Exceptional Assisted Living Caregivers Named the Nation’s Best

NCAL Awards Program 2019 recipients to be recognized at association’s national convention

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) today announced the recipients of the 2019 NCAL Awards Program, which recognizes exemplary assisted living caregivers and programs. The four award winners represent the best of the assisted living profession, a sector of long term care that fosters choice, dignity and independence. The 2019 NCAL Awards Program recipients are:

  • NCAL Administrator of the Year: Jaclyn O’Keefe, Administrator at Heritage Woods of Rockford in Rockford, Ill.;
  • NCAL Assisted Living Nurse of the Year: John Walters, LPN, Nurse Supervisor at Dominican Village in Amityville, N.Y.;
  • NCAL Noble Caregiver in Assisted Living: Shirley Perdue, Resident Aide at Richland Place Senior Living in Portland, Tenn.; and
  • National Assisted Living Week® Program of the Year: Stone Hearth Estates in Gothenburg, Neb.

“The common element among this year’s recipients is that they all go out of their way to ensure assisted living residents receive the best care,” said NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle. “Whether supporting their team members, offering their personal time, or connecting with family members, Jaclyn, John, Shirley and the Stone Hearth Estates team inspire those around them. NCAL is honored to recognize these exemplary caregivers.”

Jaclyn O’Keefe, NCAL Administrator of the Year
During her nearly four years as the administrator of Heritage Woods of Rockford, O’Keefe has helped the Illinois assisted living community measurably improve in several areas, including staff retention, annual surveys and resident satisfaction. These efforts, among others, helped the community earn the Bronze—Commitment to Quality Award through the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program this year. O’Keefe is known as a strong leader, constantly empowering her employees to seek professional development while fostering a teamwork atmosphere. The residents of Heritage Woods regularly give back to the larger Rockford community through book drives, holiday donations, and fundraisers for veterans and students, frequently organized by O’Keefe. She is a tireless advocate for residents and the profession; she recently led an effort in which hundreds of residents, families and staff wrote letters to their state legislators encouraging appropriate Medicaid funding.

John Walters, NCAL Assisted Living Nurse of the Year
As a nurse supervisor, Walters oversees the clinical needs of the 65 residents at Dominican Village, a 2019 recipient of the Silver—Achievement in Quality Award through the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program. Walters seeks to improve the quality of care residents receive at this Long Island assisted living community by working closely with case managers to develop care plans, setting goals for his Wellness Department team, and serving as a strong team leader. He is known for going above and beyond the call of duty, often working overtime or checking in on residents, especially those on hospice. His knowledge of and passion for quality, end-of-life care means he is frequently consulted and readily offers additional education and support. Additionally, Walters facilitates a support group for families and caregivers, discussing ways to handle stress, among other topics.

Shirley Perdue, NCAL Noble Caregiver of the Year
Perdue has served the residents of Richland Place Senior Living for the past nine years as a resident aide. However, her coworkers credit her with assisting wherever help is needed, whether in housekeeping, maintenance, dietary, activities or administration. At 73 years old, Perdue is known for her amazing energy and perfect attendance, serving as a role model to the entire staff. When inclement weather is in the forecast, she is known to bring a sleeping bag to work and prepares to spend as many nights as necessary to ensure residents are cared for and safe. Perdue’s leadership skills are evident as she provides orientation to all new, second shift employees and helped Richland Place implement a community integration plan. Beyond her daily tasks, Perdue often spends her personal time and money buying residents items they need, as well as holiday gifts.

Stone Hearth Estates, National Assisted Living Week® Program of the Year
The staff members of Stone Hearth Estates put together an engaging National Assisted Living Week (NALW) program for its residents in September 2018. The community embodied last year’s theme “Capture the Moment” by offering a photo booth with local celebrities, a caricature artist who drew residents’ portraits, and an exhibit of American photos from the Library of Congress. Stone Hearth Estates also helped residents reminisce as hundreds of community pictures from over the years hung in one of the building’s hallways. One of the major projects the rural Nebraska community executed was dubbed “Grandma on a Stick”. Prior to NALW, residents’ family members were sent a picture of their loved one held up by a stick and then asked to take a photograph in an everyday setting. On the first day of NALW and National Grandparents’ Day, each resident was surprised with a package of printed photos their family members had taken with their image.

The award winners will be recognized at the 70th AHCA/NCAL Annual Convention & Expo in Orlando, Fla. held October 13-16, 2019.