“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This quote from an American classic essentially states: “Walk a mile in my shoes.” The idea is to withhold judgement and instead build empathy by seeing a situation from another’s point of view. At Christian Living Communities we take this idea quite literally, as our value of compassion prompts us to understand and sense the needs of others. Our journey to become an Eden Certified Community at Clermont Park all started with an overnight stay in our skilled nursing neighborhood by then Executive Director Jill Vitale-Aussem.

Recently, one of our long-time business partners also decided that, after 25 years of designing for senior living, his work needed insight from first-hand experience.

Below are a few excerpts from a letter architect Bill Brummett wrote to the community leadership at Someren Glen about his experience of staying the night in our Evergreen Memory Support neighborhood this past spring.

Dear David and Tim,

…I can honestly say that no single day in my experience has been as valuable to me as an architect as that stay in Evergreen. Your staff welcomed me in to their second home and made me feel very comfortable and at ease. I was able to observe and talk with staff about things I could design better and improvements that could be made in my designs in the future in an extended and first-hand way that was much deeper than typical. Experiencing all of this from the viewpoint in a wheelchair also gave me new insights about accessibility, unit and bathroom design, nurse station design, kitchen design, transfers, lighting and communication.

I must say that I was taken off-guard a bit by the acuity of the residents, and the constant demands this acuity puts on staff. Seeing the challenges residents face in the context of a complete day was daunting, and left me with a greater realization of how cruel Alzheimer’s disease truly is.

The architectural lessons learned alone made this an invaluable experience. But the lessons about humanity will stay with me forever. Over the course of my career to date I have probably been in well over a hundred different assisted living and nursing home settings, and witnessed so many high quality care-giving staff. In this time I have never seen staff as kind, well-trained, caring and peaceful as your staff- each and every one of them. The patience and skill I saw your staff exhibit with residents, over and over again during my stay, was incredibly compelling and inspiring. They have one of the most difficult jobs there is, and they do this job with such grace and tenderness. . .

With thanks and gratitude,
Bill Brummett
Principal, William Brummett Architects

This summer, 18 members of the CLC leadership team will stay overnight in one of our care neighborhoods as part of an Action Learning project by Pat McBride, our Vice-President of Clinical and Compliance. Pat is a fellow in the Leadership Academy through LeadingAge, a national membership organization for providers of senior services.

If the experiences of those who have previously “walked a mile in their shoes” are any kind of measurement, this type of experiential leadership will result in many more insights and ideas to support our vision — creating communities where aging is honored and celebrated.

We’ll be sure to let you know what our team of 18 learn from their immersion. Their experiences will surely be transformational, not only personally, but for all of the lives touched by CLC and via our Cappella Living Solutions division, which provides consulting and management services.

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