Villagio Director of Nurses Linda Graham, left, and Debi Sims, RN, are encouraged by the staff’s flexibility and kindness offered to residents of the assisted living center that includes memory care.

by James Coburn
Staff Writer

It was the group of people who serve residents at Villagio Senior Living in Oklahoma City that attracted Linda Graham to accept a new position as director of nurses in March.
“I had worked with some of them at a previous job. I knew of their reputations and so when they offered me the job, I was ready to take it, because I wasn’t happy where I was,” said Graham, LPN.
In 1976, Graham graduated from a nursing school that no longer exists but was at the Woodward hospital. The majority of her nursing career has been in critical care. Within the last two years she decided to focus her career in assisted living.
Villagio offers assisted living and memory care. It helps its residents do daily living activities that they cannot manage well on their own, such as medications and keeping track of doctors appointment and diet, Graham said.
“Then we have our memory care that we offer a lot more intense assistance to these people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” Graham said.
Most of the memory care residents are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and need a lot of guidance.
Graham said the Villagio staff works well together while also being able to laugh and have fun. Residents enjoy seeing a happy staff.
“And when it’s time to be serious, we’re serious,” Graham continued. “We’re friends. It’s not like we’re just coworkers.”
There are certain qualities that members of the nursing staff need in order to provide optimum care, she said. First of all, the nurses and members of the staff need to be patient. They should be flexible in adapting to the changing needs of residents from day-to-day.
“Anything is possible if you have the courage to make it happen,” are words posted in the office of Graham and Debi Sims, RN.
Sims said the staff is trained to meet memory care residents where they are in life.
“I think what we do for the most part is we really try to select employees who have previous memory care experience,” Sims said. “And during the interview process, we’ll ask them questions about what is one tool they can use when working with memory care residents.
“If they can tell us pretty quickly of redirection and give us some examples then we know that they’ve been there, because redirection is something that you do all day long, either going to the place where they are in time and joining them there or giving them an answer that satisfies them. It doesn’t have to be the truth, it’s just their truth.”
Sims, who is known in the community for her work with dementia patients, said that Villagio will also be adding further training for each staff member in memory care.
“Memory care here will be expanding. I think it will be doubling in size,” Sims said. “So it will be big and we want to make sure we get very good training. It helps to have nurses in place and administrators in place that have dealt with memory care, too.”
All of the residents have their favorite nurse aides, but they are rotated so that everybody will be able to work in every area of patient care efficiently, Graham said.
“Some of the staff absolutely loves memory care. And we have others that work better with people in assisted living. Everybody is proficient in every area and we make sure that they take training to know how to work with people in memory care,” Graham said.
Villagio is also experiencing some reconstruction of certain areas. It is putting in a coffee bistro and a nutritious juice bar. Touch and aroma therapy will be made available for residents.
“It’s my understanding that we’re going to begin that with the people back in memory care because they seem to benefit from that better,” Graham said. “It’s just a beautiful facility, even now as all the renovations take place. The Villagio is all inclusive. Prices don’t change, which is a real help for people who are trying to manage their parents finances.”
Graham has hobbies to further enrich her life apart from her work at Villagio, especially flowers and gardening when it’s not too hot outdoors.
“I love to can. I was raised watching my grandma make jellies and jams from out of the garden,” Graham said. “So in the summer we’d make apple butter and things like that.”
Graham described herself as a homebody. But she’s one who likes to travel. And, when she travels, Graham prefers taking cruises.