By: Christine Soussa
Ararat Nursing Facility prides itself on providing exceptional care to its residents, families, and staff. An award winning nursing facility, Ararat Nursing Facility is a proud recipient of the 2018 American Health Care Association National Quality Silver Award. We had the opportunity to interview, Margarita Kechichian, Executive Director of Ararat Nursing Facility, Mission Hills campus. A USC graduate with dual degrees in Sociology and Gerontology and Masters in Aging Services Management, Margarita shares, “When I think about our life at Ararat Nursing, I am humbled and grateful to be a part of an organization that so positively impacts the lives of so many individuals – our residents, our families, our staff, and our community. We add quality to our residents’ lives, we create new experiences, and we create new relationships that allow the residents to spend their remaining time in a warm, loving, and homelike environment. Through a culture of love and respect, we extend the lives of our residents. It is a gratifying experience.”
A bit about Ararat Nursing:
Ararat Nursing seeks to create a family environment for its residents, families, and staff. Through many opportunities of laughter and socialization, everyone feels loved, heard, and included. With a commitment to love, Ararat Nursing Facility is a place where staff and residents are supported during their good times and bad. For example, the residents and staff recently held a surprise birthday party for one of the nurses who had never celebrated her birthday before. Friendships are made as residents share their life stories and experiences. Residents also enjoy many social and lively activities including, Zumba, Yoga, Dancing, Walking, Art Classes, Crafts, Youth Events, Cooking, Coffee time and much more. A favorite is Munchkins’ Day when employees’ and residents’ children and grandchildren are invited to visit the facility for a full day of activities. One of the facility’s missions is to provide care for elderly in an Armenian environment, so honoring heritage and culture is important. Residents often share their home recipes and come together to help make beloved staple dishes like Sarma or Manti. Margarita shares one story of a resident who had suffered a serious stroke. This woman had such pride in her Sarma recipe that she was determined to participate, thus wrapping Sarma with one hand. She took great pride and enjoyed every moment. Margarita says, “it was truly an incredible thing to witness.”
Given the demands of your role, tell us a bit about your leadership style:
“Each morning we have a staff meeting and start our day with an inspirational quote. I read this to the team, and we talk about the quotes meaning together. This serves as our daily intention and helps inspire a sense of purpose, peace, calm and happiness throughout the team. Our jobs are often difficult and usually emotional. We work hard to set a tone of joy and focus on random acts of kindness. It is important that we confidently and authentically inspire trust and love in all we do, because those are the gestures and memories that are engrained in the depths of our hearts.”
What’s your favorite part of your role?
I absolutely adore older people. They have so much wisdom and wit. I enjoy getting to know our residents. Growing up, I didn’t have grandparents and always wished I did – within my role at Ararat Nursing Facility, I have many Grandparents. I also love our staff; each person is so special and takes pride in the care they give our residents. While most of our residents are Armenian, about 40% of our staff is non-Armenian. They love working at Ararat Home because of the warm and loving family environment. It is wonderful to see, especially as they learn Armenian, at least enough to get by. Ararat Home is truly a special home.
Our residents are special, each in their own way. They have an unparalleled appreciation for life. They love sharing their stories and it is heartwarming for me to learn from their past. One of our residents was an Armenian Genocide survivor. Her life story was so inspiring and she was unconditionally positive. She was an example of how a Love for God with deep faith and a strong positive will makes everything all right.
Most of our residents are religious and are always willing to pray together. It’s amazing to see the strength of the prayer network and its beautiful energy.
Tell us a bit about Resident Care:
When a resident is admitted to Ararat Nursing Facility, we work as a team to make them feel welcomed and at home. This transition can be quite difficult for many as moving into a skilled nursing facility is sometimes an abrupt change for both the resident and their family. Residents lose their independence and families deal with the difficult decision of having to admit their loved one for safety and better care. We want our residents to age with grace. Extending resident center care is critical to our care team, so we have a 2 hour interview with the family of the admitted resident to learn more about their personalities and preferences. We want their transition to be as smooth as possible, so we ask about their routine, food preferences, special wishes, and life history. We work hard to honor the habits of our residents and seek to decorate their rooms with family photos and items that are meaningful to them.
From the beginning to the very end of a resident’s stay with us, we come together as not only a care team, but as a family. We provide ongoing emotional support, help the residents and their families manage not only the physical well being, but also any relationship issues and unresolved conflicts in the family, and help promotion physical and emotional healing. We come together, cry together, laugh together, and hug together – we truly are a community of unconditional love and care giving.
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