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Heritage administrator sustains her ‘calling’ with quality care

September 24, 2018

Older generations tugged at Lisa Sivec’ heart and drew her to a calling to make every day a good one for residents in personal care.

She became the executive director for Siemon’s Heritage Personal Care Center four years ago, after working at various levels in the profession for 17 years. Among other positions, Sivec was a licensed practical nurse, a restorative nursing supervisor and a social service director — all helping prepare her for her current position.

Sivec calls her work “my passion” and it shows. “When you go to work every day and you walk in and feel good, that is half the battle in just having a happy life. Don’t get me wrong, there are difficult days, but there are more great days.”

Although a Cambria County native and resident, Sivec said when she came to work in Somerset County four years ago she was made to feel a part of the county. “I call this my second home. It feels right.”

She joined the Somerset County Rotary Club and loves it. “You go to lunch and feel inspired,” Sivec said.

She cares about details, such as knowing the current 32 residents intimately to picking out the red and white flowers from a nearby nursery to be planted near a waterfall in an outdoor patio for residents, staff and visitors.

Walking over and showing the swarm of goldfish in the outdoor pond at the end of the man-made waterfall to a visitor is something she likes to share. “This is my favorite place. It is so beautiful and serene,” she said.

She is an outdoors-type who can often be found canoeing, camping and fishing when she is not working. “I love to listen to the water running and to hear the birds,” she said looking around the cool patio on a warm late-summer day.

At the Heritage, an Envoy Health Care Center, many of the residents enjoy spending time with each other and visitors here. A big group of residents are in their 80s and 90s, and out of that group about 30 percent are veterans, which is “near and dear to my heart,” she said. Her deceased father was a Vietnam War era veteran. In fact he did not meet his daughter until he returned to the states and she was 6 months old.

Her father, Leroy Long, would help anyone and believed people should work for what they want, his daughter said.

“He inspired me,” she said, still tearing up at the loss from his passing. The St. Michael resident nurtures her relationship with her mother, Janice Long, who she can call her friend now that they both are adults.

Family is important to Sivec, who along with her husband, Ron Sivec, have five children between them ranging from the ages of 24 and 34 and two grandchildren, 15 and 4. Then there is the siblings. She smiled and said her sister is married to a Marine.

In the Heritage “We have nine veterans from World War II and Korean War (eras),” Sivec said, calling that age group “the greatest generation toward family and work ethics.”

They took care of the generations following and they deserve “someone to take care of them,” and Sivec, who can’t think of anything better than spending time with her “second family.”

It is not always easy, she admitted. The hardest is to witness one of her residents in hospice for their final days.

There are general challenges to meet and overcome, such as staffing shortage.

“You need great people who want to do this type of work,” she said. She called her staff “amazing.”

A few months ago the Heritage did not have enough staff, so she went to those who were rapidly becoming overworked and asked for ideas. The staff came back to her and suggested changing the three, eight-hour shifts to two, 12-hour shifts. They were willing to work more hours to fill in for weeks until the shifts could be changed.

“It is working for us,” she said. Now the shifts are all covered and her staff gets to spend more time with their families on their time off, she said.

Another goal of the Heritage administration and staff is to reduce hospital costs for the residents.

“We try to identify things early to prevent the need for the residents to be hospitalized. That way they don’t leave their home here and it reduces the worry for their families,” she said.

Everything at the Heritage is about having those little daily choices that help maintain independence, Sivec said.

Sivec enjoys taking visitors on a tour of the Heritage. She walked by a group of residents listening intently to a gentleman guiding a Bible study.

“We are lucky to have so many community groups who come here and share,” she said. The residents share music, dance, classes like the Bible study, and a pet day with others from the community.

“I’ve even brought my dog a few times, but my dog needs at least 20 hours to sleep afterwards,” she said. It is all that petting and belly scratching. That can tire one out, Sivec said with a laugh and a shake of her head.

“It all makes a big difference for residents,” she said.

She is working on a national project where every resident is photographed with something that matters to them and then put in a photo album as a keepsake for the facility.

One of the things she is the most proud of because it sums up everything she’s done to improve the quality of care for the residents can be seen on a banner that stretches the length of the entrance to the facility.

The Heritage earned a 2018 American Health Care Association and National Center for Assistant Living Silver — Achievement in Quality Award. The award is given for improving the quality of care through tough progressive steps over several years.

“It is a privilege to recognize our member centers and communities that consistently make a positive impact on the lives of the patients and residents they serve,” wrote Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the association, in a media release.

The association represents more than 13,600 centers that range from skilled nursing centers to assistant living communities to homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Of those, only 166 in 36 states, 11 in Pennsylvania, earned the silver achievement in quality award, Sivec said.

She is excited about attending the American Heath Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living annual convention in San Diego, California, Oct. 7-10. She pointed out where a display cabinet may be placed to contain the silver quality achievement award trophy.

Her next goal is to help the Heritage achieve the gold — excellence in quality award.

It will probably take a few years, but that is okay, she said with a smile. The daily accomplishments sustain her “calling.”

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