loved the assignment. He went in with the same hesitancy many people have when they visit a nursing home—a bit apprehensive and certainly not expecting anything special. He came away impressed with the facility’s team, its residents and the dining program, which has invigorated the spirit of the community.

Rick said he could feel that the staff members really cared about the work they were doing and the residents they served. And the residents confirmed this impression with their vocal praises. There was laughter, there was energy, there was engagement. In fact, Rick said he’d be happy to accompany me when I make my own visit to the community this fall to present the OPTIMA Award trophy. “I can’t wait to see the article,” he added.

Look for this year’s OPTIMA story in the upcoming September issue of Long-Term Living. And, I invite you to submit your own award-worthy program for consideration next year. (We’ll send out a call for entries in the first quarter.)

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