By Alexander Germanis
It has long been construed that once one reaches senior citizen status the best years of one’s life are somehow over. For decades, the rather depressing terms ‘declining years,’ ‘autumn,’ or even ‘winter years’ have been associated with retirement age.
The residents and staff at Dial Retirement Communities have proven otherwise. Not only do seniors continue to live more viable lives, residents in their communities can enjoy an entirely new lease on life — improving mind, body, and spirit in ways previously thought lost to those of the senior generation.
Director of Health Services Emily Buckles, RN, BSN, MSN, currently oversees the wellness of the residents in all 17 Dial Communities. In the last five years, however, she has worked in many different aspects, including being the Director of Nursing at The Fountains Senior Living in Bettendorf.
Where she works within the interconnected family of communities is not that important to her though. “For me, no matter which role I have participated in, I always enjoy most spending time with the residents and getting to know them,” Emily says. “Nursing and ensuring our residents get the best care is at the heart of all I do!”
That desire to serve seniors stems back her youth. “My grandmother was actually the reason I became a nurse,” she shares. “She was ill when I was in high school and I was able to help take care of her in-home and this gave me the love for nursing and caring for the older population. I have now been a nurse for almost 10 years and I have always enjoyed spending time with and taking care of seniors.”
From Illinois to Colorado, Dial Communities stay connected, which can be a distinct advantage for the residents. Should a resident wish to relocate — perhaps to be closer to certain family members — they are able to do so.
“It gives them the opportunity to move with an easy, seamless transition, by our staff communicating property-to-property of what is needed for the resident,” Emily explains. “For the families and residents knowing they are going to receive the same great care no matter which Dial property they are located in is a wonderful feeling.”
For the team members at Dial, such a transition is also made easier thanks to information sharing between the communities. “We all share the same pharmacy and computer system,” she continues. “And for us as nurses, completing the necessary paperwork and documentation needed for a resident who wants to transfer is very minimal.”
A Growing Family
Residents, of course, are not simply an amalgamation of their files. “When we have a new resident move in we make it our mission to find out what they enjoy, who that person is, and what we can do to make them feel at ease as they transition into this new phase of their lives,” Emily says. “I always joked that when I would go do an assessment for a resident to move in that I was their least favorite person because they were moving into our property and leaving their home. But I tell them, ‘Give me 30 days and we will best of friends.’”
That level of care and friendship is what sets Dial apart from other retirement communities. “It is a feeling you get when you walk into one of our properties; it gives you a sense of ease and comfort knowing that your loved ones are going to get the best quality care and respect they deserve,” Emily states.
“To us they are not just another resident filling a room; they truly do become family, which I know is what everyone says,” she continues. “But I can say that we truly are. My closest friends are my coworkers, residents, and residents’ families.”
Emily does not just talk the talk; she walks the walk. “My own grandmother lives at our Davenport location, Silvercrest Garner Farms, and I know the staff there treat her like family.”
Always There to Help
Dial sets itself apart by not only the quality of care but the quantity as well. The assisted living and memory care residents have access to staff 24/7, who will come to their aid with just the push of a button on a pendant. Both units are staffed with three to four aides during the day and two overnight.
Independent living residents can contact an ambassador any time of any day as well. The ambassador can help with anything from checking the security of the campus to fixing TVs or coming to the aid of anyone needing medical help.
Implementing the Hearthstone program, Emily says they are able to keep their memory care residents engaged in activities all day long.
“The programming allows the residents to remain autonomous with their activities of daily living,” she states. These activities build in them a certain sense of pride — “challenging them with activities appropriate for their respective cognitive levels, but also giving them the freedom to make decisions for themselves on what they like or want to do.”
In other words, the residents engage with the staff and each other, deciding what aspects of life they want to enjoy and then doing them. Emily is happy to report the program has been very successful: “With the program we are able to see a decrease in both falls and behaviors due to the fact that residents are out and active all day long.”
Five Areas of Wellness
Whether in memory care, assisted, or independent living, Dial residents engage in all five areas of wellness: physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and social.
Partnering with Nothern Iowa Therapy in the Quad Cities and Kindred and Phys Med in other areas, Dial residents can engage in physical, occupational, or speech therapy five days a week. “Having more consistent therapy allows our residents to have a better advantage to be able to stay with us longer and it gives them more energy,” Emily shares.
Keeping the mind active, regardless of age, is paramount to keeping it young. The advantage to being a part of a larger community is it is easier to keep mentally engaged. While activities are provided to keep residents engaged and thinking, they remain active with each other’s help as well. Residents lead discussions about their lives and trave l— sharing, teaching, and learning from each other.
This interaction extends to meeting spiritual needs, too, as residents can also lead their own Bible study groups. But for more encompassing spiritual health, residents are encouraged to attend and participate in church services. “At The Fountains currently we have partnered with St. John Vianney Church,” Emily says. “They provide Catholic mass every Thursday to our residents. We get around 40 to 50 residents weekly who come and participate.”
“Emotional well-being is a key factor,” Emily adds. Through a program called Life Loop, family and Dial team members can track the activities of those in their care. Should a resident’s activity experience a significant dropoff, Life Loop allows those who care to better notice.
Interaction with both one another but the greater community as a whole allow for stronger social connections, too. “Our residents have more of a social life than I do,” Emily jokes. “They are constantly participating in group activities, outings, dining. There is something for everyone in regards to social interaction.”
Residents also participate in volunteer opportunities, partnering with local schools, law enforcement, food banks, veterans’ homes, homeless shelters, and animal shelters. “I believe that is the big advantage to senior living,” Emily says. “Many times as seniors age in-home they lose that social interaction that is key to living longer. Having that social interaction keeps the mind engaged and improves their emotional wellbeing.
Leah Luna, Marketing Director for Fountains Senior Living, agrees, expressing that concentrating on the five areas of wellness has a decided goal: “Offering extra support and therapy in-house keeps our residents stronger, more healthy, and happy.”
Love the Way You Live
It is the motto of Dial Retirement Communities: Love the way you live. Emily and Leah are just two out of many women and men who are always looking for ways to help make that motto a daily reality — to do whatever they can in order to help their residents live stronger, happier, and healthier lives; in short, to re-discover their love for life.
To learn more about The Fountains in Bettendorf contact Leah at 563-332-5775. For more information about Silvercrest Garner In Davenport contact Michelle at 563-386-9196.