"We wanted to create a home that we'd want for our own parents ... or ourselves." This was the motivating concept behind Silverado Senior Living - to create an assisted living community that would go beyond caring for needs, and bring quality of life back to those affected by memory impairing diseases. "I looked around and was saddened by what I saw. I wanted to build a place to live," said Loren Shook, CEO and co-founder.
Mr. Shook had extensive practice. His aunt and uncle ran a psychiatric hospital in Washington that was among the first to introduce such things as pet therapy, children on the grounds and providing residents the freedom to live and thrive in a supportive environment. He witnessed first-hand the benefit of love and innovation, during the time when mental disorders still equaled a lost life. Loren took this brilliant outlook with him when he was President and Chief Operating Officer at CPC, an international psychiatric hospital company that also built innovative practices and programs into their treatment plans.
In 1996 the business plan for Silverado Senior Living was adopted by its three co-founders, Loren Shook, James P. Smith, and Steve Winner. They each brought their own optimism and expertise, and between them began their mission of changing the way the world views and treats Alzheimer's and other memory impairing diseases. In 1997 the doors first opened at the Silverado assisted living community in Escondido, CA and that is where the dream hit the pavement! This same community was featured in the 2006 AARP article, Assisted Living: 10 Great Ideas.
Co-founder Steve Winner spoke, "When we first opened, we thought, ‘What can we do to make this more like a home, more like a place we could actually live in?' We all are animal lovers and couldn't imagine our homes without our pets. So naturally we brought pets into all our assisted living communities."
At a time when animals in assisted living communities were considered dangerous and unclean, Silverado broke ground and declared the benefits outweighed the risks. "We have seen time and time again how animals bring life to our residents. They are truly a wonder." And, in fact, pets are now included in all of our service lines."
Through the many successes of this venture, the leaders of Silverado were able to complete the continuum by adding the Home Care & Geriatric Care Management and Hospice Care service branches to the established assisted living company. "This is vital to our families," stated Anne Ellet, VP of Health Services, "because of the continuity of care. Change is difficult for all of us, especially so for those with dementia. Silverado can bring seamless care to the family, regardless of where their loved one resides. Another major benefit is the ability to age in place; meaning, being allowed to live life out through the end of one's days in familiar surroundings - rather than going to a skilled nursing facility or hospital. And, in most cases, through Silverado Hospice, that is exactly what happens."
When asked what is on the horizon for Silverado, Mr. Shook responded, "We now have two Skilled Nursing neighborhoods that focus on skilled services specifically for the memory impaired such as physical rehabilitation for injury or fractures, strokes, etc... Now, that is innovation!"
"Of the many new ideas brimming forth, one standard remains, ‘We bring LIFE to those we serve.'" LIFE - Love Innovation Family Engagement.
A sociologist and photographer, Kathy Stein-Greenblat studied at Silverado - Escondido for a three-month period. This culminated in the incredible work, Alive With Alzheimer's. Edith's story is only one of many documented in this enlightening book.
Edith came to Silverado - Escondido in 2001 with a life expectancy of mere days. She had been grossly overmedicated and depressed. She was frail, couldn't speak, and certainly had no interest in the world around her.
Edith's caregivers learned that she loved cats. And so, they brought Cricket in to visit. Being a sensitive animal, he stayed with Edith, basking in her company. You can see here that Edith's hands are wrapped around the cat, one on his haunch and one touching the tip of his tail.
The power of love is an incredible thing ... This is a photo of Edith taken six weeks later, with her daughter at the Del Mar racetrack! Alert, alive, and enjoying life, Edith still lives at the Escondido assisted living community in 2007.
This may seem an unusual mantra for a corporation, but not so to Loren Shook. It was, in fact, the focus of his corporate retreat in the spring of 2007. Love is greater than fear. What does that mean?
On a personal level, it could be as simple as resisting the temptation to make yourself feel better at somebody else's expense. We have all done it, yet the effect is only harmful. Any benefit that comes is superficial and temporary. Denying our terror of inferiority, and instead embracing the concept that everybody has something to give, we aim toward a higher purpose.
At the corporate level it might be consciously acknowledging the needs of all, associates and company alike, so that the Give is equal to the Get, on both sides. It is a conscious decision to be mindful. It is the courageous and optimistic choice to Assume Good Intent.
And to a worldwide degree? That would be the recognition that there is abundance; that we don't need to grab in order to have. This actually creates a sustainable atmosphere, certainly a healthier lifestyle. By coming from love we realize a deeper, lasting benefit to all.
Mr. Shook recounted the story of Silverado and Hurricane Rita. "We had to consider what was best to do: a Category Four Hurricane was on its way to Houston, and we had frail elders who probably couldn't survive a prolonged move. In order to sustain everyone, we would need additional staff to stay for the duration.
"I have to be honest, one of my first thoughts was ‘How can we afford to pay so many people overtime?' It would be a great expense, quite possibly a serious one to the company. But then it occurred to me that I was coming from fear. I turned it around and thought what kind of pressure it would be to keep so many people calm and healthy throughout the night and in the eye of the storm. That deserved overtime! Once I could look at it from that angle, there was only one solution: we brought in the additional care staff, battened down the hatches, and rode out the storm. And not one of our residents came to harm."
As Silverado moves forward we build on our history. We will continue to seek out innovations in the care and treatment for those with memory impairment and stay true to our vision and mission to change the world related to the care of those with Alzheimer's and other memory impairing diseases. We offer this success as a model for other elder care companies. We bring LIFE to those we serve. And are proud to do so.