Senior Profile: Anne Schick

Anne Schick prepares to make her first post-Covid visit as a volunteer with the Wake County Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee.

Searstone resident Anne Schick’s life has been a love letter to seniors ever since she was a little girl.

“I’ve just always been attracted to older people, ever since I was a Girl Scout. I don’t do very well with a bunch of children; they scare me,” Schick said with a laugh. “Maybe it was my grandparents. I don’t know what it was, but I have always loved to listen to stories and hear their wisdom and life experiences.”

After living in Raleigh for 50 years, Schick moved with her husband, Tom, to Cary’s Searstone Retirement Community nine years ago and jumped into the social scene with both feet.

For years, Schick visited nursing homes with her therapy dog, Divot, in tow.

“Anne has always been very active on our health care committee,” said Allie Ligay, sales and marketing director at Searstone. “The health care committee visits residents in our health care center, assists with finding health-related speakers, and plans the Searstone Health Fair. She was instrumental in creating the Good Neighbor Program, which alerts another Searstone resident when someone is sent out to the hospital so things like newspapers, pets, watering plants can be taken care of while the ‘good neighbor’ is out of the community.”

Schick’s can-do attitude and caring heart have driven her volunteer eff orts for years. Following retirement, Schick even took it upon herself to deliver framed art to nursing homes.

“I would visit residents and ask what they would like to look at for the next month,” said Schick. “Th at was great fun, but I was by myself and I had no credibility, so I struggled with that for a while. Then I got a dog, Divot, who was a therapy dog, and it gave me the excuse to visit. She was cute. She could get on their beds. She could snuggle. It’s nice to have something with you that can elicit conversation.”

Almost a decade ago, Shick saw an ad in the newspaper looking for volunteers for the Wake County Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee — a community-led effort to improve the quality of care for nursing home residents.

There’s no doubt that nursing home residents are a particularly vulnerable population, often too sick or frail to self-advocate. In the 1970s and ’80s, national legislation improved the rights of nursing home residents, establishing a Bill of Rights and requiring a Long-Term Care Ombudsman in every state. The NC General Assembly followed suit, enacting a comprehensive Bill of Rights and establishing the Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee, which empowers community volunteers as advocates for senior welfare. Schick is proud to be a part of the community group.

Anne Schick (left) makes her quarterly visit with her volunteer partner, Megan Douglas, at Cary Health and Rehabilitation.

“We are actually patient advocates, and we look to make sure the residents are being well cared for and that their rights are being met,” said Schick. “We visit four different nursing homes in the area quarterly with a partner … and we report on the wellness of the residents and if it’s clean and if they’re liking what their surroundings are. If we see a call bell go off, we kind of stand quietly and observe how long it takes to be answered. We talk to the residents and find out what’s making them tick, what’s good and what’s bad about where they are, and then we report back to the administration. If there is a problem, we give a card to the resident explaining some of their rights and letting them call the Ombudsman personally.”

For years, Schick visited nursing homes with her therapy dog, Divot, in tow. Unlike the Ombudsman, who assists residents in exercising their rights and resolving grievances, volunteers on the committee have no regulatory power. They are simply there to be the eyes and ears in the Ombudsman’s absence and obtain firsthand knowledge of nursing home conditions. Their published reports are publicly accessible.

Schick’s volunteerism was inspired by her mother, Sally Sheehan, who was a nursing home resident herself.

Megan Douglas, a retired occupational therapist, met Schick in 2016 when she first joined the committee.

“We were paired together initially so she could mentor me, as I was a ‘newbie’ in this role,” said Douglas. “She and I really enjoyed working together and have been a team ever since. Anne is a passionate advocate for senior citizens. She is able to ask appropriate, insightful questions when we are talking with the residents and presents our findings to the administrators in a calm, nonjudgmental manner. Anne remembers small details about some of our long-term residents and will make a point of searching them out.”

When discussing her work as a volunteer, Schick doesn’t refer to the people she visits as nursing home residents — they are simply her friends.

“There’s a couple of ladies who shared a room at one facility, and they really get along and watch out for each other. They’re fun because they joke and tell stories about each other, so we often visit them and look forward to seeing them,” said Schick. “There’s one lady who collects hats and is always wearing a fancy hat, and she’s in a wheelchair and she loves to sing. So every time we go, I’ll hold her hand and she’ll sing me a hymn, and she has a wonderful, deep, mellow voice. Every once in a while, I’ll run into somebody that I know in a rehab situation and make sure that they’re doing OK.”

A proud grandmother of four, Schick’s compassion seems to be inherited — she even took a photo of her oldest granddaughter volunteering at the women’s shelter where she helps serve food once a quarter.

“I think she was four, and she was helping to serve these homeless women, and they were delighted,” said Schick. “Children are always welcome. Two of my grandchildren are here, and although I don’t bring them on my work assignments, they often visit my friends here at Searstone who are in a nursing home. And they are volunteering as well, singing Christmas carols and making things.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Schick’s granddaughter, Amelie, volunteers at a shelter.

Anne’s love for the older generation never stops — whether she’s working on behalf of the committee or visiting the residents at Searstone’s assisted living neighborhood, Brittany Place.

“I encourage the committee to write notes to the residents [at Brittany Place]. I visit my friends and call them often, arrange for special treats to be prepared for special occasions, and encourage others to volunteer. They are still a part of Searstone, and I want them to feel that way,” said Schick.

There are dozens of nursing homes in Wake County that are divided up among the volunteers, with Schick and Douglas covering homes in Cary, Apex, and Garner. More than anything, Schick hopes that this article can be used to recruit more volunteers to the committee who can be a voice for those in the sunset of their lives.

“It’s wonderfully worthwhile, and we need more volunteers all the time. It’s nice to get a relationship with a facility and watch it thrive,” said Schick. “I love seeing the smiles on faces — because they become your friends over time — and making sure that everything is going well and that everyone is active and participating and as happy as they can be. It’s often not a happy situation, because they’re not well or they wouldn’t be there. But we make sure they have the best quality of life they can have.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *