Similar but Different

My loves never cease to amaze me. Even in their absence, I continue to learn and grow from all they’ve taught me (both directly and indirectly). Now a month into motherhood, I can confidently say that while I still have no idea what I’m doing, I’ve at least been able to apply past experiences to current situations. Below are the top three examples of said principles:

  • There’s a reason for everything. Nine times out of ten, unless they’re colic, babies aren’t crying for no reason; their tears are indicative of an unmet need. Similarly, the needs of those living with dementia can be expressed through their behaviors and emotions (i.e., agitation or unrest). Determining what that need is can be challenging, but knowing to investigate it is half the battle. In not-so-little Leo’s case, it’s usually hunger. 😉
  • There are good days and bad days. Like I said, nine times out of ten the tears are justifiable. Sometimes, however, it’s simply a crappy day.. a day of feeling off, tired, upset, or just not in the mood. This brings me to my next point –
  • Give yourself some grace. You’re not always going to get it right. The interventions you put in place yesterday might prove useless today. Just when you feel you’ve figured things out, your outcomes may change, and that’s ok. You’re doing your best and tomorrow’s a clean slate.

I’m sure month two will bring its own set of lessons. Fingers crossed they’re also ones I’ve learned before in some capacity!

Baby Leo

This month’s post is a bit different from my usual, as its subject is roughly 80 years younger than those I typically reference. 😉 After much shared anticipation, ever-changing gender guesses, and endless name suggestions, baby Leo joined us one minute past his due date — he was born at midnight on the dot on 6/23, weighing in at 8lbs 13oz. Little man can’t wait to meet his bonus nonnos and nonnas.

Brutal but Beautiful

Let me preface this post by being perfectly clear: pregnancy is brutal. I like to think I have a high pain/nausea/everything tolerance but man, this has been tough. I’m in the home stretch and counting down the minutes until it’s over and our baby is in my arms. However.. sharing this time with my residents has been indescribable. I remember a friend in the industry telling me years ago that the seniors she encountered were way more excited to partake in her wedding planning than they were when she was with child. It surprised me but I took her word for it; I had pretty low expectations when I shared the news this holiday season, especially after seeing how into the wedding they were (she was right about that excitement, at least). My God, was she wrong about the rest: to say they’re pumped about this little one would be a gross understatement.

I often liken working in senior living to having 100+ bonus nonnos and nonnas that you get to be around all the time. As my career has evolved, I’ve loved sharing milestones with them and seeking their guidance and advice. Pregnancy has been the most special of them all thus far. Between daily food deliveries (“for the baby!”) to scolding me about my heels and keeping their hands on my belly to feel for kicks, it’s so incredibly touching. They’re even helping me come up with names. Many wouldn’t be able to tell you my name or how they know me, but the second they see me waddle in with my growing bump, they light up. They’re suddenly reminded — maybe of their own experience or someone else they knew, but definitely of a happy, loving time.

I asked a few of my loves to share some advice for new moms (read: me!) this past Mother’s Day, and the responses were so sweet. It’s one of many questions I’ve asked throughout this journey, and I hold their insight very close to my heart (especially when they assure me that yes, I am cut out for this and my body will bounce back ;)). I feel so fortunate to have them in my life and can’t wait to share their love with this baby. ❤

Not-So-Little Mamma: A Followup

Throughout this entire pandemic, I’ve been blown away by how much of an impact my dog Rosie has had on our residents. I wrote the below over three years ago now (!!) and while I knew at that time she was destined for big things, I could’ve never imagined just how big they (or she) would be.

In 2018, I adopted Rosie with the intention of having her be our “house dog”. Admittedly, I copied the idea from a fellow assisted living company (who I coincidentally work for now!); house pets were a signature touch of theirs and, naturally, I loved it. Since she came home with me at just 8 weeks old, my hunny’s been coming to work every single day (no call-outs allowed). We’re a package deal, Pose and I, and I’m certain this nightmare of a year would’ve been even more difficult had it not been for her sweet soul.

My loves were confined to their rooms for a sad, isolating, scary ~12 months. At first, I could see she was rattled by that: Where was everyone? What happened to the hustle & bustle, the dining room snacks, the endless affection? Why was everybody so on edge all of a sudden?! There was a shift from being center of attention to a lost pup, unsure of how to spend her time with her newly-masked coworkers. Eventually, though, she found a new purpose, perhaps even more crucial than the original: suite stops. Rosie made daily rounds to visit with, comfort, and cheer up our nonnos and nonnas when they could no longer come down to her.

Obviously, her presence didn’t fix things – 2020 was an f’ing nightmare. I like to think it made things better, though, if only marginally. A particularly touching memory I’ll cherish forever is pictured below, featuring a devastated resident attending her own son’s funeral via FaceTime, with Rosie by her side. Mamma, “thankful” doesn’t begin to describe it. ❤


As if it wasn’t already evident from previous posts (and my Instagram bio), I am a huge dog lover. I worked through undergrad and grad school at the most incredible kennel, and I grew up with Shepherds and Labs. I’ve always hoped to somehow combine my love for dogs and seniors – to do meaningful work that involves both. This weekend, I took the first step toward doing just that: I rescued a three-month-old puppy. I know, I know…I work 65+ hours a week, I’m never home, and to say I travel often would be an understatement. I promise there is a method to my madness.

It’s no secret that the effects dogs have on people of all ages are immense. Within an instant, they can make us feel happy, loved, and safe – simultaneously excited and calm. Physically, they keep us active and in turn help our hearts. Dogs reduce stress (except during the housebreaking stages perhaps) and teach us lessons. For seniors especially, they can be pivotal in decreasing loneliness and improving mood; dogs live in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow, and according to Dr. Jay Granat, tomorrow can be very scary for someone who is elderly:

“Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.”

And focus on them they do. That goes for both physical impairments and cognitive ones. Individuals with dementia (particularly in earlier stages) tend to be extremely stressed, and understandably so; they recognize that something’s wrong but can’t necessarily distinguish it from what is right. They’re not only confused, but also frightened and embarrassed. Here’s where my little mamma comes in:

“I sort of think that anybody with Alzheimer’s could benefit by a friendly little dog. Somebody they can play with and talk to – it’s kinda nice to talk to a dog that you know is not going to talk back. And you can’t make a mistake that way. … My dog knows things about me before I know them myself. … The one thing I know is that the dog is with me, and when she’s with me I at least have some solace, even if I don’t know the way.”

– Cary Henderson, Partial View

Rosie, that’s your cue. Introducing the newest member of our team and family:

The impact this little girl has had on our residents in three short days is immeasurable. I’m completely blown away. I have no doubt she will continue to amaze me. She is, after all, a dog ❤ one of the only beings that will ever love us without condition or complication. Mamma, we are so thankful for you already.

Fearful but Resilient

Last month’s post-vaccine poll left me feeling disappointed and concerned. As I mentioned in February’s post, a shocking 30% of residents said they were not yet ready for communal dining and group activities, despite the fact that they’d been isolating for an entire year (and fully vaccinated, no less!). They were scared, and that tore my heart in pieces. I’m happy to report that this month, however, they’re singing a different tune: we’ve since opened up internally and even began welcoming visitors this week. The energy throughout the community is unreal.

My loves never cease to amaze me. While we all (im)patiently waited for updated guidelines, they sat tight. Families and staff rallied together to fight for change, and they waited peacefully. When new rules (and restrictions) rolled out, not one complained. Every nonna and nonno was thankful and content; there was no dwelling on what they’d endured, only celebrating what was to come. Despite some fears, they were resilient.

As for me this month – I’m still scared (the new state order basically threw all logic out the window), but I’m hopeful. I feel encouraged after this week’s reunions and inspired by my residents’ strength. Things can only get better from here.

Surprising Effect

This time last year I was self-isolating at home. Not by choice, of course, but as a result of a newly implemented policy at work: anyone who had recently traveled to Asia or Italy had to quarantine for 14 days. Coincidentally, I was in Rome the weekend of the Italian COVID-19 outbreak just days prior. Despite having spent nearly a week back in the community and the fact that I felt fine, no exceptions would be made. I could’ve never anticipated how much life would change upon my return to our assisted living.

Our residents have been locked down for nearly one year. Research has found that chronic social isolation and loneliness can alter gene activity in ways that increase one’s risk of diseases like dementia. They can also suppress our immune system and cause depression. None of these effects are shocking and, sadly, I can personally attest to witnessing them all. Others, however, have honestly surprised me.

We wrapped up our vaccine clinic this month with over 95% of residents receiving the Pfizer shot (woohoo!). The Department of Health has yet to release new post-injection guidelines, which has us extra anxious for change. I decided to send out a simple Google poll with one of my weekly updates to gauge how everybody’s feeling: would they be comfortable at least opening internally following the administration of the second dose? Or did they prefer we keep residents quarantined?

To clarify, it wasn’t family responses that surprised me. They were a unanimous “YES, please resume communal dining and group activities”. Residents, on the other hand, answered differently. A shocking 30% of those polled said NO. Why? Because they’re afraid. The same people who initially said we were being soft, who have experienced so much in their lives (i.e., full blown war), are fearful. They’re scared of returning to normalcy, of the virus itself. Maybe it was naïve to think they wouldn’t be, but it makes me so, so sad to know that they are. For some reason, this side effect is extra heartbreaking.

I guess I’m scared too. I’m afraid to make the wrong decisions, to encourage and comfort them but have it backfire. No matter what, though, I know we can’t keep doing this. We need to take our chances; slowly and safely, we have to reunite, bravely fighting fear, loneliness, and this virus together.

I’ve Almost Forgotten

We’re going on one year of this nightmare and I feel like we’ve sadly shifted from “temporary precautions” to “new normal”. Not by choice, of course, and we remain hopeful, but we’re starting to forget. I hate that I’m forgetting what senior living really feels like. Actually, there’s a lot about this that I can’t stand:

  • I hate always knowing exactly where to find someone. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to have a family member pop in (without an appointment, rapid test, and PPE) & have to search the building for their loved one, who could be in a friend’s apartment, on a bus outing, in an activity.. anywhere! Anywhere but their apartment, where they’d merely sleep, not pass time.
  • I hate not having to fill the bus with gas. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to pull up to an attendant with a van full of residents, excited to reach our destination and busting my chops about waiting until we’re almost on E. We were always almost on E, because we were always out and about. I haven’t filled the tank since March.
  • I hate our empty calendar. I’ll be honest, I *used to* hate our monthly activity planning meetings – they’d inevitably run an hour over because we could never agree on what programs to add or which restaurants to try. I’ve almost forgotten how the bickering would sound, how eyes would roll, and how every time I’d cave to appease them (andddd to finally end the meeting). I never thought I’d miss that Calendar Council, but I’d do anything to host one now.
  • I hate that there’s no more girl talk. After dinner, some ladies would gather in the sitting area outside my office and chat about the latest gossip, with Rosie laying at their feet. God, I loved listening to (and joining) my girls.

I guess there’s not much about this I don’t hate. I can’t wait until it’s all forgotten.

Most Memorable Days of 2020

With ringing in a new year comes a time of reflection and, normally, a ton of gratitude. Today hits a little different. I’m still thankful for a ton (I got married this year, after all!), but professionally, it’s been nothing short of brutal. A few days in particular stand out most; each one feels simultaneously like yesterday and forever ago. My top five, in chronological order:

  1. February 28, 2020: The day I was quarantined. I had returned from a trip to Rome four days prior when our company issued a new policy: any recent travel to Asia or Italy would warrant 14 days of self-isolation. Even though I’d been back at work all week, I was out of luck (being away from the community for so long is my nightmare). Our weekend in Italy was coincidentally that of their infamous outbreak, and truthfully the first time I’d ever really heard about/looked into COVID-19.
  2. March 11, 2020: The day we decided to ban visitors in our community. It wouldn’t have been right to make it effective immediately in case anyone planned on showing up that afternoon, but we knew time was of the essence. We stayed late that night to call every single family member and alert them of the precautions we’d be taking, effective the very next day. One of my favorite residents had dinner plans with her son that evening but wasn’t in the mood to go out (it was freezing!). I begged her to take the opportunity, explaining that I didn’t know the next time they’d be able to see each other in person. To this day, I’m so glad she went.. and grateful for the others that took my advice and snuck in one last embrace. We knew the ban wouldn’t be as short as they were predicting (two weeks, HAH!), but we could’ve never anticipated it’d last this long.
  3. March 12, 2020: The day of our COVID-19 open forum. It ended up becoming the first of weekly update meetings (though those were in much smaller groups and at a safe distance), but we hadn’t yet stopped large gatherings – little did we know, it’d be the last time we were all together. I remember typing up a coronavirus FAQ list to distribute and it was the first time most residents had ever even heard the word. They had questions, I did my best to provide answers, and we were all a combination of scared/confused/aggravated/skeptical.
  4. April 8, 2020: The day of our first positive. I’ll never forget answering that call from the hospital. A resident had gone out for seemingly unrelated symptoms, so when they called and told me “the test was positive” my immediate response was, “What test?!” As if life hadn’t changed enough in four short weeks, the rug was really pulled from under us on April 8th.
  5. April 10, 2020: The day of the FaceTime funeral. One of my residents lost her adult son suddenly (unrelated to COVID), and her poor family couldn’t even grieve appropriately. From what I recall, only eight people could attend his services, and bringing their mom in the midst of an outbreak was not a risk they were willing to take (I still don’t blame them). I helped her join them via FaceTime and it was nothing short of devastating.

Wow, my most memorable days (professionally, at least) all happened in the span of a month and a half. The rest of 2020 has been a complete blur – a terrifying, sad, helpless, rollercoaster of a blur.

Bridge the Gap Podcast

This month, I had the pleasure of (virtually) sitting down with Joshua Crisp and Lucas McCurdy, co-hosts of Bridge the Gap. The senior living podcast aims to help shape the culture of the industry by being an advocate and positive voice of influence. Hearing about their mission and values was like music to my ears, so when they asked me to join them for an episode, I was ecstatic. Full interview (which is about more than our wedding, I promise ;)) in the attached video!

Marital Advice: Resident Edition

On September 20th, in front of our families and closest friends, my now husband (!!) and I were married. Being engaged as an assisted living administrator (me) & physician (him) during a global pandemic was the worst. Cancelling our dream wedding in Italy (and the ceremony at my ALF for the residents) was the worst. Pulling a small domestic wedding together last minute was the worsttt – I even half hoped my weekly swab would come back positive so we could nix it and secretly elope. 😉 But that day.. it was the best.

My residents couldn’t be there, but in true form I took no time off (sorry husband) and showing them photos the following week was the [second] best. I laminated them and disinfected in between suite visits, of course. Along the way, I solicited some marital advice that was too good not to share:

  1. First and foremost, put the ring on the correct finger at the altar (I at first thought this one was funny, until I learned I had to wear my engagement ring on my right hand down the aisle!)
  2. The classic “never go to bed angry”; make sure to hash things out before you go to sleep, even if it keeps you up late
  3. When you have children, remember that your spouse was there first 
  4. Speaking of children, wear a girdle immediately after you give birth. Oh, and lay on your stomach as much as possible, “even when you eat dinner”.
  5. Marry someone whose interests are similar to yours
  6. However, if you want to do something and your spouse doesn’t, make sure you do it anyway – even if it’s without them. Be sure to keep your own identity, as well.
  7. Be a united front to your kids, even if you disagree
  8. Never do your husband’s laundry. If you start and do it once, you’ll be doing it for the rest of your life.
  9. Don’t give up and throw in the towel when it gets hard, because it undoubtedly will
  10. It’s not always going to be 50/50; make sure to compromise

Noted. ❤