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Residents blossom at Magnolia Gardens

April 1, 2007
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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It is choice—not chance—that enriches residents' daily lives through creative social programming

Residents and staff enjoy the fresh air on a stroll around the campus

Residents and staff enjoy the fresh air on a stroll around the campus


It's a sunny springtime afternoon and a group of residents gather and wait for their transportation to arrive. Today, the guys, along with a few of the ladies, are taking in a ball game. Another group of residents meet on the sidewalk to take an invigorating walk around the campus. Meanwhile, other residents prefer a hot cup of coffee and conversation in the café. Why? Because this is what they like to do, and at Magnolia Gardens, residents get to do what they want.

In today's interpretation of long-term care, the buzz is all about resident choice and preference. Many long-term care facilities claim that their programs are resident-driven, but are they? At Magnolia Gardens, a 79-unit assisted living facility in Toms River, New Jersey, resident input has been vital from the day the facility opened its doors in 2002.

“Residents have been involved in determining their social, recreational, leisure, and spiritual activities from day one,” says Administrator Cathy Vakulchik, RN, LNHA, “and they are instrumental in the planning, execution, and participation of much of the social programming.” In fact, Magnolia Gardens' success in blending resident input with staff-designed activities has been recognized by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS), which recognized the facility with its 2006 Assisted Living Best Practice award for enhancing the social experience.

Getting a Resident's View


Pet visits are eagerly anticipated

Pet visits are eagerly anticipated


According to Assistant Administrator Amy Palazzo, CALA, the activities staff begins creating a sample calendar of activities for the residents. “Every month, however, we have an activities planning meeting with the residents and they weigh in on what they liked or didn't like about past activities and let us know what new ventures they would like to see incorporated in the calendar,” she says. “But,” adds Vakulchik, “resident involvement is ongoing and be-gins at admission.”


Magnolia Gardens' library hosts a discussion group

Magnolia Gardens' library hosts a discussion group





Residents enjoy a friendly card game

Residents enjoy a friendly card game


When someone moves to Magnolia Gardens, the activity director meets with the resident and his or her family and talks about the resident's likes, former hobbies, new interests, and religious affiliation. “In this way,” says Palazzo, “if we know a resident enjoys gardening and we have a horticultural activity, we make sure that the resident is invited and encouraged to participate.”

Magnolia Garden's open-door policy also embraces family and staff opinions and suggestions. “It's not unusual for a resident or family member to drop in and say, ‘That was a really good program last night,’ or ‘Hmmm, bingo didn't go too well, did it?’” This type of feedback and interaction among staff, residents, and families can happen anywhere—even in the hallways. In addition to maximizing the opportunities for socialization, Magnolia Gardens encourages—and expects—its entire staff to engage residents and become active participants when pos-sible. Vakulchik explains that the administration looks at that personal involvement as part of the job. “We see this as getting involved and making the residents happy,” Palazzo stresses. In addition to satisfaction surveys, residents and families are interviewed annually to find out what new interests can be added. These methods ensure that programming continues to meet resident expectations.

Designed for Socialization

“Magnolia Gardens has a very open physical layout,” says Vakulchik, “which gives us an opportunity to offer a wide variety of activities, entertainment, and social events.” Atrium Circle, located in the center of the building, is the hub of Magnolia Gardens. Furnished with comfortable chairs and sofas, this area is a place for residents to relax, visit, or just enjoy the calming sounds of the Atrium's fishpond and waterfall. The building and its amenities were designed to enhance residents' lives and opportunities for personal enrichment.


Exercise or relaxation is available at the warm-water pool

Exercise or relaxation is available at the warm-water pool


There is a lot to do at Magnolia Gardens. Residents can sit in authentic red plush velvet movie theater seats to watch classic films and new releases on a 10-foot screen in the facility's movie theater, which is also used for resident council meetings and resident and family educational conferences. In addition to the theater, Magnolia Gardens provides residents with other destinations, including an 18-foot indoor heated pool.

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