Being a bird-lover, the first thing I was drawn to entering Rolling Fields' reception area was Gabby, the cockatoo. Her cage was strategically positioned in a corner with soft chairs around it; a little queen waiting for her audience. I obliged by walking over and scratching her head; a bird's version of heaven. Not too long after that, Chester, a black mutt, came strolling down the hall welcoming staff and residents' attention. I was later to find out Rolling Fields has three “house” dogs and many birds stationed in cages throughout the home. These animal buddies made the 181-bed home feel warm and lived-in. One can't help coming away from Rolling Fields feeling like you've just been welcomed into a big, friendly family.
Associate Editor Kevin Kolus and I headed east last month and made the two-hour trip from Cleveland to Conneautville, Pennsylvania, to present Rolling Fields with Long-Term Living's 2009 OPTIMA Award-an accolade that celebrates resident-centered care above and beyond what is normally done to meet the needs of residents. This was my first OPTIMA presentation as editor-in-chief. Former editor-in-chief Richard Peck told me the OPTIMA award presentation was one of the highlights of his year. I have to admit that sounded rather lofty to me, but having experienced it I can now see why he looked forward to it every year. What the OPTIMA Award does is allow staff a minute to step back and actually feel what they do for residents. In this case, it was offering 24-hour dining.
To mark the occasion, tents were set up on the grounds on a beautiful late summer day. Many of the staff and elders were wearing their Sunday best and sipping champagne (or sparkling grape juice). Wheelchairs formed the first row of chairs. An elder in a big pink picture hat dozed while waiting for the festivities to begin. A reporter from the town newspaper was there as well as local dignitaries.
The most special part of the celebration came when staffers who had worked on the 24-hour dining program had an opportunity to say what it had meant to them. I got goosebumps listening to some of the answers. “Life-changing,” “an honor,” “a privilege,” “the best thing I've ever done,” were all used to describe the experience. Tears were shed, many hugs shared, and a sense of unity and unmistakable love and camaraderie permeated the gathering. Kevin said to me, “I had no idea our magazine could have such an effect on people.” And we as editors, much like the staff at Rolling Fields and most other long-term care facilities, don't usually step back and take a look at what we've done and the effect it has on people. I was very proud that Long-Term Living could play a role in giving some much-deserved attention to a group of people who did something out of sheer concern for others. Putting others' needs before your own is the true definition of love in my book.
It was an honor to share Rolling Fields' accomplishment. I would encourage you to enter OPTIMA 2010. Details will be in our February issue. You owe it to yourself, your staff, and your facility to have your hard, and many times selfless, work recognized. Long-Term Living is only too happy to help.
Maureen Hrehocik Long-Term Living 2009 October;58(10):8