When you love what you do, it shows. Perhaps that's why so many team members at Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) in Cincinnati, OH, have an impressively long tenure with the organization.
One such team member is Kathy Ison-Lind. Kathy has served at ERS for over 18 years and is currently the Vice President of Affordable Living and In-Home Services. She will be retiring in January 2021 — but her legacy of compassion, dedication, and leadership will linger at ERS for years to come.
In her time with Episcopal Retirement Services, Kathy Ison-Lind continually looked for new ways to serve older adults. From working tirelessly to scale the number and quality of ERS’s apartments to individually delivering meals to residents when they couldn’t use the elevator due to a maintenance issue, Kathy is 100% committed to providing older adults with a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment — no matter their financial situation.
We recently sat down with Kathy to learn more about her time at ERS, her career in elder care, and her plans after retirement.
Q: Will you describe your most current role at ERS?
KATHY: I am the Vice President of Affordable Living and In-Home Services. We have 29 communities dedicated to serving over 1,700 low-income seniors. We also offer Meals On Wheels to over 600 seniors in the community and partner with over 70 Churches offering them ideas to spread health and wellness to their parishioners. Living Well Senior Solutions offers advanced life-care planning and management for seniors and their families who need support while picking the best care options.
Q: What was your experience before starting at ERS?
KATHY: I’m a physical therapist, but I started early in the management arena. Our hospital system wanted to open a rehabilitation center, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech, psych, and rehab nursing. With the help of an incredible mentor and rehab physician, Dr. Randy Brandom, we opened two Cincinnati centers. We then started an inpatient pain program and an extensive worker’s rehabilitation program. We also opened a beautiful, comprehensive health and fitness facility.
My most challenging role, however, involved starting a holistic medicine program. I had no idea where to start, but, again, my incredible mentor put me on the right path. In the end, that program helped so many people who felt they had exhausted all of their other healthcare options. That work was humbling.
Q: What first inspired you to pursue a career in elder care?
KATHY: My grandfather had a stroke when I was in the sixth grade and lived at home for two and a half years. I would help my grandmother and aunts take care of him on the weekends and during the summer. I was then first introduced to physical therapy and decided that was what I wanted to do. I have always loved working with seniors.
Q: What were some of the biggest lessons you learned in your 18 years with ERS?
KATHY: First, culture is so important. It’s about the way we are with each other and our residents. It’s about care, courtesy, and respect. We all must have a baseline of skill to be hired, but attitude, respect — that's what makes us successful.
I have also learned that persistence is necessary for the affordable housing industry. We make so many attempts to get the funding needed to rehabilitate a community and, often, our applications are rejected. But, eventually, we get there and can create beautiful living environments for our seniors.
It's about care, courtesy, and respect. We all must have a baseline of skill to be hired, but attitude, respect — that's what makes us successful.
- Kathy Ison-Lind, VP of Affordable Living & In-Home Services
Q: What aspect of your career at ERS did you find the most rewarding?
KATHY: I have had so many different roles here, and I would say they were all rewarding. I started in health and wellness and then rehab. In each of those roles, I felt I could contribute a lot due to my previous experiences.
In my newer roles of Affordable Living, Meals On Wheels, and Parish Health Ministry, I was the student, and my colleagues were gracious enough to teach me. That has to have been the most rewarding — the areas of service that I would have never had the chance to be a part of if I had not come to ERS. The diversity of learning has been incredible here.
Q: What was your proudest moment during your tenure with the organization?
KATHY: That is so hard to say — there have been so many great moments. I feel most proud when a team member reaches the next level in their career and gets promoted. That’s how I was able to be so successful. I had bosses who allowed me to try and fail sometimes but always supported me. That is what I try to do with our team members. Those are proud moments.
If you asked me about happy moments, well, happy is different. I was extremely happy when we finally got the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit award for Prairie Oaks Village in Wilmington, OH. That was a very good day.
Q: How do you think Affordable Living by ERS impacts older adults’ lives in the community?
KATHY: The Affordable Living team — all of them — have a part in helping the residents live out the rest of their lives in a safe and very supportive environment that they enjoy and call home. We offer so much support to our residents through our ministry funded through philanthropy and grants.
Social workers help connect residents to healthcare services, homemaking, transportation... the list goes on and on. Activities in every community encourage residents to come out of their apartments and get to know each other. That is when connections begin to be built into lifelong friendships, and residents maintain a sense of purpose.
These engagements also give our team members a chance to see the residents and identify if they might need more support in some way — or if a resident does not come out, staff will check to make sure they are okay.
Q: What are you most looking forward to during your retirement?
KATHY: I am looking forward to getting back to the 1:1 kinds of care where I started my career. It will not be going back into a practice of physical therapy. Instead, it may be helping a friend as I sit with their aging parents to give them a break. I have this fantasy of volunteering in a nursing home, giving baths to the seniors, and offering back rubs for as long as the resident wants. I’d like to provide them with the care and attention that other assistants may not have time to give.
We also have eight grandchildren, so I want to leave some time to be a traditional grandma and babysit a couple of days a week!
Q: Which upcoming Affordable Living project are you most looking forward to seeing completed after you retire?
KATHY: Prairie Oaks Village in Wilmington, OH! Also, Westminster Court in Blanchester, OH. Those are the projects we applied for, got rejected, applied again, got rejected, applied again, and finally got the award. So far, we have gotten four out of the six awards. I can’t wait to see it all completed, and the residents who live there finally have beautiful and safe apartments.
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for families or current ERS staff members?
KATHY: Every day, when you start your day, be so thankful.
Thank you to Kathy Ison-Lind for more than 18 years of incredible service at Episcopal Retirement Services! If you have questions about our Affordable Living communities or in-home services, contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.