What was remarkable about both renovation projects was the way the community supported the quality improvement initiatives.
One day the husband of a newly admitted resident came to see me to discuss his wife’s situation. The resident had advanced Alzheimer’s Disease and, to anyone outside the Executive Director’s office, it would have undoubtedly look very dire. From this conversation, the seeds were planted to cultivate a new chapter of renewal in a seniors campus. It was centered around a group of concerned caregivers who started a Family Council to enhance programs and services for their family members.
The Family Council at Tabor Village in Abbotsford, B.C. established a successful community fundraising dinner that raised enough money to renovate the multi-purpose room in the 55 year old skilled nursing facility. The results were transformative, changing the much used common space from an institutional setting to a living room. The entire Tabor Village community was so thrilled with the interior design product that a repeat performance took place. This past fall the Family Council organized another, larger fundraising dinner raising even more funds to transform an outdoor center courtyard that, for the most part, was inaccessible and unusable for seniors. The courtyard went from a stark and tired unkempt, seemingly forgotten space to a beautiful, award winning therapeutic garden. More on the garden can be found at this link.
Broad Community Involvement
What was remarkable about both renovation projects was the way in which the community supported these quality improvement initiatives. Volunteers led the redevelopment of the garden, from recruiting a celebrity master gardener to engaging a highly respected landscape architect. A board member spent much of the spring volunteering his time to oversee the construction of the grounds. The attention to detail and pre-planning was beyond what anyone who was part of the initial visioning of the space might have hope for. The list of all the special features are too numerous to mention in a short summary of the project. At the ribbon cutting ceremony the mayor talked about the joy the renewed space would bring to seniors, their families and caregivers. What a blessing to have a community participate in every aspect of creating the best possible outdoor living environment. One of the drivers behind the upgrading of the living environment projects is the notion that, besides medical appointments and a bus outing once a week, the majority of nursing home residents never leave their facility. With limited independence and the loss of freedom to travel due to their dependency on the specialized living environment, it was even more important to build a space that truly honors seniors’ dignity and provides a sense of well being.
How did this transformation in the living environment happen and why now? The key was a commitment to excellence through culture change that starts with leadership, shepherding the enhancement of social, spiritual and care needs of seniors. Add to that a Board of Directors that faithfully encourages and unconditionally supports a governance model that enables leaders to lead a team of employees and volunteers, inspiring them with a commitment to continuously improving the quality of life. There is true value in servant leadership. This means leading and valuing leadership as an act of service, empowering others to be all they can be, knowing that we have an obligation to help and serve others. Ultimately, this value translates into seniors demonstrating their independence to participate in thing such as horticultural activities that take them away from their current challenges physically and mentally. A wise man once said, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it”. Challenge, change and courage are all necessary ingredients for this type of transformation to take place in work and in life. The human spirit yearns for survival despite setbacks that life sometimes presents, unexpected challenges and unforeseen opportunities. Focusing on the positives of change, taking responsibility led, in this community, to proven results. Dan
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I think a crucial piece of information is missing from the write-up about this wonderful community effort — an aspect about this community that makes it unique and difficult to replicate in the world of big city, chain settings… and that is that Tabor Village is located in a primarily (or at least was primarily) a Mennonite Brethren farming community. I would suspect there is a strong sense of community in and outside Tabor Village that makes this place unique — but unique also to other affinity or community-based senior housing settings.
Raising funds in Abbotsford, BC among the larger community — beyond the family members of the current residents — may work so well because people see Tabor Village as their own — where grandparents lived, aging parents may need soon, and where they may eventually end up. I know the Masons retirement homes in the U.S. work a lot like this, for eg. which is similar to the small, church-begun skilled nursing home in the farming community of Iowa where I grew up. My research in large, mid-Atlantic suburban and urban senior housing settings tells me the funding and even the initiative for these kind of projects would have to come from the administration and corporate offices — and would need to be justified in terms of cost-benefit.