From Joe Steier-
There is nothing worse for any of us than putting our siblings into a long term facility knowing they most likely will never come back out. I, like many of you, have had both of my parents pass away inside a Signature Community in two very different ways, but the brother I shared a small bedroom, with beds two feet apart, for nearly two decades is a whole different emotion for me. He lived at home until he was in his 40s due to a tragic brain injury incurred in his early 20s and tried various group homes until he needed nearly one-on-one care and was removed from his waiver program. Mom’s deathbed request was to take care of him like she did to keep him happy and safe, which was a very haunting request for a busy man with four kids who can barely take care of himself. Being an SHC stakeholder, my friends rallied around me and emotionally led me through
the transition out of his group home to SHC of South Louisville where we would sell it to my brother as “micro living condos” with Chef Sharon and the Award Winning Quality of Life leader, and it looked like it might work. But within the first week everything turned into to an emotional tirade of frustration and habitual patterns of disruption requiring a potential discharge to a mental hospital, and I would need a miracle to honor my mother’s dying request…
From Lindse Murphy –
It is said that miracles happen when we least expect them, especially when we want something with all our heart. November 15th, 2016 started off like any normal home office day. I sat in my favorite robe, sipping on a glass of sweet tea, while answering email messages and organizing paperwork. I could have never imagined the next call I received would lead to one of the most gratifying professional and personal experiences of my life. I answered the phone and heard one of Signature’s executive leaders on the other end. I could hear the concern in his voice. He explained to me that SHC’s
CEO had recently placed his brother Ray, who had a Traumatic Brain Injury, into one of our Louisville facilities and they needed my help. He went on to tell me that Ray had been discharged from his group home of four years due to uncontrolled seizures. Since being at Signature of South Louisville, he had been verbally and physically aggressive toward staff and the facility felt they had no choice but to find alternative placement. As I sat there listening I immediately thought of Joe, and how scary this all must have been to have someone so dear to him in a crisis. I knew the situation was urgent. When I arrived, I was greeted by the CEO and Director of Nursing, who graciously thanked me for coming. I could tell this had been very overwhelming for everyone.. I learned that he had only been at Louisville South for 45 days and in that time he had experienced two falls, was having seizures two to three times a week, had gained a significant amount of weight, and had been aggressive toward his caregivers who were with him on one-to-one at all times. I also learned that he was not sleeping well and would only catnap on the dayroom sofa for 5-10 minutes at a time, but was never getting a restful night’s sleep. The next 48 hours were jammed packed with me learning as much about Ray as possible…watching him throughout different shifts and gathering lots of data to figure out exactly what may have been causing such a significant change which started almost a year ago. I dove in head first and spoke to all Ray’s 1:1 staff, worked closely with his Nurse Practitioner on his medical needs, attended his neurology and psychiatry appointments, analyzed and graphed weeks of data on his sleeping, eating and behavioral patterns, and facilitated a conference call with all of the providers who were working so closely with Ray. As a Behavior Analyst, I was used to pulling “all-nighters”, and this was no exception. It turned out Ray’s seizures and aggression were triggered by his lack of sleep, poor diet and inconsistencies with behavioral management. The goal was to develop care planning that would help manage all three areas, as they directly correlated with one another.
On November 21st several strategies were implemented…his VNS implant (vagal nerve stimulator) was increased to a higher voltage, a new seizure medication was added at night, caffeine was eliminated after 5pm and a daily schedule was initiated to provide Ray with a consistent routine. I spent the next 24 hours educating all the nursing staff on a personalized behavior plan that included Ray’s preferred activities, as well as how staff should interact with him and respond during a crisis situation. One to one staff were trained to collect daily data on Ray’s sleep, eating and behavior patterns, and I have been calling the facility every day to check in on everything. Ray’s progress over the last twenty-one days is nothing short of a miracle! He has been seizure free for twenty-two days, is sleeping up to 8 hours a night in his bed and his water intake has nearly tripled each day. He is helping the team at South develop a healthy diet plan, and he has not had any physical aggression to date. Stakeholders have been giving rave reports about how happy Ray seems and how amazed they are with his turnaround. I have been told by numerous staff how much they love Ray and couldn’t imagine that not being his forever home. This is such a blessing to hear when just less than a month ago they were afraid they may have to seek alternative placement. As I’ve gotten to know not only the “patient” but also the man…. watching his personality develop, listening to his stories, hearing about his hopes and dreams, it reminds me of the true meaning of this magical time of year. So it got me to thinking…why couldn’t one of those dreams come true? That’s when “Operation Corvette” went into action. Like all teen boys, Ray dreamt of driving a red Corvette. So with a little help from Santa and his elves, Ray’s wish is coming true!
Ray’s CNA, Debra Peoples, who is a Restorative CNA, has been working closely with Ray as his 1:1 5-6 days a week since he came to us 9/29. He adores her and they really do have a beautiful bond together. She has gone above and beyond to ensure he is well groomed, but as independent as possible, eats a well balanced meal, drinks plenty of water, gets physical activity daily, ensures communication between all nursing staff, maintains his data log and plans and engages in meaningful conversations with him just like 2 friends would. As so many of our CNAs are, she is the true definition of our Sacred 6 Principles! Ray’s amazing progress shows us just how perfect God’s timing is. A brother’s overwhelming concern and staff’s exhausted efforts reminded me of how God’s plan is steps ahead, even if we don’t see it. Never did I imagine the strength of this man, the love of his brother, and the dedication of so many professionals could inspire me to see the true “magic” of Christmas. Reflecting back on everything since I’ve become a Behavior Analyst, most of the cases I have consulted on, although complex have resulted in a positive outcome. However, meeting Joe, helping Ray and getting to work so closely with the dedicated staff of Signature HealthCare has not only been a positive outcome, but a truly life changing and inspiring experience.
Behavioral Health Consultant-
Serenity HealthCare, LLC.
Earlier this month, we had amazing validation that our leaders are pioneering the Eden Alternative Movement where many previously believed it was for “one-off’s” or “not-for-profit” do-gooders only.
Let me tell you a quick, cool story that will show how dreams manifest when we commit, dig deep, and stay the course – the magic always happens!
Nearly a decade ago, I worked with the Pioneer Network (prior to their leadership change), and believed this “mind-set” needed culture change and a holistic caregiver approach for our organization.
We sent a few young revolutionaries up to Columbus, Ohio to attend their conference and assess culture change pathways, review operability, and decide if we could make it a widespread movement.
Since then, our Hometown Team started their Eden Alternative journey. They have “operationalized” culture change like no other mid-size operator ever!
They built custom culture change training, hardwired it into their daily culture and made it a big part of their vernacular. They also developed intergenerational learning through summer camps, enhanced the universal caregiver into the Holistic Caregiver model, and developed an Eden Alternative Milestone cadence, plus hundreds of other programming efforts that make it all work!
This past week, our team humbly accepted some big, meaningful awards that demonstrate we are a part of the change we all want to see.
Here is the list of winners:
- Lucy Kennedy, an Elder living at Signature HealthCARE of North Florida, won the Eden Alternative International Elder Award. She was nominated for her work with Senator Gaetz to increase the personal living allowance for Elders living in nursing homes in the state of Florida. The allowance was raised from $35 to $105 per month. Senator Gaetz said Lucy not only inspired him, but impacted his career in a positive way!
- Phillip Ramey, Chaplain at Riverview Health Care Center, received the Eden Alternative International Care Partner Award for his dedication to the Eden Alternative journey. Phillip exudes enthusiasm, leadership, passion and compassion for those around him, and is dedicated to making Elders’ lives more meaningful.
- Mountain City Care & Rehabilitation Center won the Eden Alternative Master Gardener Award for their work with the Holistic Caregiver model. They are working on an Eden Alternative Path to Mastery 3, and continue to blaze a trail of innovation in health care modeling.
- Angie McAllister was awarded the Nancy Fox Leadership Award for her leadership in culture change. She works with 60 homes in Signature’s Hometown segment to infuse culture change practices into the fabric of daily life.
In closing, we now have 28 Signature homes who completed Path to Mastery Milestone 1 and another nine who have completed Path to Mastery Milestone 2. This gives us 37 Signature homes who are fully immersed into the Promised Land and are helping us define the Revolution in a very tactical way!
From the time when I was little, I enjoyed visiting cemeteries because they show “a deep reverence for life” that I needed to witness in the darkest parts of my own soul. Even today, I still make impromptu visits and make all my children go each patriotic holiday as a family tradition. We spent nearly a full day at Arlington last trip because I feel a deep connection to never forget “them” – them in a broad sense – my parents, war veterans, close friends, and family. Maybe it is as much about me being scared to be forgotten as well.
I can’t really explain it but I have thought about The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial as a “bucket list” definite. However, I grew up with a deep belief we never need to leave the U.S. for recreational travel until we see all of our amazing country first. Call me a “Hikes Point redneck” if it makes you feel better, but there is just too much majestic beauty in America, that not seeing our own country first somehow made me a less patriotic American. And if anyone of us ever did see all 50 states, we would have seen so much topography diversity, people diversity, and climate diversity; we would not need to travel ever again. At least that’s what I thought until I witnessed Normandy, France last month.
Note: not to mislead anyone here, I have made various overseas trips in my lifetime, but mainly for business interests or a strong link to outside competitive golf, and a few foreign island romantic trips. Things like securing insurance at Lloyd’s of London, examining healthcare opportunities, or investing in restaurants in Beijing, China, and caddying for my kids in a Scotland golf event – just to give you some context.
Being 49, I grew up with World War II history around me everywhere I looked – informally and formally. For as long as I can remember, I’ve read books in civics and history classes in my catholic schools or watched classic movies like the Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. I heard war stories passed down from many different social settings which led me to believe that June 6 to June 8, 1944 are some of our country’s most sacred days that should be true U.S. holidays equal to many we celebrate now.
Being in an “aging care” industry and a Signature stakeholder, we have been blessed to serve and care for hundreds of military heroes and World War II veterans over the past decade. We have inducted many of these great men and women into our Signature Hall of Fame annually, and I’ve had the opportunity to thank many of them personally. I have put them all on such a pedestal because I never served, but I know how blessed we are to live in a “free democratic world” as American citizens.
We all know the epic story: Germany was trying to take over the entire world, eliminate all democracies, Jewish citizens, and establish a supreme uber “master race” that would become the first national world dynasty restoring all their WW1 losses ten times over. We know the D-Day plans designed by Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Patton were beyond high risk on the perfect weather day and the executional risk to make it work on those exact dates that were mere meteorologist predictions at best and took scenario planning to a whole new level.
Most of my generation may have missed seeing the academy winning “Longest Day” but may have watched closely during the beginning beach war scene in “Saving a Private Ryan” in Spielberg’s classic film. The opening scene is where the allied nations attempt to scale Normandy Beach as D-Day started, resulting in massive loss of American soldiers who knew the true risk of their bold assignment. Equally moving is the tearful ending scene at the Normandy Beach military cemetery.
In the final minutes of the movie, after Miller’s passionate imperative, “Earn this,” the camera cuts to an elderly James Ryan standing over Miller’s grave. Tears in his eyes, Ryan speaks to the departed Miller at his grave saying, “Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge; I’ve tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that that was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes, I earned what you have done for me.”
When you go to Normandy, France and walk the sacred grounds you will be changed forever, I promise. Yes, it is a long drive from Paris and it’s hard to predict the weather, so be flexible, and it is intense so you will leave there exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually!
First, away from the actual cemetery they have left the battlefield there with bunkers intact and the bullet holes, barbwire and bombed watch posts untouched, so when you climb into and look out you feel it – the raging seas, the brutal cold winds of the English Channel, and the improbable feat to make it up the beach walls. You realize if Hitler was not tricked by Patton’s “Operation Bodyguard” – the fake attack on the northern part – he could have taken every Ally Force out easily because the topography and set-up were in his favor and then some.
My lesson: You will realize even in one of our greatest military feats ever, war is so ugly and brutal that we should try to avoid it at all costs. But tyrannical threats who attempt human genocide to the free world must be dealt with and aggressively annihilated before they become too powerful.
Second, Normandy is really five different beaches that are 12 miles long with each having different challenges. So we need to fly over with the paratroopers at Utah Beach, storm the actual beach at Gold Beach with soldiers, reconsolidate allied forces at Sword beach, and get infrastructure into service to support operations and then take out beach heads at Juno Beach. This was due to the German artillery’s superiority and range that unless it all worked out, they would still win.
Personal lesson: You will realize many things went wrong that day and you see how the great liberators pivot, adjust on the fly, master contingency planning, and stay on task despite unfathomable headwinds and obstacles. Life is more about how we overcome our own fears and never forgetting our sacred goals because the world needs Heroes!
Third, I did not know this until the trip – France gave us the “land use rights” forever as a thank you gift for helping the free world save the concept of democracy, government for and by the people, and rid the free world of tyranny at the highest level ever.
With that in mind, the U.S. built a slice of heaven right there where it all happened: because of the synchronized white headstones, the grounds actually illuminate like you might perceive a vision of heaven!
Remember, nearly 10,000 men and four women all perished at nearly the same time, and all are buried in perfect symmetrical lines, with no distinguishing details noted on the grave markers. With all of them buried together, it takes a casualty number out the textbooks and brings it to life. You feel like you can still hear their voices in the crashing waves on the wall and they are still talking to us even today, telling us to make sure it never happens again.
Personal Lesson: You quickly realize most of us will get to experience a full life (have a family, a career, and reach our potential) as free Americans because these 10,000 died on the same battlefield for each of us on one long summer day. Eighty five percent of these heroes were between the ages of 17-23 and did not get to build a family, a career, or realize any of their dreams, so we all need to leave this world making it a better place in their honor!
Note: The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial was designed by architects Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson of Philadelphia. It was created to capture various metaphysical feelings that you cannot find in many places in the world as Americans. First, the layout puts the divine God in the center and plants spheres around it with perfect field alignment in each tombstone, reminding us that in the chaos of life uncertainty there is a “divine plan for the world and each of us”. Second, each headstone faces west toward America and reminds us we are all God’s people, regardless of religion preference. This is evidenced as you see cross headstones next to the Star of David headstones all encountering the ultimate goal – spiritual salvation. Last, everyone is equal here on the hallowed grounds and in God’s eye as well, and is a great reminder for all of us.
Personal Lesson: In my struggles and daily frustrations, I sometimes forget there is a greater plan for all of us than we might even know, we are all always equal in God’s eyes and I need to always face toward the “proverbial holy city” in everything I do.
As visions flow over you, you observe multi-generational families in prayer, and you walk the length of four football fields looking at names, dates, and state origins, forever noting state losses were huge, especially in New York and Pennsylvania. You run into heroes like Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., son of a president Teddy, who made the voyage to serve at 56 years old.
And yes, we did search out the two brothers that Spielberg used for Saving Private Ryan. Their last name is actually Niland, not Ryan, and the third brother lived after being captured as a Japanese POW for a year, then was liberated.
You could walk for weeks just to show proper respect to each hero but you have anxiety because it seems impossible to get to each row. After a while, it hits you and you realize they would do it all over again and the regret you had for them in your own heavy heart turns to quiet spiritual peace.
As we all hope salvation feels from our earliest teachings because these timeless leaders quietly tell you they would do over again because they served a greater purpose than themselves. Their ultimate sacrifice has been rewarded by God because he wants his people free, every life equally valued, and his divine dreams for the world are still a possibility.
Most important lesson: People that serve a higher calling rarely have regrets or need a second chance. They live to serve a divine purpose. It is not how long we live; it is what we do with our time. I fear death sometimes too much to really live and I learned a valuable lesson walking with THEM today in how they served their CALL!
First, I want to disclose that I am extremely biased about President McGowan. Personally, I am very blessed to be a Bellarmine alumni from the class of 1989, and I see the pride that my brother Ray has as a graduate several years before that.
The dates matter because 1990 was the year a young first time president and unproven visionary leader named Jay McGowan (who was only 45 years old) walked onto “the high school on the hill” (as many called it to my dismay back then).
I later became a member of the Board of Overseers for six years and I had the opportunity to see the intimate side of his leadership style up close and personal. The things I learned from President McGowan are immeasurable.
But, I have come up with my top six leadership lessons we should all learn from President Jay McGowan (there are many more but too much to list out):
1.) A great leader must create a vision that is clearly understood by all vested parties from day one so everyone knows what is at stake. Most of us could recite 20/20 vision framework because he painted the full canvas early so we could all see it!
2.) A great leader blends the rich heritage of the past through respecting it greatly, but couples it with the unlimited hopes of the future, so you never lose anyone along the way and everyone can then share in it! I remember crying with alumni from the 1st class in Springfield, MA at our 2011 National Basketball Championship and Jay made us all a big part of that magical day.
3.) A great leader will raise his office and duties to the highest moral and ethical standards possible so the role and office are enhanced to the highest level of accountability. Bellarmine has been a model organization with amazing board representation and record breaking results for 26 years.
4.) A great leader builds great teams through “shared vision”, providing high autonomy for their teams to grow and flourish around them, and ensuring the responsibilities and autonomy are evenly matched so engagement is maximized.
5.) A great leader celebrates the success of everyone around them so we all enjoy the journey and not miss the sacred moments of presence. Every Bellarmine event was a celebration of our people’s “faith and works”. My induction into the Gallery of Distinguished Graduates with Jay by my side is still top moment for me and my family.
6.) All leaders must have deep subject matter expertise but the great ones are renaissance men who have the spirituality, the cultivation, the passion for the liberal arts, and the world views that intersect their eco system together in a very rich way. Every conversation for me was truly just new “learning jewels”.
I remember hosting my first Bellarmine fundraiser in my home at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida nearly 10 years ago at the request of President McGowan, which made me realize three things that night:
1.) Dr McGowan presented a bold compelling vision called “20/20 vision” that left many confounded on how a small successful liberal arts college could make these bold moves so quickly and he never missed a target since those early talks.
2.) As a small university, I did not realize the amazing reach Bellarmine already had that was way beyond Louisville. Cars pulled up to the circle driveway from various coastal spots everywhere to be part of “our special place” that is inside our hearts, but was never a destination for Bellarmine people.
3.) I knew that if he was right, and it all could become a new reality, there would never be a better legacy to leave behind than his 20/20 Bellarmine Vision masterpiece. This changes everyone who touches it and expands our reach now internationally. Since Dr McGowan is now sitting with Saint Robert Bellarmine, it will be our job to finish the last few pieces in his honor.
Thank you, President McGowan, from the entire Bellarmine Family.