Local mother-daughter duo keeps health care in the family

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Sometimes the word “home” can have a different meaning than simply “where one lives.” It can also mean a place of familiarity and a spot of comfort surrounded by those you love. In honor of National Assisted Living Week September 11-17, one local mother-daughter duo not only encapsulates this feeling on this special week, but every day, helping provide a safe, homelike environment for residents, and for themselves as a family.

Tamara Pollard-Rocole is the administrator at The Plaza at Twin Rivers Assisted Living in Arkadelphia, and her daughter Sarah Jane Reeves is the assistant administrator. Together as a family team for the past six years, they have committed themselves to their residents with a high level of quality care and this translates daily into the family-run environment that the residents have come to know and love.

“I believe working alongside my mother and so many other great people has molded me into the person I am today.”

— Sarah Jane Reeves, assistant administrator at The Plaza

“Our goal is to help residents balance their diets with nutritional meals, monitor medications and provide a safe environment for our residents to age in place while keeping independence and dignity intact,” Reeves said. “As a mother-daughter duo, mind reading comes into play at times. Our ability to work well with each other creates this home-like environment within our facility.”

Long-term care wasn’t a planned career goal for Pollard-Rocole, who obtained a degree in early childhood education with a minor in business. In fact, after running a pediatric therapy company, she had planned on taking a break from the workforce to simply focus on her family. However, once she started working in assisted living, she quickly fell in love with it and is now able to contribute to the community and health care industry while being around her family all at the same time.

“By working alongside my daughter Sarah Jane, The Plaza gets the best of both of us,” Pollard-Rocole said. “She truly understands my commitment to the company, residents and their families. She knows without me saying what my expectations are, and we don’t even have to communicate all the time for Sarah Jane to know who, what, when, where or why I want things done a certain way. Because my daughter knows me so well, it is a win for everyone,” she said.

Pollard-Rocole began working at Twin Rivers Health and Rehab in the business office because of her knowledge of Medicare and Medicaid. Once the owners started looking to build the assisted living facility, she was offered the job as administrator. “Being a part of The Plaza from the ground up has given me a real sense of ownership and love for the industry,” she said.

For Reeves, she said health care really chose her. She spent most of her childhood exploring the local nursing home, visiting daily with residents, and her heart grew fond of taking care of others. Once she turned 16, she received her first paycheck from Twin Rivers and has worked in many positions and departments since then. “I believe working alongside my mother and so many other great people has molded me into the person I am today,” Reeves said.

Reeves added, “Working alongside my mother daily has a positive impact on our facility and community. We work together to highlight our individual strengths and accomplish daily goals. I’ll say from personal experience with working with my mother daily, it takes patience and the willingness to adapt to different situations.”

Both agree that the largest misconception today about health care is that an assisted living facility is not equipped to take care of residents for a long-term stay. “I believe this to not be accurate for all assisted living residents,” Reeves said. “The projected average stay in an assisted living facility is six months to a year and a half. Our average resident stay is a year and a half to four years,” she said. “We have had several residents living with us for eight years at this point.”

“It’s still a hard concept [for most] that residents can age in place in an assisted living facility, but they truly give a unique experience of being in control of their lives, while having the security of assistance when needed,” Pollard-Rocole added.

Not only does the family duo have connections working together within the facility, but they have also experienced taking care of their family’s own personal loved ones in their work setting. Both of Reeves’ grandmothers lived at The Plaza before passing away and her personal experiences of caring for her family as residents sets an example for the facility’s coworkers and staff. “It also gave [my mom and I] the understanding of being on both sides of the fence,” she said.

“We want to ensure that all of our residents experience the same quality of care as they did,” Reeves said. “Promoting independence in a safe environment while keeping their dignity intact is very important to us.”

As a family-run business, their mother-daughter working relationship truly represents the importance of family and the roles they play in caring for their loved ones. “My motto is :you should care for each resident as if they were your family member,” Reeves said. And so the homelike environment continues at The Plaza at Twin Rivers Assisted Living.