By Alexander Germanis
Winter brings with it the aspects of shortened days and increased periods of darkness. Fortunately, the Christmas season has long been associated with light. Homes, trees, and businesses adorned in twinkling lights can bring a certain warmth—a glow of cheerfulness—to an otherwise dim period of the year.
Symbolic of the star signaling the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, these lights also embody far more. Light was often spoken of in Christ’s teachings as representing knowledge, truth, and, above all, goodness. “Let your light so shine before men,” Jesus taught, “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
At Apostolic Christian Skylines in Peoria, the caregivers, nurses, and staff members do all they can to follow Christ’s counsel, bringing whatever light they can to the residents in their care.
Dignity, Empathy, Respect
Bringing warmth and light into someone’s life cannot be done unless that person is first treated with respect and care. Those attributes are best conveyed through a relationship of trust, established right from the outset of a resident’s experience at Apostolic Christian (AC) Skylines.
For those in assisted living, this relationship of trust is paramount, as several AC Skylines staff members iterate. “If it’s the first time we’ve met it’s always best to take a few minutes to introduce myself and make them feel welcome,” begins Bethany Robinson, CNA.
“The little things always matter when providing good care,” continues Savannah Pulley, CNA. “I know just being there to help with those makes their day brighter. Knowing they have that help and will be taken care of—just letting them know I am here for support makes a world of difference.”
“My work as a nurse affects the residents in my care by the continued building of a trusted personal relationship,” adds Rachel Martin, RN.
That trust is a two-way street, as evinced by Robyn Feucht, daughter of resident Erma Wieland. “Skylines staff—nurses, CNAs, administration, physical therapy—are caring, loving individuals. Each person that has been a part of my mother’s and other residents’ lives has treated them with respect, as if they were family,” Robyn shares. “Through different levels of care that we have had to navigate since my mother has moved to Skylines after surgeries and different situations, they have been there to help and encourage. Tricia, the assisted living director, is very responsive and helpful if I am not able to be there. My mom has never had a complaint about any of the staff that are caring for her and has built relationships with many of them.”
Partners in Care
A key to establishing trust and exhibiting respect is to not only allow but also encourage residents in assisted living to be active participants in their own care. Aging is not easy for many, and few people feel good about asking for help, especially with things they have always managed to do on their own. The Skylines assisted living staff understand this. As Rachel notes: “Caregivers must allow their residents to be fully engaged in the goals that make them secure and respected.”
Having goals is an important part of assisted living care. “In most cases,” Bethany says, “the more a resident can do for themselves the better they are going to feel. If I notice a resident seems hesitant about asking for help, I love reassuring them that I’m glad to help!”
“I encourage them and always say ‘slow and steady wins the race.’” Savannah adds. “I always thank them for letting me know when they need help and allowing me to assist them. Staying positive and supportive with a good attitude about the situation makes a big difference.”
Adapting and Evolving
Although all the residents in assisted living at AC Skylines need some help that does not mean they all require the same amount. The need to adapt to those different needs is essential in order to provide the best quality of life for each and every senior calling Skylines home.
For those experiencing the first effects of dementia, starting in 2024, Skylines will be offering SAIDO Learning to their residents on-campus and to the members of the surrounding community as well. Skylines is the exclusive provider of SAIDO Learning in Central Illinois
Skylines Executive Director Matt Feucht explains: “SAIDO Learning is a non-pharmacological learning intervention designed to slow down or disrupt the progression of dementia. The program focuses on three core curriculums: reading, writing, and arithmetic through intentional engagement. The program allows the resident to engage in daily activities that will help them feel a repeated sense of accomplishment by being able to work through the specific exercises.”
SAIDO is as individualized as the learners engaged in it, meaning they move at their own pace. Learning is tracked through baseline testing at the beginning and with follow-up diagnostics every six months thereafter. “The success in the program fosters the learner’s confidence, abilities, and initiative to advance and try new things,” Matt says. “SAIDO Learning acts as an intervention that allows residents with cognitive impairment issues to begin fighting back against their disease and allows them to have a better quality of life.”
Skylines also offers homecare to those in assisted living, which as Assisted Living Director Tricia Stenger accurately points out, can be a true blessing. “It allows them to maintain longer in their assisted living room, which is their home,” says Tricia. “It provides one-to-one personalized care. It offers care tailored to the needs of the resident, whether that need is as simple as a companion for company and conversation or more complex with assistance in any personal care areas. Our residents take such comfort in knowing they have additional help to serve just them so they can continue to age in place. Home care takes away the wait time when there is a need for something; they get that direct support right then.”
An Easy Choice
Whether through its programs or the service of the staff, the support Skylines offers made choosing Skylines a simple one for Erma and her daughter, Robyn.
“Skylines has many things going on daily, activities to stimulate and keep residents moving as well as special outings they are able to participate in,” Robyn says.
Those activities hold a very important component for Erma’s enjoyment. “I really enjoy the social part of being at Skylines,” she shares. “I also enjoy visiting with friends during dinner time and spending time playing games with old and new friends.”
Activities aside, nothing can quite outmatch the importance of having peace of mind. “I know that, if for some reason I am not able to be there to take my mom to an appointment, Skylines will provide transportation and someone to be with her,” Robyn states. “It is important to look at the overall picture of what is needed now and in the future. It is such a comfort knowing that as time goes on and more care or physical therapy are needed, Skylines has these options. There will be no need to look into moving to another facility.”
Erma agrees: “I am very thankful that I was able to have Skylines to come to when I needed it.”
Light Unto All
The light of the Skyline experience comes to more than just the residents. The staff experience the light as well. “Because it is a not-for-profit ministry that cares for the elderly, the staff have a great deal of satisfaction in their work,” Tricia indicates. “We are constantly investing in the employees as a way to keep them engaged in their work.”
But nothing compares to the light the staff receive from the residents themselves. “It brings me an overwhelming amount of joy to see the smiles,” Savannah shares. “The amount of gratitude and compliments is what drives me to continue to be in this field and make a difference each day.”
“Working as a caretaker affected me by learning empathy,” states Rachel. “Empathy for people goes beyond your work environment.”
“I hope my work affects the residents in a positive way, bringing a little bit of light to their lives,” Bethany puts in. “Helping others never seems like work to me and it’s so fulfilling. I truly enjoy what I do!”
During these bleak winter months, bringing light to another’s life is more important than ever—something recognized and put into practice by the staff at Apostolic Christian Skylines. And for the residents, that light is received through every act of kindness, every expression of empathy, and every extension of Christ-like love.