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Savannah Heights celebrates National Skilled Nursing Care Week

GTNS photo by Grace King

Ruth Arbuckale, left, a Savannah Heights resident, looks to her friend and volunteer at Savannah Heights Catherine Gross during painting with the Art Nest on Tuesday, May 14. Painting was a part of Savannah Height’s celebration of National Skilled Nursing Care Week.
GTNS photo by Grace King Ruth Arbuckale, left, a Savannah Heights resident, looks to her friend and volunteer at Savannah Heights Catherine Gross during painting with the Art Nest on Tuesday, May 14. Painting was a part of Savannah Height’s celebration of National Skilled Nursing Care Week.
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Savannah Heights celebrated National Skilled Nursing Care Week in style, inviting residents and community members to weekly activities in celebration of this year’s theme to “live soulfully.”

National Skilled Nursing Care Week recognizes nursing centers that assist seniors and people with disabilities. From May 12 to May 18, Savannah Heights celebrated with events including Trubadours, painting with the Art Nest, building planter boxes, Jumbo bowling and music in the Piano Bar room.

Amber Smith, activity director at Savannah Heights said that while this past week they were celebrating National Skilled Nursing Care Week, every day at Savannah Heights is special.

“Everyone who lives here deserves to be doing something like this every day,” Smith said.

Smith said she enjoys everything about working at the nursing center.

“I can do just about anything,” Smith said as she assisted a resident in painting flowers on canvas on Tuesday, May 14. “I love it. Every day is something different.”

Heather Blint, Savannah Heights employee, said that the nationally recognized week brings public attention to the lifestyle residents and employees live at Savannah Heights every day.

Blint said she absolutely loves her job because she gets to meet new people and learn about experiences through the eyes of the residents.

“You never know what you’re going to find out about anyone,” Blint said.

Blint said community members are always welcome at Savannah Heights and encouraged to interact with the residents.

“We always need volunteers, and we can give a tour and show off our facility,” Blint said.

Catherine Gross, a former aid at Pleasant Manor and now volunteer at Savannah Heights, said she has always enjoyed working with the elderly.

When Gross was a child, her grandparents lived with her family. She started working in nursing centers in 1964 as an aid making 65 cents an hour in Fairfield.

“I loved it,” Gross said. “I didn’t care about the pay. It’s not about the paycheck, it’s what you get from the residents. There’s no greater joy than taking care of the residents.”

Since then, Gross has worked in almost every nursing home in Mt. Pleasant. Now retired, she encourages current employees with nursing centers or people considering the profession to be compassionate.

“That’s the important part,” Gross said. “That’s my advice. Forget the paycheck. Be more compassionate by pretending it’s your own family — your own mother and father.”

Gross works with Ruth Arbuckale, a Savannah Heights resident, and her former neighbor. Arbuckale is like a mother figure to Gross.

“She’s been my No. 1 since back in the 1970s after my mom passed away,” Gross said. “I love her to death.”

Arbuckale said she really appreciates everything Savannah Heights does for residents and enjoys living at the nursing center.

Vivian Umphress, of Mt. Pleasant, began volunteering at Savannah Heights after spending a month in short term care at Pleasant Manor a few years ago.

“I call this my blessing day,” Umphress said. “I’ve met some really good friends.”

Dave Schneider, whose mother Elinor Schneider is a resident at Savannah Heights, said all residents get really good care at the facility. He visits with his mother often.

“We like to go outside and sit in the gazebo and watch people come and go and go to the movies together,” Schneider said.

Jennifer Jalas, Savannah Heights employee, always thought she would be an OB nurse, providing care for women and babies. Her first CNA job, however, opened her eyes to the passion she has for long-term care.

What she enjoys most about working for Savannah Heights is building relationships with residents and their families.

“My job involves a lot of digging for information,” Jalas said. “I spend a lot of time here. It’s kind of like my home away from home.”