Care Coordination reaches seniors’ mind, body and soul at Atlanta’s Panola Gardens

Panola - Sharon Dawson Reid

Care Coordinator Sharon Dawson Reid, center, with two residents before a play at Panola Gardens.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                      

Before it even opened its doors, the vision for Panola Gardens was a community where housing and health care services came together under one roof. But to make that vision a reality, National Church Residences needed to find the right person.

“When the state agency awarded the important tax credits to National Church Residences to build Panola Gardens, they took a leap of faith that we would commit to an enriched service environment for our residents once we built the building,” said Michelle Norris, National Church Residences’ Executive Vice President of External Affairs and Strategic Initiatives. “That vision does not come to fruition without dedication and leadership of someone on the ground once the building opened.”

The organization found that leadership in Sharon Dawson Reid, Panola Gardens’ Care Coordinator.

“Sharon is an exceptional Service Coordinator,” said Terry Allton, National Church Residences Senior Vice President of Home and Community Services. “We are blessed to have her leading this effort!”

Sharon has been a member of the staff at Panola Gardens since the facility opened its doors in March 2015.

“As a Care Coordinator what I really do is work with the residents’ mind, body and soul,” Sharon said. “It’s a person-centered approach. It’s service coordination with care coordination laid on top of it.”

Using the concept of layering the two approaches has worked well for Sharon, especially when it comes to making partnerships and getting much-needed grants to fund projects.

“I have applied for several grants through Horizon Housing Foundation and they have been most kind to Panola Gardens,” she said, noting that over $16,500 has been awarded to her building. “They provide a lot of these classes for the residents that are free because of the type of grant that I applied for. I composed the grant and layered it with what I wanted to bring to the residents.”

Sharon found funding for Tai Chi classes which provide both mental relaxation and physical exercise.

She also brought in live musicians who provide entertainment, and also a form of music therapy.

“The way I proposed that grant is that (the music) stimulated the mind. They talk about the songs and who the musician was and where they were when they remember that song,” she said. “I’m always layering. It’s multifaceted.”

Other projects Sharon secured grant money for include art classes, live plays, free dental clinics, on-site physical therapists and chiropractors, and regular visits from a registered nurse to do health screenings and personal coaching for chronic diseases and medication questions.

“Built into those grants as well, even though they’re giving us all that money, I like to ask for even more money,” she said. “I have been given a lot of gift cards randomly given to residents for participating in at least one of these services. The residents are taking their time to come.”

As part of her job requirements Sharon hosts at least two educational wellness events per month. She is also required to plan at least 12 socialization events per year – but last year she held 91 of them.

“It engages their mind. Their thinking. It gets them walking. Gets them moving,” she said. “Every time a resident is in front of me I’m giving them something that is person centered. Something for the mind, body and soul. I go overboard trying to make sure these residents are well-rounded.”

Recently, she brought in retired NBA great Terry Cummings to speak to the residents.

“The focus of his speech was hope. It leaned on the spiritual side. Where the residents are in their lives. It is so this vulnerable population does not feel lost,” Sharon said. “It helps them transition through that period, if they are a widow or widower, or if they’re transitioning from a single dwelling or from living with family. Aging is a part of life and there’s a productive way to age.”

Bristol Village Olympians bring home 27 medals


Several of the members of the Bristol Village Senior Olympics team pose with their medals in the courtyard of the Glenn Center in Waverly. Pictured are, left to right, Judy Doll, Otto Zingg, Betsy Hall, Marj Andrus, Ken Love, Mary McElhaney, Sherry Sapienza, Frankie Rinehart, Len Nasman and Gareth Baker.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                    

WAVERLY, Ohio – When Marj Andrus stepped to the podium to receive her gold medal, the Senior Olympian from Bristol Village ran into an issue.

To combat the hot summer sun in her events – the 1500- and 5000-meter racewalk – the 98-year old is never without a large, colorful hat.

“That’s the problem,” Marj said. “You can’t get the medal over your head with the hat on. You just need a longer ribbon!”

Marj is one of 17 senior athletes who represented Bristol Village earlier this summer in the Ohio Senior Olympics in the Columbus suburb of Westerville. Altogether, the Bristol Village Olympians brought home 27 medals – including 13 gold, seven silver and seven bronze.

“I had to learn a new walk,” said Marj, who for many years has started each day with a long morning walk to McDonald’s for ice cream. “(For the racewalk) you have to walk with your knees stiff. I had to focus so much on my knees that I didn’t have time to get nervous. Then someone stuck out their hand and stopped me and said, ‘you’re here!’”

“They told us Marj probably had a Senior Olympic record in the 5,000 meters,” said Betsy Hall, who organized the athletics team at Bristol Village. “At 98-years old, they don’t know of anyone else that age who has done it.”

“They told me the record for just for the US and Canada,” Marj added. “I thought, ‘Canada? That’s big enough!”

Betsy, a marathon runner for 21 years, has competed in four National Senior Olympics, winning three gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

Thanks to her enthusiasm for the competition, several of her friends began participating as well.

“It was Betsy,” said Otto Zingg, a medalist in golf and pickleball at the Ohio Senior Olympics. “She started to promote it and encouraged us to participate.

“I thought, well, I’ll do it.”

Otto teamed with Gareth Baker to earn a bronze medal in doubles pickleball – a tennis-like sport played with a wiffleball and paddles – and earned a silver in golf.

“I just turned 80 in June,” he said. “I figured there were not too many others in that age category so I had a good chance to medal.”

Frankie Rinehart also got involved with the Senior Olympics with Betsy’s encouragement.

“Good thing I have this friend,” she said, pointing to Betsy. “I’m kind of an athletic person. So when she said, ‘let’s go,’ I just went.”

Frankie won a gold medal in the 1500-meter and 5000-meter racewalk, a gold in women’s singles table tennis and a silver in women’s doubles table tennis alongside Betsy.

Each of the Bristol Village residents who brought home medals from the Ohio Senior Olympics is now qualified for the upcoming regional Senior Olympics event to be held in Portsmouth, Ohio, in September.

“I can do it. Up to 10 miles. After 10 it’s too much,” Marj said with a smile as she turned to look at Betsy. “If you think I can, Betsy, I will!”

Those who medal at the regional event have the chance to qualify for the 2017 National Senior Olympics in Birmingham, Alabama from June 2-15.

Bristol Village 1500m racewalk  medal winners

The 1500-meter racewalk winners at the Ohio Senior Olympics.

Table Tennis

The Bristol Village table tennis team at the 2016 Ohio Senior Olympics.

Staff satisfaction soars at Lincoln Village

Senior Living - Sally Grote photo

National Church Residences Lincoln Village Executive Director Sally Grote (back row, center) and her team recorded the organization’s highest increase in overall staff satisfaction by community this year.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                     

COLUMBUS — A little over a year ago, National Church Residences Lincoln Village needed a helping hand.

The staff turnover rate at the assisted living facility on Columbus’ west side was unexpectedly high and overall moral was heading in the wrong direction.

At the time, Sally Grote was serving as the Assistant Executive Director at National Church Residences Chillicothe campus. But when the organization’s leadership reached out to her to lend a hand at Lincoln Village in April 2015, she was up for the new challenge.

“It’s hard to talk about how it was before, because I wasn’t here,” Sally admits. “We had to work hard to get the right staff in the right positions. It took some time.”

Sally spent two months lending a hand at Lincoln Village. Then in June, she was officially named the facility’s new Executive Director.

“I was definitely worried (about the new challenge), but just personally, I have a certain standard of how I expect things to be,” Sally said. “It’s definitely getting better. There were days where I didn’t want to leave at the end of the day. But now we have the right staff and the right procedures in place.”

After nearly one year on the job, Sally got some exciting news. According to information gathered from organization-wide surveys, staff satisfaction at Lincoln Village had increased by 24 percent in one year – the largest increase by any community in the National Church Residences family.

“We have a really strong leadership team. We worked really hard to establish relationships with everybody here, especially the staff,” Sally said. “We tried to work with the staff to find out what they’re seeing. We’re all together trying to provide quality care for these residents.”

Sally said that embracing National Church Residences President and CEO Mark Rickett’s concept of “shared leadership” has been a key to success.

“Nobody is trying to figure this out alone. We’re doing this as a team,” she said. “Our staff has owned their positions and responsibilities. We foster a learning environment. We’re trying to make our staff successful.”

Sally added that the addition of Lynette Garcia as the new Director of Nursing at Lincoln Village has also been a great help.

“We both started at the same time,” she said. “We had a lot of new staff. Maybe five employees were here before. There was a lot of turnover and we did a lot of trying to find the right people for our open positions.”

In 2016, Sally is happy to report that staff turnover at Lincoln Village is officially at zero percent.

“We have one person leaving in June, but she’s retiring,” Sally said. “We have a pretty good culture here now. It’s family-oriented and is a place where relationships matter. We’re building and growing together. We don’t have all the answers, but we seek to find them.”

Sally credits having a successful first year as an Executive Director to what she learned working for four years under the direction of Chillicothe Executive Director Karen Steinbrook.

“Working under her I learned so much. She’s an amazing woman,” Sally said. “I learned so much about this organization from the Chillicothe campus. It was a great place to learn about all things senior.  They really have it all there.”

“Sally is a wonderful person and leader,” Karen added. “She soaked up information like a sponge. I truly liked working with Sally, and I was sure that she would not last long as an assistant.”

Unique health care partnership signed to benefit central Ohio residents


(Dr. William Wulf, CEO of Central Ohio Primary Care, and Mark Ricketts, President and CEO of National Church Residences, sign a joint venture to provide primary care physician services for National Church Residences’ central Ohio facilities earlier this month at First Community Village in Upper Arlington.)

COLUMBUS, Ohio ­– The nation’s largest independent primary care group and the nation’s largest non-profit provider of affordable senior housing have officially joined forces to offer a one-of-a-kind health care partnership.

Central Ohio Primary Care Physicians (COPC) signed an agreement earlier this month to provide primary care services in coordination with National Church Residences’ continuum of senior health care services, aimed at helping seniors in Central Ohio avoid unnecessary admissions and readmissions to hospitals or nursing facilities.

“In National Church Residences we have found a partner that puts the patient at the center of every decision,” said Dr. J. William Wulf, M.D., the CEO of COPC. “Over the last three years we have worked together on multiple initiatives and felt that it was time to formalize our relationship in a joint venture.”

The partnership will focus on National Church Residences “Home for Life” program that allows seniors to live healthier lives in their own homes, reducing the need to enter nursing facilities.

“National Church Residences and COPC are jointly making a commitment in central Ohio to help seniors remain at home,” said Mark Ricketts, President and CEO of National Church Residences. “You might even say National Church Residences’ commitment to high quality and reliable ‘At Home Health Care,’ ‘At Home Assistance’ and ‘At Home Hospice Care’ is a senior’s partner at home for life!”

“True population health will require physicians to partner with organizations that can deliver services to the most frail in our care,” Dr. Wulf added. “This will include care for our high risk patients at home and in non-hospital facilities. National Church Residences is an organization focused on providing the level of care needed to improve quality and lower cost.”

In the agreement, National Church Residences will proactively identify at-risk individuals through the organization’s revolutionary Care Guide assessment system to provide person-centered care planning that tracks interventions and outcomes. COPC will provide primary care and other diagnostic services to help manage a patient’s health both before and after the need for higher levels of care.

“This joint venture with COPC is unique and exciting,” said Ricketts. “While many senior living organizations in the United States have offered primary care services on campus, few have taken the step of partnering with primary care physicians serving residents in the community.”


(Dr. John Weigand, National Church Residences Chief Medical Officer, Mark Ricketts, National Church Residences President and CEO, and Dr. William Wulf, CEO of Central Ohio Primary Care, celebrate the signing of a joint venture between the two organizations.)

Doubleday Woods residents awarded keys to the village


(Doris Pinto and Carol Johnson with their Keys to the Village of Ballston Spa.)

By LANCE CRANMER                                                           

BALLSTON SPA, NY – In John Romano’s 21 years as Mayor of the Village of Ballston Spa, New York, he has only given away eight ceremonial keys to the village. Two of those, however, have been handed out in the last few months – and both of them to residents of National Church Residences Doubleday Woods.

“I’ve been going to a lot of functions (at Doubleday Woods) lately and I wanted to let them know that we value their residency,” said Romano. “They’re as important as anybody in the village.”

The residents at Doubleday Woods had not always been as connected to the goings on in Ballston Spa, a village of 5,500 people that serves as the seat of Saratoga County, located 30 minutes north of Albany.

“I think at one point there was a feeling with a lot of residents in the village that the residents at Doubleday Woods weren’t a part of the village,” Romano said.

That sentiment started to change when a group of ladies from Doubleday Woods’ Residents Association began regularly attending meetings of the village council.

“Our residents here are pretty much homebound,” said Carol Johnson, the President of the Residents Association. “There are a few of us who get out and go here and there if they have relatives who go and get them. We thought it would be nice for a few of us to start attending the meetings. To help let people know what’s going on.”

“We go to all the meetings at the mayor’s office, all the meetings at town hall, and when necessary the planning board meetings,” said Doris Pinto, the association’s Vice President. “It is an effort to keep us notified of what’s going on in town. When something important happens, we report that back to our residents at our monthly meetings.”

The ladies became such a fixture at the meetings that last year an official meeting of the Ballston Spa Village Council was held at Doubleday Woods.

“We had it outside last summer,” said Johnson. “We’re planning on having another board meeting. We’re trying to get the people here active in the community.”

As the relationship between village officials and Doubleday Woods residents grew, Romano found himself visiting with the seniors more and more.

“He’s great,” said Pinto. “He has come to our potluck dinners, which we have once a month. He comes and so does the town supervisor. We appreciate that.”

This winter, as his token of thanks to the resident’s association, Romano awarded Johnson and Pinto with ceremonial keys to the village on their birthdays.

“You know, it doesn’t fit the bank, I will tell you this much,” said Pinto with a laugh. “It weighs a ton, otherwise I would wear it on a chain around my neck.”

“I’ve had a few comments about, ‘Gee, can we borrow your key to get into the city? Can we get into the bank?’” Johnson added. “I don’t think that will work.”

Both women now have their keys mounted on plaques and displayed in their homes.

“I am very proud of it,” said Johnson. “I was very surprised.”

“They’re a great group of people up there,” Romano said of the residents of Doubleday Woods. “I thought it would be a nice thing to recognize them on their birthday and present them with a key. In my view, it’s the seniors and their sacrifices that have paved the way to our successes today. I think it’s a good thing to recognize people for the things that they’ve done in the past to make the community better today.”

On-site health care helps save resident’s life at Avondale


By LANCE CRANMER                                 

DUBLIN, Ohio — Offering health care options inside senior apartment homes facilities is an attractive amenity when looking for a retirement community.

Sometimes, though, having a health care provider on-site can not only enrich lives, but save them as well.

Julie Sofranko is the Care Coordinator at National Church Residences Avondale, a senior apartment homes community in Dublin, Ohio, that offers access to skilled nursing, rehabilitative therapies and a full range of Home and Community Services.

For Julie, a registered nurse with a background in public health, knowing her residents and providing them general health care services is her daily responsibility.

“(Avondale) is a unique property,” she said. “I’m hoping we continue to expand health care services here. I really believe it is what’s going to keep people healthy.”

As part of her job at Avondale, Julie conducts several wellness sessions and health screenings for her residents to help them stay on top of their own personal wellbeing.

“With the seniors it’s blood pressure and hypertension, heart disease, lung disease … anybody who identifies these disorders, we’re giving them information to try to help them understand what’s going on with their bodies. We are giving them enough knowledge and education that they want to step up and take personal responsibility,” she said. “When we do wellness sessions here, they all show up. I’ll have 40 or 50 people in a room when we do wellness instruction and education. That’s half my population.”

During these health education programs, Julie is frequently joined by Chris Brown, a Nurse Liaison with National Church Residences Home and Community Services.

“Julie and I focus many of our monthly wellness and educational programs around the promotion of wellness as well as chronic disease management in order to help keep these residents as healthy as possible,” Chris said. “Having a nurse on-site is a wonderful benefit for Avondale residents.”

Earlier this summer, an interaction Julie and Chris had with a resident during one of these sessions helped save the resident’s life.

“I have a resident that is 79-years-old. I was leading an activity session and she just didn’t look right. I said, ‘You look tired today.’ I looked at her and saw her ankles were swollen,” Julie said. “She said, ‘I’ve gained 30 pounds and I can’t figure out how I did it. My belly and ankles are swollen, I’m very tired and I can’t breathe.’”

Julie and Chris quickly ran some tests on the resident and found some serious problems.

“When we checked her oxygen saturation it was very low,” Chris said. “Both Julie and I recognized these signs as possible congestive heart failure.”

Normal blood saturation is 95-to-100. Tests showed that the resident’s was dangerously low at 81.

Paramedics were called and the resident was admitted into the hospital, where she stayed for several days.

“She went right into intensive care from the ER,” Julie said. “They told her if she had gone to sleep that night, she would not have woken up.”

Now, weeks later, the resident is back home at Avondale and her condition is being monitored regularly.

“She is home now, doing well and her congestive heart failure is being controlled with medication and lifestyle changes,” said Chris. “Julie will continue to monitor this resident through Care Guide, and we will hopefully prevent future hospitalizations through education and early recognition of symptoms.”

Multiple National Church Residences sites in Ohio and Florida offer on-site health care at senior apartment homes facilities, with an eye on expansion into other markets in the future.

“That little incident was evidence of how important it is to have health care present so you can identify concerns right away and get them addressed,” Julie said. “We saved her life that day.”

(Cranmer is the Media/Public Relations Specialist for National Church Residences. Do you have a great story to tell? Contact Lance at

Property scores a massive REAC turnaround

Edgewood Village

By LANCE CRANMER                                 

RICHWOOD, W.Va. – It’s thorough. It’s critical. For many people it’s a really big deal. And for even more people, it’s a complete mystery.

Hard to believe that one four-letter acronym – REAC – could make the difference between a strong, viable property and a struggling one that might be in a whole lot of trouble.

“REAC is the Real Estate Assessment Center,” said Bruce Hogan, a Regional Director with National Church Residences. “It was established by the federal government as kind of a policing agency of HUD and its programs. They deal with finances, they will review audits and the physical aspects of buildings. They have these ratings, and if it falls below a certain percentage point of all the things they look at, then it could become a troubled property.”

Hogan has been handling REACs for years and said that the key to getting a good one is simply being thorough with maintenance and upkeep. Even the smallest oversight can lead to major point deductions.

“A leak in a hot water tank, that’s 18 points,” he said.  “One, there was no stove in a community room. A manager had taken it out and never replaced it. That was probably about 10 points. Those are the kind of things. It really sometimes does not tell you the true condition of the building.”

If a building scores in the 90s (it is a 100 point scale) on a REAC, then its next inspection is not needed for three years. A score in the 80s closes that gap to two years. Anything lower … you get the picture.

“You are in default of your mortgage agreement if you get a bad REAC score,” Hogan said. “At that point, they can repossess the property. They can make you change owners. They can make you change management companies. There are a lot of different things they can do. The viability of the property and the safety of the residents are their two major concerns.”

Edgewood Village in the quaint mountain town of Richwood, West Virginia, is a property in Hogan’s portfolio that is managed by National Church Residences.

The last time Edgewood underwent a REAC evaluation, it came back as a troubled property.

“At Edgewood we got a 46,” Hogan said. “The property really wasn’t bad. We didn’t get the score because we had some issues that took a lot of points away. The property was not prepared for the REAC inspection. We had some poor staff and they were refinancing the property so they weren’t looking to make any major repairs.”

The next time Edgewood Village received notice that a REAC was on the horizon, Bruce, and an entirely new staff including property manager Kim Carpenter and maintenance supervisor Kim Mills, were prepared.

“It’s been quite the experience,” said Carpenter, who entered the world of property management with National Church Residences in March 2014 after a 30-year career as a legal assistant in a law office. “I’ve learned a lot in a year.”

Mills joined National Church Residences in January 2014 splitting his services between Edgewood Village and the nearby Elk Riverview Terrace Apartments. He had been working in property maintenance since 1998 and was familiar with the challenges that inspections posed.

“Over the years they have changed a lot of (requirements). They look at everything the same, but they look at it differently,” he said. “Overall, we knew what they were going to be looking for and we were right. We just fixed everything. We didn’t know what apartments they were going to go into, so we just made sure they were all ready to go.”

To perform a REAC, inspectors and building management reach an agreed-upon inspection date – either with 30 or 60 days of notice.

The date that was set for Edgewood Village’s REAC fell on a Tuesday in April – the day after Carpenter was to head to Orlando for the National Church Residences Puhl-Sanchez Regional Conference.

“I’m not a quitter,” said Carpenter. “I’m always up for a challenge.”

With scoring poorly on a second-straight REAC not being an option, Hogan, Carpenter and Mills set out to get their property in top shape.

“We started doing inspections on the apartments so we knew what we were up against. We knew what needed to be done. It just took time and we had to get extra people in to get it done,” Mills said. “It went right down to the wire.”

The group brought in other National Church Residences employees from Twin Oaks Plaza in nearby Oak Hill, and went to work as a team.

Eight leaks were found and fixed in the first floor hot water pipes.

Fifty new windows were needed, ordered and replaced – only after the first company hired to do the job backed out less than a week before the inspection.

A new hot water heater wound up stranded in Princeton, W.Va. (roughly 100 miles away) and had to be picked up, driven back and installed.

Cracks were caulked. Messes were cleaned. Paint was touched up.

“A lot of work,” said Carpenter. “We cleaned. We scrubbed. I came in on weekends. I gave up my Easter weekend.”

“I was here for two weeks straight,” added Mills. “Fortunately nothing major happened at my other building.”

Finally, with the REAC looming less than 24 hours away, all appeared to be well.

“I came in on Monday thinking my building looks great,” Carpenter said. “I walk in and there’s a drip behind one of my hot water heaters at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. No way! I was just beyond words!”

A frantic call to the plumber garnered an appointment to fix the leak at 7 a.m. the next day … with the REAC inspectors due two hours later.

“Tuesday morning at 8:15 (the plumber) rolls in,” said Carpenter. “At 8:25 a head pops around the maintenance room door. ‘We’re here for the REAC inspection.’ I told them, ‘I’ll be with you at 9 o’clock.’”

With the plumber hard at work on the ground floor pipe, the REAC inspectors were lead to the third floor to begin their work.

By the time they reached the ground floor, the drip was fixed, the floor was dry and the plumber was long gone.

After Edgewood Village scored a worrisome 46 on the REAC before, this time, with a new staff and a new commitment to excellence, the building earned a stellar 99.

“I am amazed at the staff and how they worked together to get things done. Even during the times when it got a little bit tense,” said Hogan. “These people know their building better now than they ever did before. They got a 99. That really speaks of who they are.”

“I was pretty proud of it,” said Carpenter. “My residents were happy. They saw how hard we worked. They appreciated the efforts we put into it, too. I love my residents. I think they’re really, really happy. And it looks good.”

Mills said that just a few years before Edgewood Village wasn’t as beautiful of a facility as it is today, and that everyone there is proud of the hard work they put in to make it better.

“As a team we all worked really hard getting it to this point. Now it just needs to stay that way. It was a lot of work to get it to this point. And we’re not done yet. We have to continue moving up. There’s other things we still want to do here,” he said. “It’s the way it should be. As long as you take care of a building, it should get a good score.”

Edgewood Village now has three years until it needs a REAC inspection again.

“The building looks wonderful. It was a tremendous team effort,” said Hogan. “They do a fine job here. They work well together. They are part of the community.”