Family is not an important thing. It's everything.
—Michael J. Fox
That’s a truth that the team members at The Arbors at Amherst take to heart. “What makes me proud is the truly exceptional way that every staff member cares about each and everyone of our residents like they were their own family member,” says Karen Walters-Zucco, executive director at Amherst.
It’s evident in the community’s responsiveness to resident needs.
- Residents requested a yoga class. Achieved.
- Residents requested a “lunch bunch” outing twice a month. Achieved.
- Residents requested fresh fruit daily as an option for dessert. Achieved.
- Residents requested newspaper delivery to their doors. Achieved.
- Residents requested concierge service from the front desk. Achieved.
- Residents requested wake-up calls. Achieved.
On an individual basis, when a resident was unable to charge her phone, a team member was designated to swing by her apartment to pick it up each morning, charge it, then return it to her.
When a resident was in short-term rehabilitation, but his daughter was on vacation, Karen took over the responsibility of doing his laundry for 2 weeks.
Keeping the Lines of Communication Open
Even in the best of families, communication can fail, but at The Arbors at Amherst, they’ve instituted procedures to ensure the lines of communication are always open.
Karen explains, “Every department head has an open door policy with the expectation that they are socializing with residents and families on a daily basis. After all, if the residents were our family members, wouldn’t we be doing the same thing? We truly treat each resident and family like our own family member.”
Each month, Karen or another department head meets with the resident council. She doesn’t just have an open-door policy, she actively seeks out residents and their families and asks them about their concerns, needs, and ideas for improvement.
“We have long-standing resident and family relationships and outstanding communication with each resident and family member,” she notes. “We meet formally with residents once a month, but as the executive director, I make sure that I am out of my office meeting with residents and families on a daily basis, including evening and weekends when families visit more often.
“We have daily communication with all staff as it pertains to any changes in care plans for any resident.”
Family members of residents have Karen’s personal cell phone number and are encouraged to text or email at any time.
Developing a Family Relationship
The attitude of caring extends to every person who works in the building, from the laundry to the kitchens to housekeeping. “What makes me proud is each team member works for the resident, ensuring that every one of their needs are met and that they are happy and well cared for,” Karen remarks.
Sometimes, this means team members come in early or stay late—”whatever it takes to meet residents’ needs.”
However, more important is the relationships between residents and their families and team members. “The relationships that are developed between the residents and the staff are truly a beautiful thing to watch,” she adds.
The feeling of working toward a single goal—the health and happiness of residents—also unifies the staff. Each month, all team members meet to discuss how they can do better. “All staff have the opportunity to come together across all departments to show and feel like a unified team,” she explains.
Meeting Resident Needs and Wants
Karen is proud of her Arbors at Amherst family—residents, their families, and team members—and she loves to brag about them.
“The Arbors at Amherst is located down the street from the University of Massachusetts’ flagship campus and within a five-college community, which lends to highly educated residents, and family members,” she describes.
As a result, The Arbors at Amherst’s life enrichment programs are at a higher level. Programming includes:
- A classical pianist who presents a history about a musical piece and then plays it. The pianist discusses the music, the composer, and the context.
- A weekly discussion group with topics as varied as history, religion and politics, mindfulness, and teaching peace.
- A documentary discussion group
- A weekly book club run by Jones Library
- An art class by resident artist Jean D’Andrea
- Educational lectures
University of Massachusetts Partners
The Arbors at Amherst’s proximity to the University of Massachusetts and other nearby institutions of learning has definite benefits.
Undergraduate students in nursing, psychology, and sociology volunteer to fulfill their degree requirements. “We hire UMass students who are pursuing degrees in nursing and physical therapy, as well as pre-med,” Karen adds.
UMass music majors have also performed their master’s thesis musical performances on the baby grand piano in The Arbors’ library.
It’s All about Caring
By developing relationships among residents, their families, and team members, The Arbors at Amherst ensures residents receive the care, attention, support, and love they need and deserve. As Karen says, “We care, and it shows in everything we say and do.”