A Personal Journey of Lifecare
Susan Morse, Executive Director
Often our personal lives intersect with and help form our professional lives, and so it has been with me. My story begins with my parents.
I grew up in Manhattan Kansas, the youngest of three girls. My father always claimed that becoming prematurely gray was a direct result of having three daughters.
My parents valued education. My mother earned her Master's degree, which in retrospect I realize was unusual for a woman of her era. After grad school, she married Dad and during the war ran a settlement house in San Francisco while Dad was in the Navy in the Pacific. After the war she became a mother, homemaker and community volunteer extraordinaire until we were grown. Then she ran for public office and became a county commissioner. One of her proudest achievements was winning an election in the year of the Reagan landslide, in Kansas, as a democrat.
My father was head of the Department of Family Economics at Kansas State University and a consumer activist. He served on Presidents Kennedy and Johnson’s Consumer Advisory Council and for many years was a board member of Consumers Union which publishes Consumer’s Report.
Aside from all their civic and professional activities, my parents loved to travel. In addition to trips to Europe and Scandinavia, they visited more out of the way places like Nigeria, Turkey, Russia and Hong Kong. Rocking chair retirement was not for them.
While in Australia celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary, their lives changed irreparably when my mother had a massive stroke. It was in her brain stem so she had to relearn everything; to speak, eat, walk, and write. After months of rehab, my mother regained enough strength to handle the return to the United States, and to their home in Kansas. But her recovery was poor at best. My father became her fulltime caregiver and homemaker. He managed the laundry and housekeeping just fine, but after his first attempt at cooking, he resorted to Meals on Wheels for their sustenance. Mom required total care, which Dad did with great affection for 4 years.
Mom had difficulty sleeping, so would entertain herself by creating poems, or as she called them, “silly verses.” In the morning she would dictate them to Dad and we have a collection of over 250 of them.
The Kansas State University Library compiled some into a book to give to Friends of the Library.
Then one day I received a call from Dad. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He finally agreed to allow the help of care givers. When he died, Mom could no longer remain at home.
But she wanted to stay in Manhattan where people knew her for the community leader she had been, not the invalid she felt she had become. And so she moved into the nursing home section of the premier retirement community in town, Meadowlark Hills. I had heard that Meadowlark was in the midst of change, and as I returned periodically to visit Mom, I watched; watched Meadowlark transforming, becoming different from any nursing home I had ever seen. Physically, it didn’t look like a nursing home. The entrance looked like a house with a front door, doorbell, and mailbox. When I entered, I was in a living room adjacent to a kitchen, typical of my own home. Coffee was always brewing, and there were wonderful smells of food as meals were prepared. I watched the homemaker, chat with residents as she made breakfast. And when finished, she vacuumed the hall, just as Mom had always done at home. And Mom set her own schedule; waking when she wanted, telling the staff what she wanted to do, and not do, and when. Staff listened and worked as a team with her, respecting her and her wishes. Clearly Mom felt at home, and in charge of her life.
I knew this was what I wanted for Mom; and this was what I wanted for Three Crowns Park. Timing was perfect as we were just starting the planning for our expansion and campus repositioning project.
Three Crowns Park has a well earned reputation for providing high quality care and we are known for our willingness to accommodate resident and family preferences. So we already had a good foundation on which to grow our household’s resident centered care program. So we moved forward. But such profound change does not just happen. It takes a lot of work. We engaged an internationally renowned organization, ActionPact, to guide and train us in the organizational redesign of our operations. Staff traveled to Manhattan Kansas to see for themselves what a household looked and felt like and began to visualize this real alternative to the medical model of nursing home care. And we invested heavily in staff training on person-centered care. We began changing and transforming.
Our expansion provided the opportunity to remodel the physical environment –changing our traditional nursing center into three distinct households, each home for 16-18 residents and adding an assisted living household for memory care.
Our mission is to provide high quality housing and health care options that foster security, dignity and independence and promote personal growth.
Mom’s journey had taken her from Australia to Meadowlark Hills, but my journey of growth and Three Crowns Park’s journey of culture change continues. We have joined a few select communities in the country who are initiating a deep and profound culture change that affects the elders, families, and employees.