Be The Change at Brightwater
– Susan Parrotta –
I’ve been here since February of 2011 and prior to that I served as Wellness Coordinator and Wellness Director at the Lakes at Litchfield. I’ve been with the company since October of 2005, right after graduating from Horry Georgetown Technical College with an Associates in Arts, an Associates in Science, and a certificate in Personal Training. After completing my one-year personal training certificate program and attaining my ACE Personal Trainer and AFAA Group Fitness Instructor certifications, I continued my education for the 2 associates degrees while interning at the gym I attended regularly, the American Athletic Club and was subsequently hired as a part-time personal trainer.
As soon as I had completed school, I accepted the position of Wellness Coordinator at The Lakes at Litchfield with the idea that it was temporary while waiting to be accepted into the nursing program, which I had been told was a 2-year wait. To my surprise I was accepted into the program the following Spring. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy working at The Lakes at Litchfield and participating in wellness with seniors. I turned the nursing program down and continued to work at the Lakes where I was promoted to Wellness Director the following year.
What is your current position at Brightwater?
How long have you been at Brightwater?
I joined the team at Brightwater in 2011, a little more than 9 years ago. I started my career with Senior Living Communities in 2005 as a Wellness Associate and Wellness Director at our sister community, The Lakes at Litchfield.
What excites you the most about this position and this company?
What excites me the most about my position and this company is that while all jobs and careers serve a purpose and have meaning. My position as a Wellness Director is unique in that I directly serve the individuals in whose lives I make a difference. It’s rewarding because I get to actually see and enjoy the impact I have on their lives.
What is your favorite thing about working for Senior Living Communities?
One of the best things about working for Senior Living Communities is the Elevate program which pays for continuing education that is helpful and relevant to advancement in one’s career. It enables people to be the best they can be whether it’s improving your abilities in your current position or advancing to another. It’s allowed me to further my wellness education by becoming Poundfit certified, by attaining my NASM Senior Fitness Specialist certification, and by attaining my ACE Certified Medical Exercise Specialist certification which qualifies me to continue with wellness programming where PT and OT leave off with our members.
Describe a time that a Member had a positive impact on your day?
The best part is seeing them meet their goals and hearing from them how the wellness program has made them better and “weller”. “I can carry two bags of groceries now instead of one.”, “ I can zip my pants all the way up.” and “I didn’t realize I was could walk a whole mile or zip-line” are the types of comments that make my day every day.
How have you grown professionally and personally since joining the Team?
My passion for wellness and my life-long enjoyment of the company of my elders together make me a very blessed woman vocationally. I consider my career as a calling. Not only do I get to see the difference I’m making in our Member’s lives, but I can honestly say that not a day goes by that I’m not somehow enriched daily by them. Their wisdom, kindness, and willingness to share their life experiences help me to grow as I help them.
When it comes to your programming, what is the motivation behind specific classes that you do with your Members?
Wellness includes physical fitness, but is so much more, encompassing intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and civic or vocational well-being. True individual wellness is also a good balance of these wellness components, so in my programming, I include class opportunities such as Brain Sharpeners, Mindful Mondays, Tai Chi, Beach Walks, Sing-Alongs, and Trivia classes. There is something for everyone and my goal is to get as many Members involved as possible.
Your community has a monthly social event called a Signature Experience; how does wellness play a role in these themed days?
Each month the Wellness, Activities, and Dietary departments get together to plan and execute a “Signature Experience” for our members with a unified theme. Decorations, food, and wellness programs all revolve around the theme. For our “Vintage Vegas” day, the wellness component was a class called “Roll the Dice” when each Member rolled two large blow-up dice with one including an exercise and the other a multiplier for the number of reps for that exercise. It was a fun way to incorporate a full-body wellness class.
The wellness programming as won three Argentum Best of the Best Awards over the last few years. What was that feeling like and how does it motivate you moving forward?
Our Wellness programs winning 3 Argentum Best of the Best Awards (for C.L.I.M.B., WAVES, and Purposed Based Programming) is a great motivator that keeps me and my fellow Wellness Directors always on the lookout for ways to better customize and improve the types of classes we offer our Members.
Tell us about WAVES, C.L.I.M.B, or Purpose-Based Wellness. How does it benefit the Members, what does the program looks like, and how did it come to be?
C.L.I.M.B. came about as a result of a study that Senior Living Communities and Wake Forest University partnered on to try to determine what was the most determining factor of how seniors in communities are living independently and longer than their peers. Extensive intellectual, physical, and endurance tests revealed that lower body strength was the strongest factor in enabling seniors to live independently longer. We then developed the C.L.I.M.B. class to focus on the improvement of the lower body strength which imparts Confidence, Longevity, Independence, Mobility, and Balance. The intense 30-minute class features 4 lower-body exercises that change every two months as our bodies adapt and improve with each session. WAVES was originally a one-on-one 30-minute class specifically for memory-care members and their CNA caregivers to help reduce sundowning and improve appetite and sleep. Wellness was responsible for training the CNA volunteers to be able to do the individual sessions. This volunteer program has evolved to include any employee and any member who would like to do pool exercises but are unable to attend pool classes. Senior Living Communities is currently implementing is a class called “Renewed Strength” designed to win back lost muscle tissue that comes from aging without exercising. This class got the attention of many seniors in our community who had given up on improving this reversible condition and were previously uninvolved in physical fitness classes. These classes are in 3-month sessions, beginning and ending with physical assessments which show the strength improvements. This encourages the members to continue with wellness classes. The results spur them on to do so and the exercises change each session just like in C.L.I.M.B.
Talk about the impact your wellness program has had on the Members at your community, big wins, maintaining independence, and more.
It’s my experience it’s the members who address their physical fitness who are able to remain independent longer, do more, and enjoy their lives much more. They tell me that almost daily and hearing it keeps me excited about what I’m doing.
Personal question: What is your favorite thing to do to maintain your fitness level?
As for me, all the physical fitness I need I get at work with my classes and running around our large campus taking classes to all areas of our continuum of care. I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to have such a meaningful career. Outside of work, my interests include singing, genealogy, gardening, going to the beach, and spending time with my grandchildren, Otto who is 5 and Teigan who is 3.