A job...and city...she loves.
Resident Care Director at The Arbors at Westfield, Karen Detka, grew up on Mechanic Street, attended Westfield public schools, and spent time at her father's motorcycle shop.
After earning her nursing degree at St. Vincent's College, she took a job at Providence Hospital, and then worked for a private doctor's office. She spent some time working for the Chicopee Visiting Nurse Association and settled at The Arbors of Westfield six years ago, where she serves as the Resident Care Director. It is a job she loves in the city she loves.
"It is so nice to be here," said Detka. "I see a lot of my friends' parents and people who knew my father or bought a motorcycle from him. It's like reconnecting."
Detka said residents at The Arbors assisted living home don't need Facebook - they have their own way of social networking. Whether its playing cards in the sun room, having a coffee in the pub, or taking a day trip, residents at The Arbors are always busy interacting with one another.
"The Arbors is really good at making people feel vital," said Detka. Many residents have literally reconnected with old friends they have not seen since high school. Detka sad that's one reason residents feel at home very quickly.
Marketing Director Nicole Sweeney said when someone calls to inquire about residency; they almost always say they want to be put on a waiting list if there are no apartments available. "They want to stay in Westfield," said Sweeney. "Like Karen, applicants want to stay connected to the city they love."
Having a core staff from Westfield is one of the reasons residents feel at home. Detka said they enjoy the familiarity of being in their native city and being surrounded by people who live here, too.
"We always ask new residents if they know other residents," said Detka. "When there is someone familiar, it makes the transition much easier."
Detka said she has found her career home at The Arbors. Even her twin daughters, age 19, work for the company when they’re not in school.
Sweeney said Detka - and her daughters - are hard workers who are dedicated to the residents and The Arbors community. "Karen is the heart and soul of this building," said Sweeney. "She does her job, and whatever else needs to be done. She will answer phones so the receptionist can have a break, then go to the dining room and help to serve meals. She never says 'That's not my job'."
That work ethic and compassion is something her children inherited."The passion to care for people has been passed down through the Detkas," said Sweeney. Don't tell the residents' grandchildren, but when Santa visits The Arbors, it's usually Karen's husband, Bob Detka, hiding behind the white beard!
And while Detka and the entire staff at The Arbors are dedicated to resident care, they never push anyone to do something they don't want. "They're the boss," said Detka. "I tell them I'm working for you."
Detka coordinates care for every resident based on their needs and desires. "They have a say on what care they want," she said. "When I make a care plan, I ask them about their routines, when they eat, when they shower, how much help they want . . . we try to keep it as close to their familiar routine as possible."
Detka said residents truly make The Arbors their home, and assisted living is a fairly new concept. "It used to be that people, as they aged, lived with family who assisted them," said Detka. "In this economy, everyone has to work, so most of the time the wife can no longer stay home and care for elderly parents."
Before assisted living facilities like The Arbors, the only alternative was a nursing home. For the residents of The Arbors, a nursing home is not the right place. "They often did not need the level of skilled nursing in a nursing home," said Detka.
The Arbors offers as little or as much help as a resident needs and allows them to make their own schedule. Every day, The Arbors offers numerous activities, from exercise and knitting group to shopping trips and daily evening fireside chats.
"We take care of things so families can just come and be with mom and dad and enjoy being family," said Detka.
Many of those families are Westfield families, said Sweeney. "Eighty-five percent of new residents last year were Westfield natives," she said. While The Arbors is not exclusively for Westfield residents, Sweeney said many of the residents and staff are from Westfield and that is important to a lot of people. She said having someone like Detka there makes residents, especially the new ones, feel like they are at home right away. "The staff member who all the residents know is Karen," said Sweeney.
This year, Sweeney said The Arbors is combining Detka's focus on health and wellness with connecting to the community in a push to purchase local produce. With help from Chef Brian Bogusiewski, the valedictorian of his class at Westfield Vocational technical High School, Detka will help residents live longer and better with healthy meals made from food
from local farms.
"Wellness and nutrition are part of Karen's goal to keep residents here as long as possible," said Sweeney. "That is what we are all about."