Message from Caleo Bay:
Los Angeles area Senior Living Professional moves to Caleo Bay as new Administrator
A sign in her bay kitchen window reads “My life has a superb cast, but I can’t figure out the plot.” At 53, perhaps it’s all beginning to make sense. With a 25 year healthcare career and previous leadership and regional roles in the senior living field, Ronda Wilkin has joined JEA Senior Living as the new Administrator of Caleo Bay, an Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in La Quinta.
Ronda Wilkin is no stranger to Alzheimer’s Disease. For her family, it’s hereditary and at 75, her mother is the third generation. And it’s all the same – starts in late 60’s and includes personality and behavior changes of rage, paranoia, and violence, combative and aggressive behaviors. Wilkin’s beautiful, gentle mother, who generously shared her love and hugs, and laughed through life, left her bruised, cursed her out and took a swing at her while she was driving 70 miles per hour on the 10 freeway (yes she held on to the car!) On multiple occasions, her fluctuating mood patterns left her father black and blue from bites, kicks and swinging handbags. She has also had challenging moments with her brother. As the disease progressed, the family had interactions with Adult Protective Services and 911 assistance, an involuntary psychiatric hold and other related issues before making the final decision in October 2016 to place Mom in an Assisted Living community.
After being part of the Caleo Bay family for more than six months as a grateful daughter, when the opportunity was presented to be the new administrator, Wilkin said yes and last month relocated to Palm Desert from the San Fernando Valley. Her brother Michael resides in the Santa Clarita Valley. Both were 150 miles from their parents. The Fishler’s retired 20 years ago to Palm Desert and have had a full life filled with fun, friends and activities. When looking at care options, they decided to not force their parents to the San Fernando or Santa Clarita Valleys and placed Mom near dad to give him some semblance of a life. For the last few years, she has made a trip every 2-3 weeks to the Desert to check on her parents. While very lonely, her father has an amazing circle of friends and plays senior softball, bowls and golfs. He visits mom most days and calls me often in tears about how much he loves her. We are living the movie THE NOTEBOOK – as my parents share a wonderful 55-year love affair. As James Garner said in his role as the older Noah “That’s my sweetheart in there … Where ever she is, that’s where my home is.”
Wilkin was open when looking for the right community and that placement was needed because of behaviors related to her Alzheimer’s Disease. After seven months of challenges at another community, Marilyn was relocated Caleo Bay in May 2017. There was an immediate difference in the team’s ability to work with her mom – to redirect when agitated, take medications and have more good days. Caleo Bay’s Meaningful Moments dementia training, coupled with 24/7 nursing staff and an “it’s what we do” attitude, allowed the Fishler family to finally sleep better at night.
Wilkin shares a special caregiver passion when dealing with surviving spouses. Caregiver stress is real. “Both grandparents died weeks apart – our grandmother, the caregiver, died six weeks before my grandfather with Alzheimer’s. I became a “helicopter daughter.” With statistics working against us, our goals include making sure Mom is receiving loving and professional care, and not to repeat history and watch one disease kill both parents.” Wilkin added.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, older adults (aged 66 – 96) caring for a spouse have a 63% higher risk of death than non-caregivers of the same age.
The disease is progressing, but Wilkin is grateful the roller-coaster of the last few years is more settled. So much is already slipping away. Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is like watching someone die twice. In Ronda’s office is a framed piece that reads “The hardest thing you will ever have to do my dear, is grieve the loss of someone that is still alive.”
Wilkin recognizes the unique gift and perspective she has at this moment in my life — wearing both hats simultaneously, as a current senior living administrator and grateful daughter who needed to find the correct placement for my own mother. She feels blessed to be able to help others and believe the best includes a dementia trained, compassionate, supportive and knowledgeable team that provides personalized resident-centered care services with dignity and respect. “Our most important job is to get to know each resident on an individual basis and honor their life story,” Wilkin added.
So perhaps the plot is figured out. Ask her and she will tell you “For me senior care is a personal passion — an opportunity to provide care with a purpose. Knowing the heartache that families go through, I truly appreciate the hard work of exceptional teams in a challenging situation and believe it is a privilege to assist families in the care of loved ones – families just like my own! Ultimately, I want to give families peace of mind so that they can sleep through the night. (As I am finally able to do!)”
Ronda Wilkin’s long career in healthcare includes previously serving as an executive director and regional director for Sunrise Senior Living and Marketing Director with Pacifica Senior Living. She is a published author and speaker on related articles. Wilkin’s work has been recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association, San Fernando Business Journal, Los Angeles City Council and Congressman, Brad Sherman. She has served as a USC Davis School of Gerontology Mentor and was part of the Los Angeles Clorox Company Care Council.
Ronda Wilkin can be reached at Caleo Bay at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-7716100