A day in the life of a senior living nurse

Angela Britain

Meet Angela Britain, a certified nurse assistant (CNA) at Buckner Westminster Place! Angela serves as a “shahbazim,” a unique position within the Green House® Homes concept that incorporates home-like  tasks such as cooking and cleaning into the traditional CNA role. Check out a day in her life for a closer look behind the scenes of Buckner Retirement Services.

6:45 a.m.: Arrive at work

I work the morning shift, which is good because I’m a morning person. We get there at 6:45, and at that point all the residents are still sleeping. Green Houses are designed to have a smaller staff to resident ratio, so we only have two shahbazims per shift and 10 residents total.

Shift change

The first thing we do is a shift change with the night shift. During these meetings we get all the information from the overnight team regarding anything that may have happened, any resident who didn’t sleep well or anyone was ill. These are important meetings because they tell us how to plan the day.

Breakfast prep

Once shift change is complete, we’re getting ready for breakfast. We want the table to be set and all the food to be ready so we can begin serving residents as soon as they’re up.


Next, we’re going room to room to say good morning and help residents with their routines like shaving and showering. This is my favorite part of the day! I enjoy getting to tell them I love them, and they bless me with some of the sweetest things they say.


Green Houses are designed to have a family atmosphere, so during mealtimes we sit at the table and eat with the residents. If you were caring for your grandparents, you’d of course help them with the daily tasks they need to do, but you’d also help them cook and spend quality time with them. That’s what we do here too.

Lunch prep and activities

As soon as we’re finished with breakfast, we’re cleaning up dishes and beginning preparations for lunch.  It’s a juggling act. You’re cooking, cleaning and tending to the residents’ needs all at the same time.

While we try to maintain some sort of normal schedule for the residents, we also have to be able to acclimate to changes very quickly. We’re in constant communication with other nursing staff so that if we notice any changes in behavior or mood we can address those needs as well.

In between breakfast and lunch we’re also moving the residents around so they’re not in the same place all the time. The activity director will also come in and lead life enrichment activities for the residents.


Before we know it, we’re setting everyone back up at the table for lunch. One of the biggest blessings of working at a faith-based senior living provider like Buckner is that every day a resident prays over the meal. It’s such a sweet time! Family members also often join us for lunch. Some residents do eat in their rooms, so we work to accommodate those needs as well.


Then we start the process all over again of doing dishes, cleaning up and getting residents back to their rooms for an afternoon nap. During nap, we’ll look at the menu for the next day and see if there’s anything we need to do for prep. We’ll also do charting for the day and see if there’s anything we need to do for the next shift.

2:45: Final shift change

We’re relieved at 2:45, and at this point we do another shift change to keep the chain of communication going between nurses. Together we all work hard to let residents know they’re special, they’re still a blessing to others and they still have purpose.

I never would have picked nursing for myself, but now I know I was made for this. The Lord showed me he could open my heart to something unexpected, and he’s made this work so fulfilling.

Faith Focus: Seeing what you didn’t before

senior citizen banquet

Last week, Buckner Senior Living and Cooper Aerobics announced a collaboration that will bring Cooper experts to the Ventana by Buckner campus in Dallas. In the process of the day, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Kenneth Cooper and learn more about what sets him apart.

Fifty years ago, Cooper wrote Aerobics, which introduced the world to the benefits of aerobic workouts. Prior to the book, many people were discouraged to exercise after the age of 40 as experts believed it would shorten a person’s lifespan.

When Cooper’s book not only contradicted the contemporary thought, but put forward the notion that regular exercise would actually prolong health and lives, he was called a crackpot. Potential patients were steered away from him. But he stuck it out and his theories have proven true.

He’s revolutionized what it means to be healthy as we age. He’s even proving it day after day personally, having run more than 38,000 miles at the age of 87. His concepts have helped popularize the notion of each person needing to walk 10,000 steps daily. He trained a World Cup team. He has promoted healthy living around the globe.

And all that has led people to live far different lives than they once believed possible.

That struck me as extremely similar to what we do through Buckner Family Pathways and Family Hope Centers: Change individual’s and families’ perceptions of themselves and empower them to live lives they didn’t think possible.

Like Cooper’s efforts, the work of changing someone’s long-held beliefs is difficult. But just like the good doctor, we have examples we can point to where lives have been transformed. Single parents who have graduated from college. Families that are strong and raising amazing young people. Cycles of poverty that have been broken.

The impossible is possible – even in your life.

Do you believe it?

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. –Matthew 17:20

Behind the scenes: A day in the life of a senior living café manager

senior living chef

James Acuna-Miller used to be an accountant. Now, he’s the café lead at Buckner Villas. Check out a day in his life as part of our exclusive look behind the scenes of Buckner senior living.

9 a.m.

As soon as I walk through the doors in the morning, I’m saying good morning to residents. They’re already bustling in and out of the café for continental breakfast, so the first ten minutes of my day are always several series of “Good morning!” It’s a great way to start the day.

9:30 a.m.

Once I’ve said hello to everyone, I start setup for the café. I turn on the machines, plug in equipment and make a list of what ingredients we’ll need from the main kitchen. Then I grab the ingredients and come back to the café to prep any grilling, set out silverware, freshen up the chip display and make sure we’re ready for opening.

11 a.m.

The café opens at 11, and I usually have a good rush from 11 to 12:15. I’m the only one working in the café, so it can get busy! We have about 30 residents who come through the café every day. Business is the life of a culinary professional, and I love it!

We run a different special every day, and those are usually the most popular menu items. We’ve had a Cuban sandwich, grilled chicken pesto panini, and every Thursday I offer my signature chicken salad. The residents love it! While the main dining room offers a full three-course menu, we give residents a more casual option with burgers, sandwiches and salads. I make a mean burger!

4 p.m.

The café closes at 4, and that’s when I take my break. Because we’re open from 11-4, I need to be available for residents to come at any time. Sometimes we have latecomers who had appointments in the afternoon, and it’s nice to be able to offer a quick bite when they’re hungry.


After a break, I clean up the café. I shut down the equipment, wrap any food and make sure everything is spotless for the next day.

Before going to culinary school, I was an accountant and worked in a cubicle. It was fine, but I like to talk and interact with people. Besides the cooking, working with the residents is my favorite part of this job. They’re a hoot and we have a lot of fun together! It’s a joy to serve them by giving them their favorite foods.

The Buckner “pig-me-up”

seniors enjoying a pet pig

Meet Max.

Max is a four-month-old, 22-pound therapy pig, affectionately known as the unofficial Buckner Hospice mascot.

Max began visiting Buckner Hospice patients in March when he and owner Nicole McPherson, Buckner Hospice administrator, earned their companion animal certification. The pig now also visits residents at Parkway Place senior living community, and plans to soon make trips to each Buckner community.

“The joy on these residents’ faces when they see Max is almost indescribable!” said Susan Phelps, executive director of Parkway Place. “Animals have a unique way of bringing out a childlike joy in senior adults, and to see them get so excited is truly heartwarming.”

Therapy pigs have proven to be a unique source of joy and comfort for senior living residents. As with any therapy animal, research shows they can help reduce anxiety and lessen symptoms of depression, particularly for seniors who have a history of working with or being around animals.

McPherson received Max as a gift when he was three weeks old and weighed just five pounds. Since then, she’s been training him as a therapy pig. He lives inside her family’s home, in a kennel, like any other household pet.

“He’s just like a dog, but smarter,” laughed McPherson. “He can sit, spin, kiss and shake hands. He’s quite the pig!”

McPherson keeps Max on a strict diet of fruits, vegetables and, as a special treat, Cheerios. She walks him in her neighborhood—on a leash—nearly every day. While he’s still growing, her goal is to keep him at a trim 50 to 60 pounds.

“The name Max means ‘one of a kind,’” McPherson said, “and Max is truly that to everyone who meets him, especially these senior adults.”

Parkway Place begins $12.8 million renovation and expansion project

parkway place expansion

Parkway Place, a nonprofit faith-based senior living community in Houston, is undergoing a $12.8 million renovation and expansion project to improve existing areas and create a new state-of-the-art skilled nursing and rehabilitation center.

The project has already started and is expected to finish in the fall. The community currently consists of 159 independent living residences, 58 assisted living apartments, 24 memory care apartments and 60 skilled nursing rooms. The renovation project will transform the skilled nursing rooms into private suites, which will reduce the total number to 40. The project also includes the addition of a bistro-style dining venue, as well as renovation of the existing dining rooms, activity rooms, sitting areas and common spaces.

“The completion of the renovations will benefit current and future residents,” said Susan Phelps, executive director at Parkway Place. “The new state-of-the-art skilled nursing center is going to provide more privacy for residents. Since we opened in 1998 the rooms have been private or semi-private, and we wanted to change that. While we are losing some rooms, we will make up for it by improving the overall comfort of residents. They are our main priority, and we will do anything to ensure they have a happy place to call home.”

“As with everything we do, our goal in making these renovations is to further the Parkway Place legacy of serving Houston senior adults with excellence,” said Charlie Wilson, senior vice president for Buckner Retirement Services. “Parkway Place has been part of Houston since 1955, so our history in the local community is rich. The project is going smoothly, and we anticipate construction will finish on time. I believe the changes will really make a difference in the lives of senior adults, and that is our main goal. We are here to serve them, and completing this project will give them an updated, beautiful place to live.”

Parkway Place partnered with Hill and Wilkinson General Contractors, D2 Architecture, LLC and interior designer Spellman Brady & Company for the project.

For more information on the renovations or to learn more about life at Parkway Place, call LuLu today at 281-677-5912.

Writing on a prayer: Westminster Place resident becomes published author at 85

senior becomes author at 85

85-year-old Lee Rose never expected to be a published author. She never even considered herself a writer.

But today the Buckner Westminster Place resident is the proud author of “Time Alone with God,” a collection of prayers and conversations with God. The book candidly addresses struggles many senior adults face related to downsizing, loss and life transition.

“I didn’t sit down to write anything more than just my conversations with the Lord every day,” Rose said.

Rose wrote every day, one day at a time, over six months before the book was finished. The process, Rose said, deepened her walk with God in ways she never expected.

“Now I can hear the birds sing and know it’s something to give thanks for,” Rose said. “I don’t get down like I was before. My husband, brother and sister-in-law had all passed away in a matter of months. At the time I felt like it was the end of the world, but I don’t feel that way anymore.”

When Rose began writing the book, she had no intention of publishing it. She simply sat down every morning and wrote what came to mind, whether conversations with God or memories she didn’t want to forget. She wrote by hand, then went to the computer and typed it.

“I just set aside a time to be with the Lord, then wrote down what he taught me,” Rose said. “I did it for my family, but then I thought maybe there are others that have some of those same anxieties and fears. The response has been incredible.”

Well aware of the challenges that come with aging, Rose hopes that the book reminds people of who God is every day, in every season.

“I hope my book shows people that God continues to love us despite all our mistakes,” Rose said. “He sent his son to draw us to him, and he just continues to draw us to him if we just listen.”

Writing isn’t the only thing that keeps Rose busy. She volunteers twice a week at Heartisans Marketplace in Longview and regularly participates in Buckner Westminster Place activities.

“We’re blessed to have residents like Lee Rose here at Buckner,” said David Sims, executive director of Buckner Westminster Place. “Her genuine heart is so evident, and it’s inspiring to see the ways she continues to use her life to glorify God.”

A day in the life of a senior living social worker

employee smiling

Stephanie Ebarb serves as the director of social services at Parkway Place in Houston. She’s been with Buckner since 2013 and today is sharing a day in her life.

5:50 Wake up!

At 5:50 I wake up, make breakfast and take my daughter to school. We live an hour from Parkway Place, which means that by 6:30, we’re out the door ready to go. Listening to music on these long drives is my self-care!

8 a.m. Arrive at Parkway Place

I hit the ground running as soon as I get to work. Morning rounds start at 8, so by then I’m already visiting with residents.

I work primarily in skilled nursing and make sure to see each of these residents every morning. Sometimes they want to talk or ask questions, so morning rounds can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how much residents want to discuss.

8:30 a.m. Director meeting

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we have director meetings, so on these days I make sure to finish rounds on time. During these meetings, directors from areas across the community—including dining, wellness and life-enrichment—meet as a leadership team to hear from Susan Phelps, our executive director, and touch base on community-wide initiatives.

9:30 a.m. Nursing meeting

The nursing team gathers for what we call “standup” at 9:30 every morning. During this time, the healthcare administrator, therapy director, nurse team and I meet with the director of nursing to communicate any changes regarding resident care. These meetings are short but crucial to resident wellbeing. It’s important that a nursing team works together on behalf of every resident, and Parkway does that beautifully!

9:45 a.m. Family meetings

Every Wednesday, we have family care plan meetings from 9:40 until lunch time. During this time, representatives from therapy, nursing and dietary meet with family members to discuss their loved one’s care plan. Each resident’s family meets with us once a quarter, so we keep a busy rotating schedule!

The other days are rarely planned. My office is a revolving door. People are always coming in and out, which rarely leaves time to plan or organize. But that’s the social work life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Noon: Lunch

I try to leave the building for lunch, but usually end up working through it. I always want to be available to residents, family or fellow team members, so even though my task list is long, I love what I do.


The rest of my day, I’m working predominantly with family members. I provide a safe place for them to ask questions because many have never gone through this process with a loved one before. I’m there to provide support.

Throughout the day, I’m also communicating constantly with my interdisciplinary team, and I certainly couldn’t do this job without them. I get a lot of help from the two social work graduate interns here too.

If you were to summarize my job in a nutshell, I work as an advocate for residents before, during and after their time at Parkway Place. If a senior adult moves to Parkway for the first time, I assess their psychological, social and spiritual well-being to determine how we can best serve them. If a resident needs to see a dentist, podiatrist or eye doctor, I help set up those appointments. If it’s time for a resident to be discharged, I create a plan to keep them moving toward success even after they leave.

4:30 p.m. Go home

I try to leave between 4:30 and 5 p.m. each day. I sometimes stay later to finish up paperwork, because as much as I’d like to be with residents all day, there is inherently a lot of paperwork involved in social work.


In the evening, I spend time with my family and finish projects for my second job as a field liaison for the University of Houston. I have 21 graduate students under me and help make sure their internships provide a quality educational experience. I’m also working on my own clinical license, so evenings and weekends often mean studying.

I truly love the work I do and love being busy. When I went to school to be a social worker, I knew this is exactly what I wanted to do. Serving senior adults is my passion.

Calder Woods chef recognized for nearly 20 years in food service

senior dining chef

Chef Charles Duit, director of nutrition and food services at Calder Woods in Beaumont, and his wife Debbie were recently recognized by the Sabine Area Restaurant Association for their dedication to the Southeast Texas food service industry. Collectively, they’ve spent nearly 50 years in local food service, including Duit’s 14 years at Calder Woods. Congratulations, Chef!

A growing legacy: resident recognized for 55 years serving with Good News Club

seniors celebrating.

Marueen Duncan began leading Good News Clubs out of her New Hampshire home in the early 1960s. Through moves across the country with her military husband—New Hampshire to California to Alabama to West Texas—the now 84-year-old Baptist Retirement Community resident continued volunteering with the Good News Club every year for 55 years.

“Wherever she’s lived, she’s had a Good News Club,” said Duncan’s daughter, Pam Gasper.

In February, the Child Evangelism Fellowship, parent organization to the Good News Club ministry, honored Duncan for her outstanding service. Representatives from the organization traveled to San Angelo from their headquarters in Missouri to present Duncan with a personal letter from the organization’s president and a leather-bound Bible commissioned for their 80th anniversary.

That Bible is now one of Duncan’s most prized possessions.

“This Bible is really special,” Duncan said. “I’ve committed to reading the whole thing thru, and I’m in Leviticus already!”

“This recognition is quite the honor,” Gasper added. “She was dedicated to the kids in her Good News Clubs, and she led by example.”

Originally, Duncan hosted the clubs in her home. Local elementary school children would gather in her living room for songs and Bible stories, which she told on flannelgraph. Eventually, the clubs transitioned to schools, but even so, Duncan maintained her commitment to sharing the gospel with the next generation.

“Maureen sowed the word of God into the hearts of countless children,” said Tim Noe, global partnership ministry representative with Child Evangelism Fellowship who presented Duncan with the Bible. “She didn’t just give a glass of water for a day or a meal for an evening. She gave them the water of the Word of God for eternity.

“Her influence has probably done more to grow our ministry, not only with what she did personally but also with the ways she encouraged others to participate, than any other element. She’s one of the very special people who’ve helped us grow to serving 20 million children each year.”

“When it comes to legacy, my mom has a large family with kids, grandkids and great grandkids who support and love her,” Gasper said. “That alone speaks for itself.”

It was the Buckner commitment to living out faith, a commitment much like her own, that led Duncan to Baptist Retirement. She and many fellow residents at the San Angelo senior living community share a connection deeper than just neighbors. Together they celebrate the work God has done in their lifetimes, even the work they may never see.

How to love a spouse with Alzheimer’s

How to love a spouse with Alzheimer’s

Updated Oct. 23, 2018: This article has been updated in the wake of Retired Supereme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s announcement today that she has “beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.” She is the latest of about 5.7 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s daily. Buckner Retirement Services offers memory care in all of its senior living communities throughout Texas.

Dorothy Horne is a Longview, Texas, author and contributing columnist and blogger for the Longview News-Journal. Her husband, Byron, lives with Alzheimer’s disease and is a resident at Buckner Westminster Place’s The Harbor.


Byron has now been in memory care at Buckner Westminster Place for eight months. I’m thankful for the gift of community God has given Byron at Buckner, and I’m grateful he’s in such a caring and loving environment. I have come to know the staff well, and they are amazing. I love watching them interact with and care for the residents with such patience and love. Theirs is not a job, but a ministry of serving.

There is such tenderness and beauty in Byron’s community. If you want to see what unconditional love looks like—a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things—then visit Buckner memory care.

You’ll find husbands, wives and family members who come on a regular basis to be with their loved ones. They may or may not be able to converse much, depending on the stage of the disease. That doesn’t matter, though, because their communication and love is expressed through simply being present, not necessarily through words. Being present with someone is saying, “You matter to me and I love you unconditionally.” Just sitting together, holding hands—being instead of doing.

When I’m present with Byron, he’s content and so am I. At this point in our journey, much has been stripped away. We’re down to the marrow. What’s left, though, is life’s essence: unconditional love. And when the inner light of love shines from Byron’s eyes when he looks at me, it’s pure gold.

Whether our loved ones with Alzheimer’s (or other long-term diseases) are in a memory care community or at home, there are many ways we can continue loving them well.  What better way to do this than by being present and creating moments of joy?

It’s not in our power to give our loved ones a great day, but it is in our power to give them happy, joy-filled moments. They won’t remember these, but the contentment and good feelings you’ve helped them experience will linger.

So, when it comes to loving a spouse through Alzheimer’s or dementia, think “moments” and simplicity. Think about what brings delight or comfort. The simplest activities can bring the most satisfaction. I’ve learned to look for what brings a smile and sparkle to Byron’s eyes, and that’s what we do.

It varies from day to day, depending on his energy level or state of confusion. It may be listening to music, playing his guitar, going for walks over by the Buckner lake, looking for rainbows in the fountains, dancing (we’ve always loved to dance) or playing catch. Think about what the two of you have always loved to do, then modify and adjust the activity and keep doing it!

For practical ways to love your spouse despite their disease, try these ideas:

  • Hug and hold hands often.
  • Tell them how special they are, and why. Remind them of the great things they were known for.
  • Remind them how they’ve made a difference to you, your family and friends.
  • Think about the ways your loved one used to show you love, then do those things for them.
  • Touch, feel and talk about their treasured possessions.
  • Give them a back rub.
  • Comb their hair.
  • Rub scented lotion on their hands.
  • Read and sing to them.
  • Read Scripture and pray with them. Remind them how much God loves them and how he is taking care of them.
  • Look at photo albums together. Talk to them about your shared experiences. Tell them “their story” often. It hands them back their life and memories, even if just momentarily.
  • Go out for ice cream.
  • Talk about all the things you are thankful for. Make a list and read it together often.

Thanks be to God for the gift of His miraculous grace that turns water into wine in the magnified, joy-infused moments He gives us each day!

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ” –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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