News

A Passion For Educating Future Generations

Leonard “Sandy” Davey, Jr. (1930-2021)

For years, Westminster Towers was blessed to have Sandy Davey among its family. Sandy was known by many residents as a sweet and thoughtful person with a vibrant sense of humor. He felt the team members where like family to him.

Sandy spent most of his adult life in Orlando, where he was best-known as the longtime general manager of the WKMG-Channel 6 television station. Prior to embarking on his career in television, Sandy earned an economics degree from the University of Virginia and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

His passing was a cause for sadness, but his memory will be further enhanced by a gift he made to his beloved Westminster community. Sandy left a generous bequest of nearly $132,000 to support the education of Westminster Towers team members and their families who are seeking to further their professional skills and education.

“Sandy’s bequest to Westminster is the ultimate act of generosity,” said Jeff Coates, Westminster Communities Foundation’s Vice President of Philanthropy. “His legacy will be known as a caring soul whose generosity will affect the lives of others through education.”

Sandy’s gift will impact team members and their children like Mia Concha, the daughter of Westminster Towers team member Andrea Montesanti. Mia, who received a 2022 scholarship, is a graduate of Seminole State College and is furthering her education by studying psychology at the University of Central Florida. Andrea said that the financial assistance provided to her daughter is making a difference: “I am grateful that, because of the scholarship Mia received, she was able to purchase the supplies and books she needed for all her classes at UCF.”

Thanksgiving Letter From Garry Hennis, Chief Operating Officer

At Thanksgiving we pause to acknowledge our many blessings and to express our gratitude. We give our thanks for gathering with family and friends, as well as for many cherished memories. As Westminster team members, we also give thanks for each other and for our strong family of service.

Each year, I write to share my gratitude with you. We have responded to a pandemic, catastrophic hurricanes, economic challenges and concerns about war and unrest throughout the world.  Even so, we have much to be thankful for. Above all, I am thankful for you.

I reflect on our Mission and see how you bring it to life within our communities. Through your love, dedication and courage you have served residents, their families, and each other. We have been tried as Americans, as team members and as an organization, yet we continue to live the Mission of service.

As we acknowledge the challenging few years we have experienced, we do so knowing that the individual blessings for which we give thanks may have changed – but our gratitude to God and our commitment to our Mission of serving others remain constant.  I remain inspired by how you serve the residents each day and feel more grateful than ever for each of you.    

On behalf of the entire Leadership Team, we want you to know how thankful we are that you choose to be a member of the Westminster team.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Garry Hennis
Chief Operating Officer

Westminster Pharmacy Services Team Members Certified As Pharmacy Technicians

Westminster Pharmacy Services now has two additional registered pharmacy technicians among its team members! Congratulations to pharmacy billers Michelle Burris and Mayra Lucas de Gomez on their recent certification.

Burris and Lucas de Gomez completed a six-month program offered by the Florida Department of Health and passed the State of Florida Pharmacy Technician exam, making them licensed to perform and assist at Westminster Pharmacy Services as pharmacy technicians.

“The certification has opened up a lot more things I can do,” Burris said. From data entry and packing medications for pharmacists to review, to preparing deliveries to residents at all our communities, the certification licenses both team members to become more versatile and contribute to many other parts of our Mission of service to older adults. That’s on top of their responsibilities for billing and coordinating with insurance companies in their current roles.

The team at Westminster Pharmacy Services acquired the certification program to develop additional pharmacy technicians coming out of the global pandemic.

“Staffing is challenging for all areas right now, pharmacy included,” said Phil Layman, RPh, CPh, Director of Pharmacy Operations and preceptor for the certification program. “We became registered with the state of Florida to become a certification site and be able to do on-site training partly for that need. Our own team members are some of the best candidates that we could have.”

“Finding good, dedicated individuals is hard, especially after the pandemic,” said Dominick DeSarro, Vice President of Pharmacy Services. “What this opportunity allowed us to do is utilize the talent that we have within and refresh their experience and educational base with this new component.”

Burris and Lucas de Gomez are already familiar with many medication names, dates of supply and directions for prescriptions, on top of knowing the ins and outs of the billing process. The online training course covered areas they were not already experienced with, such as drug classification, data entry, drug calculations and how to complete fillings.

The long-term benefit is not only to the team member and pharmacy services team, but to the residents they serve.

“It’s important to know more to help the clients and residents more,” Lucas de Gomez said. The pharmacy technician certification has empowered her to better assist residents with their medication, and avoid transferring their calls to another team member to complete. “This is really important for us, and important for me personally. It allows me to help my community and help me do my job.”

The 25 team members at Westminster Pharmacy Services have been serving residents in Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care and Nursing Care, providing consulting, nurse liaison, and pharmacy services to residents at all Westminster communities for 15 years, a milestone they celebrate this month.

“One of the things that we’re extremely proud of is that, as part of the family of Westminster Communities of Florida, our margin goes back to the communities, so it’s continuously feeding and supporting the communities that we serve,” DeSarro said. “We serve them twice. That’s truly our Mission.”

Congratulations to Michelle and Mayra on their certification and to the team members at Westminster Pharmacy Services for 15 years of dedicated service to our residents.

To join the team at Westminster Pharmacy Services and find the opportunity that suits you today, follow us on LinkedIn @WestminsterCommunitiesFL, on Instagram @WestminsterCareersFL, or on our website at http://www.WestminsterCommunitiesFL.org/careers!

Chief Operating Officer, Garry Hennis, “Thank You” After Hurricane Ian

October 12, 2022

Dear team members,

Recently Hurricane Ian hit Florida with great destruction. Our heart breaks for the devastation of Fort Myers, Cape Coral, much of Southwest Florida and in the homes of our friends and family. The aftermath of this hurricane is heartbreaking.

The whole Westminster Communities of Florida family was affected, we were forced to evacuate seven communities from Bradenton, Jacksonville, Sarasota and St. Petersburg. Many team members traveled the state to evacuate with the residents we serve, and others sheltered in place during the storm in Central and North Florida.

Thank you for everything that you did to support the residents and each other. Your service to Westminster and the Mission of our organization was of the very highest caliber. Throughout the storm, we continued to serve the residents. At critical moments, every team member was involved, from nursing support to dining services, lifestyle and wellness to maintenance, housekeeping and more. Your tireless efforts before, during and after the storm provided for the safety and security of all residents.

We are thankful that our communities, the residents, and all of you are now safe and sound. Despite the destruction all around us, life is returning to normal. Now the hard work of recovery begins. Some of you have experienced the damage to your own homes or those of friends and family. Others have been emotionally or physically affected by this storm. Please offer the blessing of grace to yourselves, the residents, and your fellow team members as we heal and recover.

Westminster is truly blessed to have the best team members. You are why the persons we serve have chosen to live in one of our communities!

Thank you for going above and beyond to help us fulfill our Mission, not only during Ian’s impact, but each and every day.

Sincerely,

Garry D. Hennis
Chief Operating Officer

What Are the Early Signs of Dementia?

Dementia refers to a loss of cognitive functioning that can severely impact a person’s daily life and routines. It often results in memory loss, confusion, and other distressing symptoms. Nearly one-third of all adults older than 85 have developed a form of dementia. Although it is common, dementia is not a normal part of the aging process.

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia begins when healthy brain cells begin to degenerate. They lose their connections with other brain cells, causing people to experience the first signs and symptoms of dementia. Some of the most common early symptoms of dementia include:

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Wandering or getting lost
  • Balance issues
  • Poor reasoning skills
  • Difficulty communicating with others
  • Repeating questions
  • Taking longer to finish routine tasks
  • Impulsivity

When an older adult first begins to experience these symptoms, it’s important that they see their physician. Dementia can be divided into different types, many of which have treatments that reduce symptoms effectively.

Why Dementia Occurs

While it is completely normal for older adults to lose some healthy brain cells, the accelerated rate of loss associated with dementia is not normal. Dementia has several different causes that affect various cells and regions of the brain.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common reason for a diagnosis of dementia in older adults. It accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. This disease causes a buildup of proteins in and around brain cells, which can result in a loss of function.

Vascular dementia is the result of damaged blood vessels, which can interfere with the delivery of blood and oxygen to the brain.

Frontotemporal dementia is a rare form of dementia that occurs in people younger than 60. It is thought to be a result of abnormal levels of certain proteins.

Lewy body dementia is the result of deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein. These deposits are called Lewy bodies.

Mixed dementia refers to dementia that has more than one cause.

Seeking treatment can help people with any type of dementia achieve a greater quality of life.

Florida Assisted Living Facilities Can Help

When a loved one is dealing with dementia, Florida assisted-living facilities and Florida independent nursing facilities can provide compassionate care and enriching services to help them cope with their symptoms. People with dementia often benefit from substantial support as they navigate their daily lives. 

Kristen Tokic Named Administrator at Riverside Presbyterian House

Kristen Tokic Named Administrator at Riverside Presbyterian House

Recently, Westminster Communities of Florida promoted Kristen Tokic to Administrator at Riverside Presbyterian House, an affordable Rental Retirement Community in Jacksonville, Florida, for older adults. Kristen’s journey from Certified Occupancy Specialist to Administrator is just one example of the wide array of possibilities for growth within our organization, and the plethora of educational opportunities available to team members.

After joining Westminster in 2019, Kristen was encouraged to pursue opportunities for career advancement by her Administrator, supervisor and family. As a result, she completed a Master of Health Administration degree from the University of North Florida, with the support of the Westminster Communities of Florida Tuition Reimbursement Program. This program reimburses current team members for courses they take at an accredited institution, a benefit offered to team members seeking career ladder positions.

“Westminster is very supportive in furthering your education,” Kristen said. “There are a lot of strong leaders at our company and they want to facilitate that growth for everyone. There’s a push for everyone to do better.”

Over the past five years, the Tuition Reimbursement Program has provided more than $115,000 in tuition reimbursement in amounts ranging from $415 to $9,900, all driving the opportunity for advancement.

Kristen started out at Riverside Presbyterian Apartments, a neighboring community, working for Administrator Katherine Trussell. In her seven years as Administrator, Kathy has encouraged many team members to take advantage of career advancement opportunities and further their education, including Kristen. “It has been a privilege to support the team members in furthering their education,” Kathy said.

Kathy aims to challenge and cross-train team members and seeks out those who are adaptable, have strong communication skills, are open to feedback, and support and empower other team members. “That’s what I look for in employees who are going to be leaders.” Kathy added, “I saw all those qualities in Kristen from the minute she arrived.”

Shannon Woods, Regional Director for Westminster’s Rental Retirement Communities, saw the same drive and leadership qualities in Kristen. “Right out of the gate you could tell she was a go-getter,” Shannon commented. “You could pick up on the hunger and excitement to learn more and do more.”

Shannon noted that Kristen displayed many traits that a successful administrator needs to have – compassion, commitment, dedication to the team members and one other, key thing: “The willingness to do whatever job to get the work done to serve our residents.”

Kristen’s experience working with seniors led her to focus on a career in health administration. “The purpose of our communities is to serve the underserved,” Kristen said. “We want to make sure that they have a good place to live and to ensure that we’re fulfilling our Mission. Overall, Westminster wants to make people’s lives better.”

The Tuition Reimbursement Program is just one way Westminster Communities of Florida offers team members opportunities for growth. In addition, team members can participate in in-house training and professional development sessions, follow Westminster career paths, seek internal promotions, or apply for resident-funded scholarships with the support of the Westminster Communities Foundation. “It’s all at the tip of their fingers,” Shannon explained. “All they need to do is initiate the conversation and show the willingness to do the work.”

How can Westminster team members move up the career ladder? All three leaders offered a similar piece of advice: Clearly communicate your goals to your supervisor.

“Make your desires known,” Shannon advised. “Be vocal about your intentions, be excited about the opportunity, learn everything that you can in every department and never limit yourself.”

“Be very open with your administrator,” Kathy added. “Communicate exactly what you want so they can help you.”

Kristen’s journey to leadership is just one example of a team member utilizing Westminster supported career advancement opportunities to grow and to succeed. “It was hard, but it was worth it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Kristen said.

To join our team and find the opportunity that suits you today, follow us on LinkedIn, on Facebook, or on our website at www.WestminsterCommunitiesFL.org/careers!

3 Simple Ways Children Can Support Their Aging Parents

Getting older is a natural part of life, and seniors have a lot to look forward to in the later stages of life. Retirement, grandkids, and more free time are all things to look forward to as we age. However, aging certainly comes along with unique challenges.

As seniors age, they may require more support, even if they don’t ask for it. Here are three ways children can support their aging parents. 

1. Empower Parents

A common side effect of aging is losing independence. When mobility or health issues come into play, seniors may be unable to do as many things. But children can empower older parents and help them maintain their independence. 

For example, you can invest in technology that helps them do difficult activities or teach them how to arrange transportation when they can no longer drive. 

Empowering them can be as simple as letting them decide what they need. Working to maintain your parent’s sense of independence is one of the most effective ways to support them as they age.

2. Practice Active Listening

As parents get older, they may experience challenges that they need help with. However, communicating these needs isn’t always easy. Practice active listening to pick up on what your parents say and what is left unsaid. 

Ask them to clarify when you don’t understand something, and don’t shut them down if you feel they are asking for something unreasonable. Always keep lines of communication open. It can go a long way toward preventing conflict and will make your parents feel heard and valued.

3. Set Up Processes

Empowering your parents to maintain their independence is great, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have processes in place to help them. Set up regular transportation so they can get to their weekly events or appointments. Invest in motion detection or fall detection technology to ensure they are staying safe. 

Schedule daily or weekly visits so that your parents don’t become lonely. You can also consider assisted living in Florida if you can no longer maintain a safe and healthy environment for them.

Consider Assisted Living in Florida

Assisted living is a great option for many seniors. Florida assisted living facilities are known for their wonderful amenities, holistic wellness programs, and sense of community. Whether your parent needs a little extra support or around-the-clock care, assisted living can meet their needs.

Tampa Bay Times Article: How Afghan refugees found stability in Tampa Bay senior communities

The Raoufi family, (from left) Suliman Raoufi, Atefah, Noman, Venus, and Omran, pictured in front of Westminster Point Pleasant in Bradenton, Florida. Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Times

Noman Raoufi, one of our Afghani team members, shares his family’s story with the Tampa Bay Times in an inspiring article about their transition to living in the Unites States, and their experiences working at Westminster Communities of Florida. Today Noman helps to integrate our new Afghani team members, but he received a law degree in Afghanistan and was an interpreter for the U.S. Armed Forces and NATO. Read the full article about the Raoufi family’s experiences on the Tampa Bay Times website.

LeadingAge Florida’s Trustee Of The Year Award Given To Marjorie Phillips, Former Westminster Board Chair

Marjorie Phillips, former chair of the Westminster Communities of Florida Board of Directors, at center, with CEO Terry Rogers, husband Tom Phillips, and board member Jeff Mock.

This week, LeadingAge Florida honored former Westminster Communities of Florida Board of Directors chairwoman Marjorie Phillips for her extraordinary contributions to the residents and team members of Westminster Communities of Florida.

The announcement was made at LeadingAge Florida’s 59th Annual Convention and Exposition, held at the Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

Phillips has served in nearly every position on the boards of directors and regional committees of the organization. This includes tenure as chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Presbyterian Retirement Communities, Westminster’s parent organization, as well as the Board of Directors of Westminster Retirement Communities, which is Westminster’s division of affordable Rental Retirement Communities serving older adults with low to moderate incomes.

“I am so appreciative of the nomination by Westminster and somewhat stunned that I would be given an award for doing something I so loved doing,” Phillips said, after receiving the award.
“Serving at Westminster was one of the great blessings in my life.”

Throughout her service, Phillips led Westminster through countless changes in the overall field of senior living and within the organization itself. Current Board of Directors chairman John Hillenmeyer said, “On behalf of the entire Westminster Communities of Florida Board of Directors, I want to congratulate Marjorie on her many years of dedication to serving the thousands of residents and team members of our organization. She led us through many successful changes as we grew, while at the same time helping us to always keep our eye on our Mission. Congratulations to Marjorie on a job very well done!”

Westminster’s Chief Executive Officer, Terry Rogers, also congratulated Phillips. “I am so delighted that LeadingAge Florida acknowledged the incredible service to our organization that Marjorie Phillips contributed over the years. It has been my pleasure to work with her during some of her tenure, and I congratulate her on this wonderful honor.”

Westminster Communities of Florida is proud to have such an exceptional leader contributing to our Mission. It is through her hard work that we have been able to serve older adults throughout Florida and make the greater communities we serve stronger at the same time.

Please join us in congratulating Marjorie Phillips on this award!

About LeadingAge Florida: Established in 1963 as a Florida not-for-profit corporation. LeadingAge Florida is committed to assisting members in achieving excellence as providers, businesses, and employers. To accomplish this goal, the Association provides up-to-date regulatory information, a wide variety of educational opportunities, representation before the legislature and government agencies, group purchasing services, and opportunities for networking with peers.

The Association is comprised of more than 250 mission-driven communities, representing more than 500 facilities and more than 140 business associates. More than 80,000 seniors live in LeadingAge Florida member communities. Thousands more are served through home health services, adult day care centers, and other community outreach programs offered by our members. LeadingAge Florida members are economic engines, providing an estimated 25,000 jobs statewide. They are sponsored primarily by community-based nonprofit civic, religious, fraternal, and other mission-driven organizations.

About Westminster Communities of Florida: Westminster Communities of Florida is a faith-based, not-for-profit organization serving more than 7,000 residents in 22 communities throughout Florida who are in search of an enlightened, fully integrated, person-centered approach to health and wellness. Since 1954, we’ve been Florida’s best choice in active senior living. Our Mission of service commits us to creating and preserving excellent active living communities and honoring each person’s dignity, rights, self-respect and independence.

https://vimeo.com/738383847

Summertime Adventures for Seniors: Planning the Perfect Daytrip

As a senior, it can be difficult to go on fun summer adventures. But with a little bit of planning, you can plan the perfect day trip. Whether you want to stroll through a museum or are trying to hit the pool, check out these important tips to help make the most out of your summer adventure. 

Find a Body of Water 

Swimming is one of the best activities you can do for your body. It increases your heart rate, exercises your joints, and stretches out your muscles – all without putting too much strain on your body. 

Take your friends and family to a body of water to do some easy, fun exercise. If you live with others at your assisted living facility, bring the whole gang down. 

Bring the Essentials

It’s important not to leave home without some basic essentials. This is especially true if you plan to do an outdoor excursion. 

Each year, unprepared hikers succumb to deadly summer heat – don’t get caught without water! Prepare by bringing plenty of water, sunscreen, fans, and more. 

No matter your day trip, bring essentials like: 

  • Water 
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • A hat
  • Any medications you might require
  • Towel 
  • First aid kit 

Of course, the location and activities of your day trip will inform your essentials list. Sometimes, it can help to write down the list the night before to make sure you don’t forget anything. 

If you’re going on a long day trip (or even staying overnight), check with your pharmacy to pack all of your necessary medication. 

Experience Local Restaurants 

There’s nothing better than enjoying some quality food on your day excursion. Visiting local restaurants can be a big part of the fun of a day out.

Find a place offering a type of cuisine you enjoy or one you’ve always wanted to try, and make it part of your adventure.

Bring Binoculars 

Venturing into a state park or wilderness hike? Setting sail on a sailboat? Exploring a nature trail? Make sure to pack a set of binoculars to further enhance your experience. 

While other friends may remember the essentials like water or a hat, most people forget that bringing binoculars can make the trip much more enjoyable. 

Check Florida Assisted Living Facilities for Discounts 

Are you a resident of Florida assisted living facilities? If you are, check for discounts; many Florida assisted living facilities offer great discounts for events, museums, zoos, and more around your community.  

You can also check with your local library for discounts as many places offer great deals for senior citizens. 

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