Sydney Gardiner

SG: I heard about Rowan Community in Colorado while I was living in Illinois. I had moved to Illinois to be near my family, however I missed Colorado and decided it was time to move back. I arranged my own transfer and was picked up at the airport in my motorized wheelchair. That was 12 years ago.

SH: Having worked in a younger nursing home, I was accustomed to outspoken residents and appreciate their candor. Sydney brought that to a whole new level, starting with that first meeting at the airport with her driving up to me with a look of determination on her face. She came to us from a geriatric facility and was significantly younger than the other residents there. She wanted to find a facility with residents she had more in common with, where the focus was not solely on nursing but rather the whole person.

SG: Before I contracted Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I climbed most of the Colorado 14ers, rode my bicycle to work, swam laps, and practiced yoga. I still love the outdoors, but it hasn’t been kind to me. I made the decision to use my energy as an advocate for long-term care residents and staff. I became vocal with the staff, letting them know what works and what doesn’t work. I knew I had a lot of life left. I found purpose in educating others that life doesn’t stop when you enter long-term care and that you can find strength through adversity. I access the community regularly to go to Boulder, the Botanic Gardens, the coffee shop, out to lunch...

SH: Sydney held us accountable on day one! She lent her voice to a presentation at a health care conference for younger residents. She talked about the differences in a geriatric facility versus a “middle-aged” facility. She got the conversation going. She energized other residents to speak up and take an active role in their own care, in shaping the future of our growth together as a business, and as a home. Despite her disability, she has spearheaded fund drives for the local elementary school's bi-lingual preschool and raised money for Denver's homeless. She successfully testified to improve personal needs funding before the Colorado State Senate Health Care Committee and served a two-year term on a Governor-appointed Board that funds grants to nursing homes to improve the quality of life of their residents. It is quite a list of accomplishments, nursing home or not. One of the things I am most grateful for, though, is Sydney’s involvement in memorial services. She makes a point of attending memorial services and sharing personal remembrances, which is so very important to the residents, families, and the staff. Sydney made a quizzical face when she saw that I talked about her role in memorials. Death is the part of this experience that no one wants to think or talk about. Our staff and residents come together to share stories, to laugh and to cry. It is important to remember that were it not for the unfortunate factors that brought us together in the nursing home, we would not have our lives enriched by the opportunity for amazing relationships and life stories that will live on. The smiles at our nursing home are real and the feelings run deep.

Rowan Community, Denver, Colorado
Sydney Gardiner, Resident (SG)
Susan Hanson, Social Worker (SH)