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Spreading Random Acts Of Kindness In Senior Care

February 14, 2020 | Lisa Fordyce

Blog-Spreading-The-Love-In-Senior-CareIt’s Valentine’s Day – a day dedicated to spreading the love. It's a time to tell all the people in our lives, not just our significant others, how much we cherish and appreciate them. I know we're all feeling and spreading love today, but why not make it a year-round practice? 

This idea for this post came to me when I got an alert from a local news station. A novel coronavirus was being investigated in my area. I opened the article to learn more and came across something that really struck me.

The Ohio Department of Health expressed they were doing their diligence to monitor and contain the situation, but the director of the Ohio Department of Health added this message:

“Ohioans are known for treating one another, as well as visitors, with acceptance, respect, and understanding,” she said. “Whether someone is ill or well, a traveler or not, they deserve to be afforded the same kindness. Please keep this in mind as we learn more about the 2019 novel coronavirus.”

Just think of the world we could create if we treated others kindly without being told to? One where we made it a point to be more respectful, compassionate and helpful to everyone--our colleagues, our clients, the barista at the coffee shop, the person at the grocery store.

We don’t need to wait for a catastrophic situation to be better to one another. I got to thinking about some of the ways that I could make being kinder a daily practice. A few personal stories, most of them involving my colleagues, came to mind. I wanted to share them and hopefully inspire you all to practice more kindness.

When I joined Emeritus Senior Living after the Summerville Senior Living merger, I was going to be the new girl on a team that had worked together for many years. I remember being so nervous as I waited for my new colleagues to pick me up from the airport for training. But, when the car pulled up to the curbside, all five of them jumped out to greet me – helping to load my bags into the car, hugging me and telling me how excited they were to work with me.

I then returned home to special gift from my boss - a portable GPS for my car. He called our team the “road warriors” since we would be traveling around to area communities and thought it would be helpful. These gestures made me immediately feel part of the team and showed me that I would be well supported in my new role.

I also recalled how wonderful and supportive my colleagues and company leadership were when my grandfather passed. So much so, that the majority of flowers and arrangements at his funeral service were from people I worked with. It was so incredibly touching.

Similarly, a few years ago, I left my role at Senior Lifestyle Corporation to spend time with my family and ill grandmother. She sadly passed away four months later and once again, it was my industry friends who shared in my loss and demonstrated unbelievable compassion. One former colleague even drove nearly six hours to be at the funeral.

Leaving the operator side of the senior living industry was one of the most difficult choices I’ve made. Although I thoroughly enjoyed every minute working alongside my work family, being on the road kept me away from my biological family more than I wanted.

The day after I announced my decision, I heard from Mark Woodka, OnShift’s CEO, who I had known for many years through my companies’ use of their software and the partnership they offered. He wanted to check in, make sure everything was okay and thank me for my work. When I explained to Mark my reasons for needing to be home, he gave me his well wishes. His genuine concern was so touching and something that stuck with me.

So later that year, when Mark reached out to me about joining the team, I recalled his unsolicited kindness. It was this gesture and the mission and values of OnShift that made me certain it was a perfect fit.

I’ve been so fortunate to experience acts of kindness in various roles throughout my career. This really is an industry filled with some wonderful, selfless people. But, of course, there’s more we can do. There’s no such thing as too much kindness – especially when it comes to front line staff, who work so hard for our residents each day.

Providers can easily incorporate simple, yet thoughtful, things to show front-line staff they are appreciated. Remember these do not need to be grand, expensive gestures – it really is the thought behind the act that counts. Publicly recognize your stand-out employees at staff meetings and give them a personalized gift, celebrate work anniversaries, engagements and other life milestones. Really take time to get to know employees on more than just a surface level. Because when you acknowledge who your caregivers are as people, outside of their given role, that's when you create lasting relationships.

It can be a challenge to balance company culture with competing initiatives, which is why it’s so important to have those mentors, trusted advisers and colleagues that help keep the culture conversations front and center. I had the privilege of working with many that made this a priority and you could feel the positive energy throughout their buildings.

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About Lisa Fordyce

Having started her career as a caregiver and expanding into operations leadership, Lisa has held senior executive operations positions at national senior housing organizations, leading overall business strategies and day-to-day operations to deliver quality resident care and services. She is one of the most widely recognized operations leaders in the senior living profession and is known for her ability to make an impact by emphasizing both business and quality care. Prior to joining OnShift, Lisa was Chief Operating Officer at Senior Lifestyle Corporation, leading the overall operational strategies. She has held operations management positions with Emeritus Senior Living and ARV Assisted Living and served as an Ohio Assisted Living Association Board Trustee. Lisa is also an avid volunteer, raising money for Lungevity - Breathe Deep Newark, working as a teacher volunteer for preschool and k-3 children, and participating in a Helping Hands program at her local church.

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