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Choosing a retirement community? Why employees are a critical factor

Posted July 31, 2019 5:00 a.m. EDT

The staff at a retirement community are charged with the care of you or your loved one, and interact with residents on a daily basis. (Photo courtesy of Galloway Ridge)

This story was written for our sponsor, Galloway Ridge at Fearrington.

It's been said that an organization is only as extraordinary as its people, and a retirement community is no different.

When choosing a life plan community, of course you want the grounds to be beautiful, the food to be delicious, and the amenities to be robust, but the employees who work there should also be a critical factor when making your decision.

Choosing a retirement community for yourself or a loved one is a major decision and one that should not be made lightly. The staff at a retirement community are charged with the care of you or your loved one, and interact with residents on a daily basis. Arguably, employees are the most important factor.

"Employees come here because they like to build relationships with our residents," said Kathy Turner, senior director of human resources at Galloway Ridge. "We feel like in order to create a positive resident experience, it means we have to have competent, happy employees that enjoy those relationships. The residents are very satisfied knowing that the staff cares about them."

Speaking of family, residents and employees come together often for gatherings like "family picnics" where grandchildren of residents and family members of staff are all invited. Both groups also work together during an annual day of service to give back to the community.

Turner described these activities as ways Galloway Ridge can come together for fellowship and fun.

Events like the annual Employee Scholarship Fund and English as a Second Language classes for Spanish-speaking residents create an atmosphere of camaraderie between Galloway employees and residents.

Additionally, Galloway Ridge offers an Employee Appreciation Fund for staff members to which residents are able to contribute. Last year, residents contributed a total of $444,509 to this fund, showing how much they truly appreciate the staff who cares for them each day.

Resident Dick Crafts, 93, has lived at Galloway Ridge since 2005. When he was looking into retirement communities, he said the thing that set Galloway Ridge apart from other life plan communities was the attentiveness and responsiveness of the staff to his questions and concerns.

Crafts has lived in every section of Galloway Ridge and noted the love and compassion he felt from a particular staff member when his beloved wife, also a Galloway Resident, passed away.

"When my wife died after six years of being ill, her lead nurse — when I saw her after my wife died — she broke down and cried. I broke down and cried," he recalled. "Now it's almost a year later. She goes out of her way to walk past my room on her way to her car every day after her shift. She'll stop by, she'll come in, she may or may not say anything, she may just give me a kiss on the cheek and she's gone again. The attachment that she formed with my wife has somehow translated to me."

Crafts said the employees at Galloway Ridge are great because they "see things."

He noted what he describes as "wonderfully helpful acts of kindness," like the member of the dining room staff who notices when his cup is only half-full of coffee or when his housekeeper refills his paper towels before they are completely gone. Once, a member of the maintenance team walked by Crafts's room and came back to repair his walker without being asked.

Crafts said the staff doesn't believe their work is "someone else's job" and understands that residents are more than a checklist.

"Somehow they understand that during the workday, it's desirable to spend some added time just talking with or listening to a resident as you would with a friend who needs a moment or two," he said. "While not every employee can do this, many form attachments that border on something more than an employee-resident relationship. Our staff loves people. They can lend an ear or even hold a hand when appropriate."

The mission statement of Galloway Ridge is to "inspire meaningful and engaged lives and to assure each resident a superior quality of life and care." Crafts said Galloway Ridge lives up to its mission.

Turner added, "It's just a happy place to work and a happy place to live."

This story was written for our sponsor, Galloway Ridge at Fearrington.