“The senior service industry has changed a great deal in the last 20 years,” says Donna Bell, 50, director of public relations at Brandon Woods.
“The most inspiring developments at Brandon Woods have been our changes in service philosophy to a resident-directed approach to care and services.”
This is very different from Bell’s first encounter with senior services as a teenager.
“I visited my grandfather in a Los Angeles senior rehabilitation unit,” she says. “It was horrible. The facilities and residents were uncared for and mostly ignored by the staff. I knew it was wrong and wished I could change things. My parents got him out of there as soon as they could.”
Her parents moved from Joplin, Mo., to California in 1963. Bell enjoyed tagging along with her six siblings, reading and writing for high school newspaper in West Covina, Calif. She enrolled at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif., to study business administration, but felt the need to spread her wings, so she eventually convinced her parents to let her follow two of her brothers to Wichita. She graduated from Wichita State University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration and human resources, and became the corporate director of human resources for Presbyterian Manors of mid-America, then based in Newton. She moved to Gaithersburg, Md., with her husband, Cornelius, and son, Benjamin, but returned to Kansas to be near her father, shortly after her mother’s sudden death in an auto accident.
“I wanted Benjamin to get to know his grandfather because, tragically, he never got to know my mother,” Bell says.
“I knew the three men who started Brandon Woods and the parent organization at that time, which was Retirement Management Company. In 1991 they called and invited me to join the company in Lawrence.”
She’s been with the company since exclusively at Brandon Woods since 1999, been director of public relations since 2004 and says the move to Lawrence has worked out really well for her and her family.
“We love living here, and the education system is excellent,” she says. “My father also moved to Lawrence and lived here until his death eight years ago. My hope that Benjamin would know his grandfather was realized. They saw each other almost every day.”
She’s thrilled that senior facilities have changed and improved since her grandfather’s day.
“We now recognize that each person is unique with personal preferences about the way they want to live,” Bell says.
“We respect those differences and look for ways to incorporate individual preference in how we provide everyday care and service. This cultural change has led to many tangible changes at Brandon Woods, including restaurant-style food service to meet individual dietary needs and preferences.”
Bell loves providing help and support to families as they contemplate lifestyle changes for their loved ones at a critical life stage.
“I love being part of this process,” says Bell. “Brandon Woods is a loving, caring community, a fun place to work, and I feel privileged to be part of it.””