Grand Hills Castle: A Q & A with Jessica Haase
What do you enjoy most about being Life Enrichment Coordinator at the Grand Hills Castle?
The most rewarding part of my job is getting to see the residents light up when we have a fun activity or they have a social connection with another resident. They are the reason I do this job. I like to challenge myself and challenge the residents in what we can do. I also appreciate the trust I have from our owners, Kris and Kevin, and other management here, to create a wholesome activity plan each month and share my ideas of improvement with them.
Tell us a story about something that happened shortly after you joined the Castle Senior Living team and how it made you realize you were in the right place.
When I first started at the Grand Hills Castle the location had recently opened and we had about six residents. Now, we have grown to almost 40 residents! There are a million stories about the residents that make me love working here. However, an important thing for me was being listened to and valued by my supervisor. My first week here, I asked for a meeting to share some ideas about expanding our knowledge of the cognitive level of our residents, especially in memory care, so I could more accurately create activities suited for them. My supervisor was excited about my ideas and told me to implement them as soon as possible, trusting my knowledge and experience. That was a big move forward for me.
What qualities or special skills do you bring to your job?
I went to Alverno College and have a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Therapy. Beyond that, I have worked with older adults with dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Alcoholism, and physical limitations; at-risk youth at the Mental Health Complex in Wauwatosa struggling with PTSD, ADHD, emotional disorders, depression, and young adults with mental disorders such as Autism and Down Syndrome. I have done art therapy projects (group and one-on-one) with all of these populations. At my past job, I was in charge of cognitive therapy for older adults with dementia, along with creating balanced care plans for all clients. Throughout my life I have always been interested in observing people and trying to figure out how they are feeling and what they need. It is not always an easy job, but I find great value in helping people when I am able.
Research shows that older Americans staying active is the key to good mental health, and overall physical and social well-being. How does Castle help residents achieve that?
Staying active physically, mentally and socially are all necessary aspects of balanced care for our seniors to live long, meaningful lives. Here at Castle, we have many opportunities for our residents to stay active. We have well-balanced exercise every morning, physical activities such as bowling and balloon toss, interactive cooking demonstrations, gardening and days spent outside. We also have opportunities for them to teach us about cooking, gardening and crocheting, along with the activity department teaching them about art and the world every week. I am constantly tuning in to what is successful; what the residents don’t like and in what ways I can make some activities more challenging for those who need it. A goal of mine is to never stop making Castle Senior Living the best place to be for quality of life for our seniors.
Is there an interesting or exciting project you are working on right now with residents that you’d like to share?
We recently started creating gardens filled with vegetables, herbs and flowers that the residents helped me plant and continue to help me care for. The gardens were a wonderful gift from a resident’s family member in appreciation of all that we do for his mom. Other than that, we will be continuing culture-focused weeks where we experience a new culture with food demos, history, paintings and styles, along with making a special craft representing that culture. This past month, we enjoyed Bastille Days week and Italian week, following the festivals in Milwaukee. Residents here love learning about new things, so we will also host TED talks and art demonstrations every week. We launched this in July. Residents lit up and talked about it for a while with each other after the lecture was finished. That is what I want to maintain here: excitement, socialization and learning.
What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned at Castle Senior Living in the past few months?
I’ve learned all aspects of what it takes to plan successful outings and activities, create a budget, contact entertainers, recruit volunteers and more. I’m able to manage my own department and share my knowledge with our care staff to make Castle more successful in understanding the thought process of our seniors. Beyond that, I am more aware of the importance of community, teamwork and continuously challenging each other on what we can accomplish. This is the perfect position for me to grow professionally and contribute all I can to this community.
What are you most passionate about professionally? Personally?
Professionally, I am passionate about teamwork and working towards a common goal. Working with seniors, you must show a passion for life and making people feel valued. You can never underestimate the amount of knowledge and experience our seniors have to share with us.
Personally, I am passionate about painting, music, animals and staying active. I strive to live my best life surrounded by things that I am enthusiastic about and things that challenge me.
You studied abroad for college, (University of Limerick – Ireland). What kind of impact did that have on your life?
Studying abroad had a huge impact on who I am today. Leaving my family and friends for four months made me more independent and confident in myself because I was on my own. I was always the quiet one throughout school and Ireland is where I really broke out of that mold. I started sharing my thoughts more often and fighting for what I believed in. I have a great love for learning and experiencing different cultures. I fit in well in the Irish culture and would love to live there someday.
Do you have any secret talents?
I am not sure about secret talents, but I played varsity tennis in high school and love the game. I also enjoy golfing with my dad on a nice day. I know how to weld, paint, work with clay and make fused glass (learned in college). I always wanted to learn how to play the piano. I tried to teach myself when I was 16. I want to take official lessons so maybe I can play for the residents on the piano at the Grand Hills Castle.
What is your favorite movie and why?
My favorite movies are Good Will Hunting and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I love them because they deal with real emotional growth and are inspirational. I also love The Greatest Showman because of the music.
If you could exhibit one super power, what would it be?
If I had one superpower it would be to fly so I could travel the world whenever I wanted.