Wit and Wisdom Blog for Atria Senior Living

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a new view on growing older

What older adults can do to avoid vaccine scams


Posted on January 15, 2021 by Ajla Bedzetovic


The big news making international headlines is the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. As of January, about 11.9 million Americans have been vaccinated against the virus. While we can all be thankful for the speediness with which vaccinations have been developed and administered, the CDC, FBI and Department of Justice have sounded alarms about a concerning development: scammers using the rollout of vaccines to target and take advantage of seniors.  

These vaccine scams are so new that cases are just beginning to emerge. Ben Taylor, the Legal Aid Society's Elder Justice fellow, shared a few tips to follow to avoid vaccine scams.

Be wary of unsolicited messages 

The first two things to know about scammers are that they exploit people’s fears and revert to the same tactics over and over again. COVID-19-related scams involving fake PPE, cures and instant tests surfaced at the onset of the pandemic, and the same methods are repeating now with robocallsphishing emails, text and social media messages, and door-to-door solicitation.  

Here’s our advice, in shortNever interact with any unexpected messages from individuals or companies, even if they're known to you. If you receive an unexpected text message from someone claiming to be your healthcare provider, you can always call your provider directly to confirm its authenticity. Don’t click on any links in text messages or emails that seem abrupt or strange. And be skeptical of anything vaccine-related that asks for payment – the government is funding the vaccinations. Even if you have to pay for a shot to be administered to you, insurance will cover the charge. 

Don’t trust anyone who acts fast 

Another thing to know about scammers: They act fast and want to whip you into a state of panic so you act rashly. One strategy they employ is saying you’ll “lose your place in line” unless you pay for your vaccination right now. But no legitimate distributor is going to say you have to act immediately “or else. Older adults will be among the first across the U.S. and Canada to receive immunizations, but the process of immunizing the entire population will take months. 

Only share your information with trusted personnel 

One reason these scams may prove effective is because the vaccine rollout is such a massive undertaking, and distribution guidelines aren’t clear yet. Generally, the way the process works is the government provides dosages to states, and then state governors decide who receives the vaccines (while following CDC recommendations). While rollout and distribution details are being sorted, check in with your healthcare provider or local health department for further details.  

Finally, this above all else: Only trust your primary health provider with your medical and financial information. They are the only ones who will be able to tell you when and where you can be vaccinated. 

 

Atria Senior Living is the sponsor of the Legal Aid Society's Elder Justice program. Learn more about how to avoid vaccine scams at YourLegalAid.org/COVID19ResponseAndResources.

 


Category: Community, COVID-19, Wit & Wisdom

Reflecting on 2020 and COVID-19


Posted on December 31, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


More than 4 million masks, 202,000 COVID-19 tests, 715,000 resident engagement programs, and 400 vaccinations. 2020 may have been rife with challenges, butthanks to the work and resilience ofAtria’sdedicated staff, residents and families, 2020 has also had its triumphs. As the year comes toa close, Atria is reflectingon the accomplishments achieved over the last year.

Fromthe inventive and delightful programs that keep residents engaged tothe COVID-19 testing strategies that keep residents and staff protected, #TeamAtria is grateful for a year that reinforcedwhat it means to be a team, community and family – no matter the circumstance.

Staying agile

Through hurricanes, wildfires, flu seasons and now a pandemic, agility and preparednesshave been key in helping Atria createenvironments that are as safe as possible for older adults.

In the earliest days of the pandemic, this meant dedicating manpower and resources to procuring and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to Atriacommunities and even families of residents and employees.

In March, as Atria manned and inventoried a PPE warehouse,a partnership with Mayo Clinic Laboratories began. The collaboration has served as the cornerstone for Atria’s testing strategies and has been instrumental in keeping residents and staff safe. Air freighters, jets and turboprops were utilized to ensure supplies arrived the minute they were needed inearly affected areas.

Astesting kits werebeing deployed to Atria communities, an internal team began tracking the spread of the virus behind the scenes.

From business analytics toviruspenetration analysis

Under the leadership of Atria’s Chairman and CEO, John Moore, a team began meeting nightly to track the virus’ penetration in Atria communities and across North America.

“Our charge in those meetings was to use our own data to see what the disease dynamics were in Atria communities, and then compare that to the disease dynamics within the cities where communities are located,” saidKyle Whittinghill, Director of Corporate Finance and Analytics at Atria. “This allowed us tounderstand what the risk levels were andhow to manage and mitigate those risks.”

That data has impacted every level ofthe business, allowing community and corporate leaders toswiftly escalate or deescalate safety protocolsand procedures accordingly.

“Wewere able toimplementscreening questions, PPE and infection controlmeasureswellahead oflocal mandates,” said Abby Figueroa, Senior Vice President of Functional Operations at Atria.

Keeping residents engaged during the pandemic

Like everyone else, Atria residents and their families became familiar with video conferencing, group chats andlivestreams. Accordingly, Atria’s Engage Life® team (those responsible for creating and arranging events and programs in communities)set out to keep residents engaged with their families and each other throughout the pandemic.

“From the very beginning, we wanted to make every interaction count. Whether it be through video calls or going door to door, we did whatever it took to give our residents the same excellent experience, as close as we could get it to what it used to be,” said Kristin Brown, Assistant Executive Director at Atria at Villages of Windsor in Florida.

As the virus persisted and cases rose, Atria communities enforced protocols that kept people together.

“What we feel the most is safe,” said Louise, a resident at Atria Darien in Connecticut. "And even though our protocols are strict, I’ve noticed people who were not exercising begin to exercise, and that’s rewarding."

Although keeping residents active through COVID-19 fluctuated between socially distanced activities and in-apartment programs, communitiescontinued to look for new ways to keep residentsengaged.

“Interestingly enough, the pandemic reminded us that human interaction is the element we all hold so close and prioritize. We just had to look at it differently,” Figueroa said. “We had to use different resources – obviously, technology, but it was also going back to basics.”

#SleeveUpAtria

As Atria begins hosting more and more vaccine clinics for residents and staff, all safety protocols currently in place will continue to be observed until everyone has received the required vaccine doses.

In the meantime, Atria communities will continue prioritizing resident well-being by offering opportunities for physical activity and connection within and outside of communities.

#TeamAtria wishes you a safe, healthy and happy New Year.

 

This blog represents the most current information available. We strive to present the best information available at any given moment, but please understand that this situation is fluid and evolving.


Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Atria residents a top priority for COVID-19 vaccine


Posted on December 4, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


Since the onset of the pandemic, Atria communities have been following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and diligently taking precautions to make resident safety a priority – something that Atria has always done, no matter the circumstance. We quickly galvanized resources and enacted plans to keep residents safe and engaged during quarantine. This began with a nationwide testing program and a collaboration with Mayo Clinic Laboratories as the cornerstone to our COVID-19 safety strategy. Atria’s dedication to protecting residents’ well-being continues with its enrollment in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program.

Additional partnerships have also been developed to ensure all residents and staff will receive the vaccination as quickly and safely as possible. This is a crucial development as we look toward a safe and effective vaccine that allows residents and staff to get back to “normal” in 2021.

 Atria residents and staff among the first to be vaccinated

In addition to the nation’s healthcare workers, advisors to the CDC recommended that residents and employees of long-term care facilities (which includes assisted living) be the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC’s vaccine schedule will be determined as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works through Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and states finalize their individual distribution plans. Bear in mind that each state controls their own vaccine deployment plan and plans vary from state to state.

Every Atria community in the United States is enrolled in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program, making us part of the first phase of priority access in the nation. We are optimistic that residents and staff could start receiving vaccinations as soon as late December.

A partnership that makes it quick and easy

Thanks to Atria’s partnership with CVS Health, residents and staff will be able to receive the first dose of the vaccine in their own communities. Once the COVID-19 vaccine is available, plans are already in place to ensure it is distributed to Atria communities as safely and quickly as possible. The vaccine will be administered by CVS in a way similar to the flu shot clinics conducted in our communities earlier in the fall.

Keeping our guard up

While Atria is ready for a successful roll out of the vaccine, all safety protocols will continue to be observed until all residents and staff have received the required vaccine doses. Until that time, Atria will continue to optimize the quality of life for residents by providing delicious meals and opportunities for exercise and daily engagement – with well-being and safety always top of mind.

To see how Atria is creating the safest possible environment for residents and staff, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.

 

This blog represents the most current information available. We strive to present the best information available at any given moment, but please understand that this situation is fluid and evolving.


Category: COVID-19, Wit & Wisdom

A tribute to Chef Haller


Posted on November 20, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


Classically trained in Switzerland, experienced in running multiple kitchens from Montreal to Manhattan and an executive chef for five U.S. presidents from 1966-1987, Chef Henry Haller was one of the most successful culinary figures of his generation. He passed away recently, leaving behind a legacy of high standards and a mentor-oriented approach to his craft.

Chef Haller consulted with Atria on an annual basis, sharing his recipes and experience with our culinary team. “He was super-humble. He was very professional and had a wonderful sense of humor,” said Chad Welch, Atria’s Executive Chief of Culinary Operations, who worked alongside Chef Haller.

“He was an amazing chef and person. We appreciate him sharing his knowledge with us at every level of the culinary team.”


Category: Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Navigating the holidays as a caregiver in the time of COVID-19


Posted on November 19, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


This year, the holidays will look different for all of us. If you are one of the more than 60 million caregivers in North America who look after an older adult inside the home, you may be wondering how to celebrate and stay safe.  

Stay connected with others 

Many people experience depression during the holidays due to stress and social isolation. Even before the pandemic, caregiving limited the time and opportunities you have to spend with others. Feelings of isolation may be amplified this year.  

Suggestions 

If this happens, tell yourself it’s okay to be sad. Remind yourself that everyone feels isolated to some degree this year, so you are not alone. Acknowledge your feelings, and then make safe social connections a priority. Call friends and family members often and arrange for online video chats.  

Find an online caregiver support group to connect with people who can relate to your feelings. A good place to start is at Caregiving.comPartnering with another caregiver can help you both navigate the holidays. Agree to talk on the phone, video chat, text or email each other daily. If they live nearby, offer to pick up their groceries the next time you go out, and be sure to ask how they’re doing – from a safe distance, of course.  

Acknowledge stress and release it 

A long holiday to-do list paired with caregiving responsibilities and extra safety measures can bring out your inner Scrooge. You may feel overwhelmed.  

Suggestions 

Consider lowering your holiday expectations and obligations this year. If you’re frustrated, use that emotion as fuel and take action. Call a friend and talk about it. Say your feelings out loud. Taking care of stress in a positive, healthy way begins with acknowledging and expressing it – even laughing about it. You can also blow off steam by going for a brisk walk, a bike ride or singing at the top of your lungs inside your car.  

Celebrate in smaller ways 

Keeping or creating a few special traditions is good for your health and well-being as well as the person you care for, according to Atria's Christy Phillips, PhD in gerontology. Celebrating in smaller ways can help keep the holiday season stress-free. See if a few of the ideas below work for your situation. Most important, choose to do only as much as feels manageable to you. 

Suggestions 

  • Plan a virtual party with family and friends, complete with decorations, holiday music and food.  
  • Mail gifts ahead of time so you can watch recipients open them via video chat.  
  • Email family members the lyrics to favorite holiday songs and schedule a virtual sing-along.  
  • Set aside time to share memories of holidays past.  
  • Create holiday-themed art together.  
  • Write and mail holiday cards.  
  • Play your favorite seasonal music. 
  • Binge watch some holiday movies.  
  • Bake your favorite pies, cookies or other desserts, just because. Package up extras to give as gifts or donations.  
  • Cook a traditional meal together, or have fun coming up with a new dish.  
  • Dust off your most festive, sparkly duds and dress up for holiday photos. Share them with family and friends via email, group texts or social media.  
  • Share what you’re grateful for during a gratitude ceremony.  
  • “Attend” virtual religious services.  

Keep in mind, all traditions were new at one time! 

 ____________________ 

There may come a day when full-time caregiving is no longer the solution for you or the one in your care. If and when you’re ready to consider additional options, Atria is here to answer your questions and provide guidance about our communities and senior living in general.  

 

To see how Atria is creating the safest possible environment for residents and staff, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com. 


Category: Caregiver Support, Wit & Wisdom

Keeping things vibrant at Atria at Villages of Windsor


Posted on November 6, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the residents of Atria at Villages of Windsor in Lake Worth, Florida, dined together in restaurants buzzing with conversation, danced around the pool, threw elaborate holiday parties and volunteered to read to students at local schools. Since the stringent safety protocols put into place in Marchthe community has found new ways to keep things vibrant while staying safe and socially distanced. 

To wow and dazzle 

“We work where our residents live.” This insight from Atria at Villages of Windsor’s Executive Director Judy Rotenberg, drives her service philosophy to wow and dazzle those we serve.” To achieve that goalRotenberg and her team have worked extra hard to create programs and events that everyone can do safely, no matter the circumstances. 

One solution has been to use the community’s internal digital channel that every resident can access from a smart TV or computer in their apartments. This channel offers opportunities for residents to tune into operas, plays and comedy performancesjoin fitness classes, or listen to experts speak on a variety of topicsto name a few.  

Other ways the staff has connected with residents include dropping by their apartments with “COVID Care Packages” – decorated bags with treats, hand sanitizer and other items – and inviting everyone to dress up for Jersey Day, the first day of the NFL season. To help residents stay active safely, an on-site physical therapy team hosts balcony workouts to offer more chances for everyone to enjoy the Florida sunshine.

As Kristin Brown, the Assistant Executive Director, said: “Our number one priority is to help residents feel safe and connected.”

Everyone has a voice 

Atria at Villages of Windsor is also using their internal digital TV channel to facilitate dialog between residents and directors. Before the COVID-19 pandemicthe community hosted town halls where residents could ask questions and share ideas. Now the staff sends out questionnaires to residents to gather their thoughts on how to make the community better. Rotenberg records the directors answering questions and plays those videos back to the community. “We’ve always prioritized open communication, and that’s especially true during the pandemic,” Rotenberg said. 

Bud Nadler, Atria at Villages of Windsor’s Resident Council President, agreed with Rotenberg. “The pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into our lifestyle,” he said. “But I feel that my visits in the hallways as I encounter various other residents have helped make everyone understand what we’re going through as a group here at Atria.” 

Bud’s wife Lois addedI think he’s doing a splendid job.” 

Bud continued, “Thankfully, between what residents are doing, and the communication from the staff and our Executive Directorcoming forward with information that’s crucial to our lifestyle, we’ve felt quite reassured these days.”  

 

Learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents stay safe, connected and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic at AtriaSafeTogether.com. 


Category: Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Atria employee earns a hero’s recognition


Posted on November 4, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


“At that moment when they announced my name, I wanted to cry. It means a lot.”

Yesenia Molina came to the United States from El Salvador when she was 13 years old, and although much has changed over time, her desire to care for others has not. She began her career in senior living more than 20 years ago as a caregiver, and since then, has been promoted numerous times. Yesenia now serves as the Life Guidance Director at Atria Westchase and was recently honored with the Hero Award for Memory Care by the Texas Assisted Living Association (TALA).

Diana Martinez, President & CEO of TALA, said, “Yesenia’s dedication to her residents is undeniable. I am so happy we got the chance to celebrate what she brings to assisted living and to the residents she serves.”

Going the extra mile

One of Yesenia’s most notable contributions is her ability to help residents transition smoothly to living in the memory care neighborhood. Her desire to help the residents acclimate to their new surroundings is evident in that she consistently prioritizes working with their family members and doctors to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

In early March, Atria Westchase implemented infectious disease protocols to protect residents and staff members from COVID-19. Not only did Yesenia perform safety practices that included social distancing, hand sanitizing and following extensive PPE protocols, she also ensured that residents could continue engaging as safely as possible in group gatherings.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Yesenia continues to go the extra mile for the residents at Atria Westchase – both inspiring and supporting staff members to do the same. “I started seting up FaceTime calls with our memory care residents and their families.” One of her goals is to keep the residents connected with the community they belong to, as well as with those they love outside of the community.

“Yesenia never asks of anybody something that she isn’t willing to do herself."

She attributes much of her commitment and dedication to her fellow employees. When asked about Yesenia, Justin Schill, Executive Director at Atria Westchase, said, “Yesenia never asks someone to do something that she isn’t willing to do herself. The responsibility she has to advocate for our residents and to give them excellent care is one of the many qualities that makes her an extraordinary person. She expertly builds good relationships with our residents and their families because she knows it’s all about their well-being.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Abby Figueroa is on the move


Posted on October 22, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


Atria supports a culture where residents are empowered to stay active, set goals and find purpose – and where employees are encouraged to grow personally and professionally. Just ask Atria’s Senior Vice President of Functional Operations, Abby Figueroa. Abby has charted a meteoric course on her career path, in large part because her commitment to serving residents has uncovered talents she never knew she had. 

On the move 

Originally from New Mexico, Abby moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2007 to start her career as a Staff Accountant at Atria’s Support Center. That role dovetailed well with her skillset. “I’m an introvert, so community accounting was a good fit for me,” Abby said. “At the Support Center, you’re there to support the communities, so it provided an opportunity to take in the scope of the company from a bird’s-eye view.” 

 Two years later, Abby saw that a Community Business Director position was open at Atria Vista del Rio in her home state, and she decided to apply. To this dayshe still considers that role one of the most eye-opening experiences of her life. In her six years there, Abby grew from a numbers-oriented specialist into a leader adept at everything from helping the community staff sign up for benefits to assisting residents with setting up their Wi-Fi and finding their grandkids’ addresses when sending out valentines. 

 “I felt like I was making a difference in the big things and the small things,” Abby said. “It’s like I came alive personally.” 

 “This iwhy love what I’m doing 

After subsequent promotions to regional leadership positions, her skill and experience during the COVID-19 pandemic led to her current role leading the community operations that help keep residents and staff safe. In this position, Abby regularly communicates protocols out to the field so everyone is on the same page. 

 Abby attributes her success to being empowered by Atria to blend the complementary sides of her interests – the detail and process side, and the human side of supporting residents, their families and her fellow employees.  

She loves the energy of walking into an Atria community or giving prospective residents and families tour for the first time. She is inspired by residents who were trailblazing women in their respective fields and cleared the path for Abby to be a leader todayShe’s moved when she witnesses residents rediscovering their talents and discovering new purposes. 

 To me, the most amazing stories at Atria are how community life helps residents really blossomThey take up painting or volunteering. They’re able to resume having relationship with their daughter as their daughter again, not as their caregiver,” Abby said. “It’s exciting to see. Those are the moments when you’re like, ‘This is cool. This is why I love what I’m doing.’” 

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Dancing at 100: Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga


Posted on October 16, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


“A firecracker.” “The life of the party.” “Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga.” Estelle Reiff goes by many monikers, which only makes sense for a woman who has played many roles in her long life – an accomplished dancer, teacher and mother. The beloved resident of Atria Forest Hills, a senior living community in Queens, New York, turned 100 in September, and continues to make a difference in the lives of those around her.

“I danced all my life – all I can remember is dancing

Estelle Reiff was born in 1920 in Nashville, Tennessee, and started dancing at age five. By the time she was 10, she and her brother had formed a vaudeville act called “The Peppiest Pair.” Following a brief stint as a fashion deco model in the late 1930s, Estelle performed in local shows before joining the dance troupe of the renowned Mexican comedian and actor Cantinflas, with whom she traveled throughout the U.S. and Mexico in the 1940s.

In 1948, Estelle married Benjamin – also a dancer – and they settled in New York City, where she opened her own studio and worked alongside luminaries such as Gwen Verdon, Peter Gennaro, Bobby Van, Debbie Allen and Debbie Reynolds. Throughout her career, she danced tap, jazz, ballroom and especially Latin dance (hence the Spanish-styled nickname she gave herself: “Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga.”)

Estelle later served on the board of directors for the New York Society of Teachers of Dancing and was part of a local Hadassah group for more than 30 years, performing at fundraisers. She was also the senior dance instructor for the New York City Department of Education’s Adult Education Program for Dancing, working in the evenings with her husband at Flushing High School for more than 25 years.

In her early 70s, Estelle noticed there were not nearly enough dance programs tailored to seniors, so she set out to be part of the solution by teaching dance at a number of senior centers throughout Queens. She was a long-term participant at the Peter Dellamonica Senior Center, part of the Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, where she danced every chance she got. According to her son, even a cane – and then a walker – couldn’t keep her in her seat.

“The furthest thing from a wallflower”

Estelle continued teaching dance for Dellamonica when she scheduled a tour of Atria Forest Hills in the fall of 2018. Since she’s been at Atria, she’s continued to contribute and inspire others in a different way.

“She really is a mother figure to everyone in the building,” said Beth Levi, the community’s Engage Life Director. “She’s the furthest thing from a wallflower. She needs to be social. You miss her presence when she’s not there.”

Before the pandemic, according to Levi, Estelle showed up to every program or party at the community. “If she missed anything, she’d be mad.” She treats everyone with respect and kindness, and even people her age seek out her advice. “I’m the 100-year-old encyclopedia,” Estelle said, laughing.

As her son Alan (pictured above) puts it, “just play music and see what happens. She will grab onto anyone close by to move her legs and wiggle her hips in a swirl of joyful movement recalling a lifetime of dance.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Wit & Wisdom

Gratitude for Team Atria


Posted on October 9, 2020 by Jesse Hazel


Putting in extra hours. Making trips to the store for essentials. Setting up Zoom calls to help families and friends stay in touch. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Atria employees have gone above and beyond to help residents feel safe, connected and engaged. In turn, residents and families have been inspired to express their gratitude for the kind, caring, dedicated members of Team Atria. We’re honored to share some of their thoughtful words here.

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Community, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

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