A Heart to Serve offers residents of nursing homes the opportunity to volunteer on teams that give back to their communities. In 2016, Rockport Healthcare Services was the first organization to involve every nursing home in fulfilling community service through A Heart to Serve – so that every resident and patient, including people who have physical and cognitive challenges, such as dementia, stroke, MS, Parkinson’s disease, or vision impairment, can experience the transformative power of purpose.
As Rockport Healthcare Services CEO Mike Wasserman, MD, CMD, says, “At Rockport Healthcare Services, we’re promoting the fact that person-centered care includes enhancing the individual’s purpose in life. To do that, we really need to be looking at what’s important to the person. Purpose has been shown in studies to not only reduce depression and help with other chronic conditions, but a study from the National Institutes of Health even showed that having greater purpose in one’s life reduced the symptoms and progress of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”
Rockport Healthcare Services Chief Community Integration Officer Matthew Lysobey, MPH, LNHA, developed A Heart to Serve in 2009. Resident and staff feedback and Matthew’s own years of experience and personal perspectives as a licensed nursing home administrator catalyzed the first A Heart to Serve program at a nursing home on the Central California Coast where Matthew was the administrator. In 2016, Vince Hambright, who was then CEO of Rockport Healthcare Services, asked Matthew to bring A Heart to Serve to Rockport Healthcare Services.
Matthew started by successfully introducing the Community Meals program to the skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities that Rockport Healthcare Services serves. Once a month, dedicated volunteers gather at their nursing homes and prepare a meal for homeless individuals at nearby shelters. Regardless of their physical and cognitive challenges, all willing participants have a role in preparation. Carrots are chopped. Cheese is shredded. Smiles are shared. They then make the journey to their local homeless shelter where they serve the meals they’ve prepared. For the program’s participants, Community Meals it isn’t about hand-outs – it’s about outreach. The residents scoop their hard work onto plates and pass them across the table – what they get back is a room full of smiles, a few friends, and a renewed sense of purpose within themselves. .
Community Meals is now active in more than 70 skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. It has proven to be a sustainable and replicable model, and a keystone of Rockport Healthcare Service’s social impact efforts.
In 2018, Rockport Healthcare Services is launching the Senior K9 Adoption program as part of A Heart to Serve. Senior K9 Adoption is aimed at helping senior dogs find their forever homes through foster care and socialization provided by nursing home residents. The senior dogs will live at the nursing home, and residents will interact with the dogs daily by training, feeding, and walking them. And, as anyone who takes care of a dog knows, there’s also cleaning up after them! The resident volunteers also are interacting with community members who want to adopt a dog.
Vince Hambright, Matthew Lysobey, Teresa Hedges, and other Rockport Healthcare Services team members presenting about A Heart to Serve at the Pioneer Network Conference in 2017.