Mountain Retreat Revitalizes Front-Line, Senior Health Care Workers

Community Life

Posted: July 19, 2021

The past year+ has been very busy and stressful — particularly for those providing medical care and service to older adults across Denver. In the words of Elder Care Specialist Suren Bhandari at Holly Creek Life Plan Community in Centennial, “After the long COVID-19 pandemic and with so many things restricted and suffering through more than a year long, we need to revitalize our minds and bodies.” Even though he was sick with COVID-19 himself for seventeen days, Suren still jumped back into service as soon as he could.

Holly Creek Life Plan Community, with the help of its parent organization Christian Living Communities (CLC) and Historic Pines Ranch south of Westcliff, found a unique way to address the need of team members like Suren who sacrificed so much over the past year. The community and ranch collaborated to provide senior health care providers at Holly Creek with a three-day retreat in one of Colorado’s most pristine areas.

The Historic Pines Ranch near Westcliff (taken in the winter).

The program has already provided an opportunity for rest and rejuvenation to nearly 60 people (15 of them nurses) last year. And this year Holly Creek team members were able to stay, thanks to the generosity of CLC’s family of donors, including residents, who recognized the tremendous sacrifices caregivers have made and wanted to show their appreciation by making the retreats possible.

To be eligible for the program, employees at Holly Creek had to be peer-nominated for their exceptional work during the past year. Over 75 team members at Holly Creek alone were nominated by fellow team members. Then, just this past month, the handful of HC-selected nominees took advantage of their special, three-day opportunity to rest and rejuvenate at Pines Ranch.

They stayed at several of the ranch’s nicely furnished cabins with access to various amenities including local trails, childcare, chickens and goats and yoga. Classes on spiritual practices focused on rest were available as was a licensed therapist. Pines Ranch excels at providing opportunities to just enjoy nature and truly unplug.

“A large part of the Pines Ranch difference is just the natural environment and getting away from the noise—there’s a lot of background noise that we don’t even realize until it’s no longer there,” explained Kyle Schlafer, President of the Historic Pines Ranch Preservation Association. “Our classes also offer those who come with practices that they can incorporate into their everyday lives — like knitting and yoga, or still getting outside even in an urban environment. One of the classes we provided is focused on spiritual practices of rest, and participants have taken some things from that as well.”

Schlafer also hopes that the ranch and classes will provide some long-term rejuvenation strategies as well as a temporary respite. “It’s one thing to learn on the news about the challenges that healthcare workers were facing, but when you’re standing face to face with someone, and they’re telling you that they’ve been working 60 hours weekly for several months – it really opens your eyes to what that is like. They work hard and serve others so much, so our goal was that they would feel served and treated in the same way that they do for others every day.”

It certainly seems to be working. One Holly Creek team member Junior Kakembo was selected for the retreat and shared that “Since Feb 2009 I’ve been a CNA/mentor. It was my first retreat, and I was delighted with the CLC vote recognizing my years of service! Relaxing was the biggest benefit, and everything was perfect!”

Junior is looking forward to returning better able to serve his older adults at Holly Creek. “My residents make my day every time I’m able to serve them, and I have great team communication with my coworkers.”

Suren invited several of his own coworkers to join him when he was selected for the retreat. “Thank you from the core of my heart to the donor,” he shared. “I had an excellent experience with my coworkers…Today I was able to share with them how they’ve been wonderful friends.”

The plan is for other communities under CLC (in addition to Holly Creek) to also participate in the respite retreats.

“Our Partnership with Christian Living Communities has been fantastic,” Schlafer added. “CLC really cares about their employees as people and wants to see them thrive on a personal level—beyond just their professional lives. The organization worked hard to enable participants to get here. We have been very blessed to have such a great initial partner.”

Located in at 5500 E. Peakview Avenue in Centennial, Holly Creek is owned and operated by Denver-based not-for-profit Christian Living Communities. CLC has been providing quality senior care in the south Denver metropolitan area since 1972. More info at https://www.hollycreekcommunity.com.

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