By Michelle Daniel, President & CEO
“Ms. Daniel, we do not have any water. There is absolutely no water coming into this building.”
This urgent call arrived in the early hours of the morning. On the other end of the phone line was a nurse from a community where, as Administrator, I was responsible for 60 elders and 100 team members. We needed to figure this out quickly; breakfast needed to be cooked within a couple of hours.
I turned on the news and saw reports of breaks in multiple water mains due to freezing weather in Jackson, Mississippi. News outlets stated the multiple breaks were not going to be resolved for at least a week. Most of the city shut down; offices, restaurants, and schools closed. But eldercare communities do not have the luxury of closing due to water main breaks, or for any reason!
How were we going to get through this? Together.
We had recently joined the Eden Alternative and we were learning about how to better communicate with each other. I realized I could not solve this desperate issue alone; I knew I needed to hear from the whole team. All voices were important.
We huddled by phone to report our concerns and needs, made a list of the most urgent challenges, and then quickly volunteered for specific tasks to gain assistance throughout the city and surrounding area. It was amazing to see how it all came together, even better than I had imagined:
- Sysco was dispatched to send an emergency water supply for cooking and disposable plates to eliminate the need to wash dishes.
- Hotel rooms were rented within a couple of miles away for team members living near the community to get showers.
- A porta potty was delivered for team members.
- Team members brought ice chests full of water each day to the building for flushing toilets.
- Hot water heaters were drained to provide water for flushing toilets.
- Buckets were placed by toilets to flush wastewater.
- Baths were limited to bed baths and disposable washcloths were used.
- Hand sanitizer was placed generously throughout the building.
- Extra perks showed up such as donuts for the team and pizza parties for elders and team.
And it worked!
Meaningful engagement deepened. We continued to experience life as we would in our own homes. Laughter and love were present!
We went from impossible to possible.
At times during that week, the situation seemed impossible and at other times, it felt nice to work together as a team during such a stressful time. So much of our success was due to reframing our approach to problem-solving.
As the Administrator, I feared what the Health Department, family members, and elders would say about the way we managed this emergency. There was no way to win in this situation, and we were sure to fail; however, the team gathered and shined in this dark circumstance. We were given accolades by the group I was most afraid of! Who would have thought a week without water would be a time to shine?
There is hope in the field of Eldercare.
We have capable team members who want to make a difference but work within a broken system. Giving the mic to team members closest to the concern provides the ability to truly solve the problem. It can be different!
It’s time to move mountains, embrace possibilities, and together, make the impossible possible. The Eden Alternative 30th Anniversary International Conference will take us to new heights – and drive us to transform challenges into possibilities. I hope you will join us June 2-4, 2024, in King of Prussia, PA. Learn more and register here.