Photo: Pictured above, Amedisys employee Kelley Strain (right) gives a thumbs up to an Oak Landing Assisted Living resident to congratulate her on winning a game of tic tac toe.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
Oak Landing Assisted Living in Attalla received a special treat on April 21, when Amedisys home health professionals spread a little cheer on a cloudy day.
Oak Landing staff passed out sanitized markers while volunteers spread tape over windows to create tic tac toe boards, allowing residents to play games while maintaining social distancing protocol. Residents and volunteers spoke to one another through the glass, smiling and laughing and writing messages. Volunteers blew bubbles outdoors while residents watched, exchanging waves, grins and warmth.
“Now is an especially important time for us to find ways to interact with our seniors,” said Amedisys Hospice Liaison Elizabeth Hyatt. “We love to come out and meet our seniors and participate with them. We’ve been trying to go to some of our facilities and love on them at a distance.”
Amedisys offers home health, hospice and personal care services that align with quality clinical practices to maintain a sense of independence and dignity for their patients. Amedisys values passion, integrity and respect, with team members who share the belief that each life is precious, valuable and deserving of genuine care.
Hyatt embodies the Amedisys vision, a mission that she carried with her to Oak Landing on Tuesday, April 21.
Hyatt worked as a hospice volunteer for five years before translating her experience into a permanent position. As a hospice liaison, Hyatt collaborates with communities, physicians and facilities to provide assistance for families in need of hospice services. She covers Etowah, Dekalb, Cherokee, Marshall and St. Clair counties, ministering acts of service and devoting her time to caring for others who cannot care for themselves.
Hyatt considers her position more than just a job, but a fortunate opportunity to bless families and individuals each day.
“Most of all, I love working with the families and getting to know them,” said Hyatt. “Hospice can very often be related to sad times. In my heart, I feel like it’s more about a transition of hope. So, we change that outlook. We get to be a part of families in a hard time, but a special time.”
While the residents at Oak Landing have zero reported illnesses related to COVID-19, owner Gerry Tinsley feels responsible to protect residents’ physical health without compromising their emotional well-being. With several residents who lived through The Great Depression, Tinsley understands that the women and men at Oak Landing are experiencing an entirely new form of burden. He remains hopeful and grateful for volunteers like Amedisys, noting that prayer is the main act all people can perform together, regardless of where they are.
“The home health companies are very necessary,” said Tinsley. “Their calls give our residents a sense of security, that somebody cares and somebody is keeping after them in addition to us. We have some other plans with other companies [for future events]. We’re just tickled that they came.”
As an eight-year-old child working in his grandmother’s nursing homes in Mobile, Tinsley pushed food carts and looked forward to visiting the beach. The son and student of an Etowah English teacher, Tinsley wrote a paper describing what he wanted to do when he grew up for his mother’s eighth-grade class. In the essay, Tinsley detailed working in the corporate world for 10-12 years before starting his own business working with seniors. Tinsley’s mother still keeps the letter—a reminder of the dreams her son envisioned for his future and God’s plan for his life.
When the company Tinsley served for 18 years closed, he felt that was the time to act. Still clinging to those ambitions in his heart as a middle schooler, he built Oak Landing and opened the facility in 2000, fulfilling the words he scribbled on paper so many years ago. Oak Landing offers its residents a spacious master bedroom with a step-in closet and full private bathrooms. The community caters all meals and snacks while offering the residents socialization and entertainment in the 13 different sitting rooms, sunrooms or dens on the property. Housekeeping, laundry and medications are also covered, with routine check-ups by the facility’s physician to create a worry-free atmosphere and quality healthcare.
“As far as what we offer, [Oak Landing] is just a beautiful place with love,” said Tinsley. “There’s a lot of love in the place, and a lot of prayers come down on this place. We’re a community and a big family. [The residents] all know they’d rather be home of course, but if you can’t be home, they agree this is the place to be.”
Facility Manager Gina Schultz has been employed at Oak Landing for four years. Inspired to serve others after her father required additional care, Schultz now works with her mother who resides as a resident. She considers her time at Oak Landing a treasured experience, filled with priceless moments, shared hugs and smiles.
“The stories that they tell you, when [the residents] remember things way back when is [so rewarding],” said Schultz. “Seniors have so many memories to share with you if you’ll just take the time to listen.”
Tinsley commends the unity that keeps Oak Landing operating so smoothly to create a peaceful environment for its residents. He understands ensuring Oak Landing remains pleasant for its seniors relies on more than his efforts alone and acknowledges his employees, like Schultz, for their diligence and heart. Some employees have served Oak Landing for 13, 11 and eight years—a testimony to the bond that forms when individuals come together for the betterment of others.
“You can have a pretty place, but it’s only as good as the folks who work there,” said Tinsley. “I’m one of the blessed young men you can run across to have as many granddaddies and grandmamas as I do and brothers and sisters who help me run this place.”
Tinsley is in the process of expanding Oak Landing to develop independent living homes on the property. Oak Hill Village Senior Community will feature homes for one to two persons under each roof, with a clubhouse and wellness center. The clubhouse will offer residents a kitchen, bathrooms and entertaining space with game tables and a grand television for parties and visits. In the homes, residents will enjoy all utilities, two bedrooms and 12-foot ceilings with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances throughout. With the recent rain pushing Tinsley’s opening date further back, he hopes to start welcoming residents in June.
From the daily kindnesses Oak Landing staff and seniors share with one another to the special moments volunteers create with smiles, Oak Landing represents a community enriched with compassion and empathy. During a time muddled with uncertainty, one truth remains: where generosity and benevolence abide, light always breaks through the clouds.
“My biggest thing [I enjoy the most], and it may be a small thing to most folks, is when a new person comes in,” said Tinsley. “This generation still believes in ‘it takes a village.’ When a new person comes in, it’s like they’re on stage. When we start a new job, we’re nervous—we think people are looking at us. [The residents] feel that too, and they’re scared. They’ve been at home living in the same place sometimes for 60 plus years, then they have to make this big life move. The most joyful part of my job is when that person realizes that these people are full of love and they come to them and introduce themselves. That’s what I love to see—that scared look clearly disappears in a few weeks. Then, [the new residents] feel like they’re a part and they pass that love onto the next new person who comes in. Seeing a village taking care of those, their own…that’s what I enjoy the most.”