Pictured: Elizabeth Pace with Dudley Square Resident Anne Vanderburgh.
All Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) team members — not just at the Episcopal Church Home (ECH) but also at other ERS flagship communities — strive to ensure our residents feel like they're being cared for not by expert professionals but by people who seem like family. One way we accomplish this goal is by creating opportunities for residents to build close relationships with staff.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made this goal a bit more challenging. Hence, we’d like to take this time to virtually introduce you to our new Director of Community Relations, Elizabeth Pace! We recently sat down with Elizabeth to learn about her role at ECH as well as her thoughts on planning for retirement and professional senior care.
Q: Will you describe your role at the Episcopal Church Home?
ELIZABETH: As the new Community Relations Director, I look forward to supporting new residents joining our community at Dudley Square and within the healthcare households at The Morton House.
With the implementation of our new Master Plan, I am excited to offer the new patio homes at The Preserve at Dudley and continue the wonderful relationships of the current homeowners at Dudley Squares I and II. Additionally, I will be facilitating any needs related to transitioning to higher levels of care.
Q: You’re relatively new to the Dudley Square team. What was your previous ECH experience?
ELIZABETH: I have had the fortunate experience working at ECH for over seven years and have been the primary contact for those people needing short-term rehab and skilled nursing care in our previous Morton Rehab neighborhood.
Our therapy and nursing teams have had such successful outcomes of discharging people safely back to their homes that area hospitals look to ECH as one of their top places to refer their patients. Our team has been more than successful in helping people regain their independence, and I have been honored to be the liaison between these residents and families.
Q: What are you most looking forward to learning about in your new role at the Episcopal Church Home?
ELIZABETH: I most look forward to learning how the ECH community will evolve in the coming years. I am so passionate about the Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) concept and being part of this innovative evolution that will further revitalize our campus. We have had a rich tradition as a CCRC in meeting the needs of our aging population. I look forward to learning how each experience will be unique.
Q: Why do you think planning for senior care is so important for older adults and their families — especially during a pandemic?
ELIZABETH: Planning is our guiding tool to meet our goals for the future. However, as we have entered uncharted waters during this century, planning for senior care is more important than ever during this pandemic.
To put it briefly, our seniors have become isolated. They have had a significant shift in their daily lives resulting in losses in relationships, social activities, entertainment, safety, and overall well-being. Since we don’t know how long it will be before we can return to “normal life,” it is imperative that we plan ahead so we may be in an environment that offers some degree of community caregiving — accompanied by professional guidance — to best meet a senior’s needs during these uncertain times.
Yes, It is more than challenging — we understand this — but it will bring comfort to seniors and their families to know there is an umbrella of security during a crisis.
Pictured: ECH Director of Community Relations, Elizabeth Pace, pictured with resident Anne Vanderburgh as well as ECH team members Chad Ballard, Tracy Graham, and Jennifer Huber.
Q: In your experience, what do you think are the most significant barriers that stop people from either planning ahead or joining a senior living waitlist?
ELIZABETH: In the past, there has been a stigma of living in a retirement community or having to begin planning how we want to live out the next chapter of our lives. Moving into a retirement community, or even a Personal Care setting, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve turned a dark corner. It means you have opened this chapter to possibilities that can be new, exhilarating, and laced with surprisingly more independence and purpose than previously viewed in years past.
A tour, a discussion, or a meet and greet (now by phone or socially distanced) of current people living in the community will provide you with insight into the comforts, the peace of mind, cost benefits, and enjoyment you can experience. With this knowledge, our current community offers a waitlist until you are ready. We would look forward to meeting you.
Q: When you give tours or talk to families, what is the biggest regret you hear when it comes to their loved one’s transition into senior care?
ELIZABETH: One sentence: “I wish we had not waited so long.”
Most seniors who have had the opportunity to choose to move into a retirement community will express their love and excitement for their new home! They say their joy in meeting other people, becoming involved in activities, and the feeling of starting fresh. This is the ideal situation that we strive towards.
However, they regret that they have waited too long and wished they had made the choice earlier, but due to forced circumstances such as a health crisis, they have had to move in quickly and with little preparedness for the abrupt change. However, we are highly compassionate during these situations and will give each individual all the time and care required to ease their transition.
Q: When is the right time to join a senior living waitlist? What signs should family members look out for?
ELIZABETH: Once you have reached an appropriate age to join your community of choice, this is the ideal time to discuss the parameters of a waitlist. The information will provide you with all you need to make decisions in advance of need.
My number one piece of advice would be to minimally begin reviewing your options of what you want your next chapter to look like that will make you feel happy and safe. Begin contemplating all the scenarios in which you genuinely do not have the opportunity to make this decision on your own, and it falls to forced circumstances. Being proactive provides you with continued independence and freedom to choose a community that YOU love. When this happens, it makes for a much smoother and enjoyable transition and acceptance overall.
Family members know their loved one well, so if you begin to see a deficit in any area, you should suggest a visit to his/her primary physician. You may also want to start a conversation about planning for retirement with them.
I know this is hard, and it does take some TLC, but if an unforeseen crisis forces you into a decision, it will be much more difficult to distance yourself from the process emotionally. Planning early ensures you can calmly and rationally make decisions in your and your loved one's best interests.
Q: Do you think proactive planning affects seniors’ quality of life once they do move into a retirement community?
ELIZABETH: Absolutely! Today's seniors are becoming much better prepared for their futures. In doing so, there are marked improvements in their quality of life.
Making a life-changing decision in advance, as with all things when you plan ahead, alleviates, or reduces the potential anxiety. You have had time to downsize your belongings in a less stressful situation, have ample time for reflection, and have made peace with the decision. When it’s time to move forward, you have a more positive and energetic outlook.
Q: What can family members do today to improve their loved one’s transition into senior care?
ELIZABETH: Once the decision has been made to move to a senior community, it's natural for both the family member and the new resident to have some concerns. Fear of the unknown, fear of not fitting in, fear if each has made the right decision.
The Episcopal Church Home offers a welcoming committee that will make this transition as comfortable as possible. During this challenging time of the pandemic, we have had to be more creative in providing a warm, welcome environment while being socially distanced. But rest assured, we will be following up to offer our services, friendship, and hospitality for as long as possible.
Should we have any significant concerns, we will address them appropriately according to the situation. ECH has a reputation and history of friendly inclusiveness throughout the community.
As a family member, being supportive and available during the transition is the best thing you can do. Focus on the benefits of what will be gained in the way of new friends, safety, security, and quality of care ratherthan what will be lost. Always know the staff here at ECH are here to support you as well!
Q: What do you like most about being the Director of Community Relations at the Episcopal Church Home?
ELIZABETH: It is a privilege and honor to serve this wonderful ECH community. I have been in the healthcare field since 1987 and will continue to look ahead at how we can better serve our community at large and our elders across the globe.
There is nothing better than going to work and having it NOT feel like work. I have made lifelong friends and nurture relationships here that more than compliments my responsibilities. Lastly, the vision and mission of the Episcopal Church Home and Episcopal Retirement Services continue to drive my love and compassion for what I do every day.
Are you interested in a move to ECH or planning for retirement? You can reach Elizabeth Pace at (502) 736-7800 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on our community or levels of care, fill out an information request form here.