The keys to a happy resident at a senior community are pretty straightforward. Is the food good? Is the room comfortable? Is the caregiving staff attentive and kind? Are the activities fun and plentiful? One of the compelling reasons that many seniors decide to move into a community on top of physical and cognitive issues is due to isolation and loneliness. An Activities Director is in charge of organizing and implementing fun, creative and informative activities to keep residents engaged.
Woodland Ridge has two vigorous Activities Directors. Keeta Keeton is the Director of Memory Care, and Kathryn Trice is Activites Director for assisted living. Each one brings their individual special talents and experience.
This year, for the first time, we are awarding the Wanda Braziel Employee of the Year to both Keeta and Kathryn for their outstanding work at Woodland Ridge. They are both deserving of this recognition.
Chiquiatha “Keeta” Keeton is a Decatur, Georgia, native and our most tenured employee. She has been with Woodland Ridge for 17 years. Woodland Ridge was barely three years old when Keeta joined the staff as a CNA. Over the years, she has honed her talents, and now she serves as the Memory Care Director. Woodland Ridge is so fortunate to have Keeta. She not only has seen it all, but she is also still passionate about her work. Her catchphrase is “Welcome to Happyland,” and if you have seen her in action, you will soon discover that she creates that world every day.
It takes a particular skill set to work with residents that have Alzheimer’s, dementia and other declining physical abilities. Keeta says that she just meets each resident where they are and jumps into THEIR world. This is what gives her the greatest joy on a daily basis. Her vivaciousness, spectacular dance moves, improvised keyboard playing, and enthusiasm keeps our memory care residents alert, laughing and dancing. When visitors first come into memory care, they immediately notice how bright and cheery it is. Music is almost always playing in the background between such organized activities as painting, bingo, crafts, trivia, noodle ball and movies.
However, the thing that differentiates us from most other memory care communities is Keeta’s insistence that she takes her residents out of the building to restaurants and joyrides several times a month. It is no small task to load and unload a bus and take memory care residents into a Longhorn’s, Red Lobster or Wallace BBQ but she does not shy away from it. This attitude alone explains why she has been at Woodland Ridge so long and why she was awarded Employee of the Year for 2017.
Kathryn Trice is from Oshkosh, Wisconsin and was a music major in both piano and harp. She has worked in nursing homes, a continuing care community as well as a stint as a professional musician where she played in restaurants and special events such as weddings. We are fortunate to have such a musically-talented activities director, and she is crafty, too. In the winter, check out the sweater she or her dog, Bailey, are wearing because she very well may have knitted it herself.
It requires being a jack of all trades to be a successful activity director in assisted living because of the broad and disparate backgrounds of the residents. She organizes cooking clubs, trivia events, the ever popular bingo, and her personal favorite, “Name That Tune” which usually draws the biggest crowd and most participation. Kathryn holds a resident council meeting each month to get feedback and input for new ideas. This is how the grilled cheese sandwich made it back on the menu.
Here are some things that you may not know that Kathryn does around Woodland Ridge. She single-handily decorated the building for Christmas and took it all down as well. She shops for supplies and bingo prizes. She coordinates multiple church services and Bible studies for various denominations. She often drives residents to doctor’s appointments. She creates a monthly newsletter, activities calendar and she spearheaded the Fall Festival. Kathryn hardly sits down except at the piano bench or in the driver’s seat of the bus. When asked what brings her joy about her job, she cited the comment of a resident who once said to her, “I may not know who you are or your name, but I do know that you are nice.” Her payback is making a difference in the lives of the residents through meaningful activities which give them entertainment.
Both of our activities directors at Woodland Ridge are exceptional and passionate about the resident’s experiences here. We count ourselves fortunate that they chose Woodland Ridge as the place to share their talents and gifts. Congratulations, Keeta and Kathryn for a job well done!