Baptist Retirement Community dedicates Elsie Gayer Chapel

Members of the Baptist Retirement Community came together with Buckner Retirement Services staff to dedicate the Elsie Gayer Chapel. On hand were members of the Gayer family, as well as members of the Baptist Memorial Ministries Board and Buckner International Board of Trustees.

The renaming of the chapel after Elsie Gayer is part of an $8.4 million renovation project to Baptist Retirement Community, announced in Oct. 2018. The planned updates include renovations to the high-rise independent living apartment building and the Sagecrest nursing building while also providing for road repairs and added curb appeal to the community, which has served seniors in San Angelo since 1951.

Elsie Gayer, RN, founded the Baptist Memorials Geriatric Hospital in 1951 and served as its administrator until 1968. The hospital later pivoted into senior living and was renamed Baptist Retirement Community.

A plaque honoring Gayer was unveiled at the ceremony, noting how her “efforts and passion persist today as an enduring symbol of senior living that is Inspiring Happiness™ in San Angelo and throughout Texas.”

“Every professional studying the history of senior care should know the name Elsie Gayer,” said Aaron Hargett, BRC’s executive director. “She was a remarkable woman who touched the lives of so many senior adults by ensuring they were loved and lived with dignity as members of a community.”

The updates and new construction to BRC are part of a long-term campus renovation and repositioning plan, which already has seen the construction of The Crest, a new assisted living memory care building, which opened in 2016 on the 100-acre campus. Buckner affiliated with Baptist Retirement Community in 2010. It is one of six Texas senior living communities owned and managed by BRS.

Buckner Westminster Place member and author reads to children on National Read a Book Day

seniors reading to children

Thursday, Sept. 6 was National Read a Book Day – the perfect day for children’s book author and Buckner Westminster Place member Ida Luttrell to share some of her books with children at the Buckner Family Hope Center in Longview.

Ida, 84, read from her book Three Good Blankets to the group of 10 children, ages 2 to 4 years old. After she finished, one of the Family Hope Center staff read another of Ida’s books, this time translating it into Spanish for the bilingual children.

National Read a Book Day is an annual awareness day inviting all people to pick up a book and spend the day reading. The day also promotes reading to others, whether it be aloud to children or seniors.

According to the site, “reading improves memory and concentration as well as reduces stress. Older adults who spend time reading show a slower cognitive decline and tend to participate in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetime.”

Ida was joined by her friend and fellow Buckner Westminster Place independent living member Mary Ellen Andrews. Their time at the Family Hope Center merged two of Buckner International’s pillar areas of service: vulnerable children and seniors.

For more about Ida Luttrell, read our resident feature article on her.

How seniors can prepare for hurricane season

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey took Texas by surprise.

This year, we want you to be prepared. Here are six easy ways senior adults and their families can prepare for hurricane season.

1. Know your neighbors.

It’s a good idea to have people close by who can check on you in the event of an emergency. If you know their schedule and they know yours, each of you can be aware of when to look out for each other.

2. Keep hurricane-specific emergency numbers easily accessible.

Store emergency phone numbers in an easy-to-find place on your cell phone. If you don’t use a cell phone, put those phone numbers on a brightly colored piece of paper. Laminate the paper so you can still use it in a flood. Good phone numbers to have handy include the Coast Guard, neighbors and your local senior living community.

3. Create an emergency kit.

Having an emergency kit ready to go makes even small emergencies like losing power easier to handle with peace of mind. Emergency kit must-haves include flashlights, first aid materials and water bottles.

4. Pack an overnight bag.

Keep a bag packed with overnight essentials in case you need to relocate quickly. Be sure to include a list of any medications you use and copies of personal identification.

5. Sign up for emergency alert systems.

Most cities have emergency alert systems designed specifically for seniors. Make sure you’re signed up for these weather alert phone calls because they’ll be your first source of regular information.

6. Have a plan.

No one wants to think “worst case scenario,” but when it comes to the unpredictability of hurricanes, the best thing you can do is have a plan. Know in advance who you’ll call and where you’ll go. Have multiple contingency plans just in case.

Ultimately, the best way to be prepared for a hurricane is to join a senior living community.

There, any homeowner maintenance necessary for hurricane preparation is already covered by the 24-hour maintenance staff. Should a hurricane or tropical storm come, leadership teams are in communication with Coast Guard every few hours. Residents, meanwhile, still enjoy three full meals a day and experience little to no interruptions to daily life.

As one resident at Calder Woods in Beaumont said, “The Lord helped me find Calder Woods just in time. Harvey flooded my home in Bridge City one month after I moved to Calder Woods. I’m so grateful God brought me here when he did.”

For a complete look at what it’s like to weather a hurricane at a Buckner senior living community, read this account from Parkway Place and see how one Houstonian found hope at the senior living community.

A day in the life of a senior living nurse

Angela Britain

Meet Angela Britain, a certified nurse assistant (CNA) at Buckner Westminster Place! Angela serves as a “shahbazim,” a unique position within the Green House® Homes concept that incorporates home-like  tasks such as cooking and cleaning into the traditional CNA role. Check out a day in her life for a closer look behind the scenes of Buckner Retirement Services.

6:45 a.m.: Arrive at work

I work the morning shift, which is good because I’m a morning person. We get there at 6:45, and at that point all the residents are still sleeping. Green Houses are designed to have a smaller staff to resident ratio, so we only have two shahbazims per shift and 10 residents total.

Shift change

The first thing we do is a shift change with the night shift. During these meetings we get all the information from the overnight team regarding anything that may have happened, any resident who didn’t sleep well or anyone was ill. These are important meetings because they tell us how to plan the day.

Breakfast prep

Once shift change is complete, we’re getting ready for breakfast. We want the table to be set and all the food to be ready so we can begin serving residents as soon as they’re up.


Next, we’re going room to room to say good morning and help residents with their routines like shaving and showering. This is my favorite part of the day! I enjoy getting to tell them I love them, and they bless me with some of the sweetest things they say.


Green Houses are designed to have a family atmosphere, so during mealtimes we sit at the table and eat with the residents. If you were caring for your grandparents, you’d of course help them with the daily tasks they need to do, but you’d also help them cook and spend quality time with them. That’s what we do here too.

Lunch prep and activities

As soon as we’re finished with breakfast, we’re cleaning up dishes and beginning preparations for lunch.  It’s a juggling act. You’re cooking, cleaning and tending to the residents’ needs all at the same time.

While we try to maintain some sort of normal schedule for the residents, we also have to be able to acclimate to changes very quickly. We’re in constant communication with other nursing staff so that if we notice any changes in behavior or mood we can address those needs as well.

In between breakfast and lunch we’re also moving the residents around so they’re not in the same place all the time. The activity director will also come in and lead life enrichment activities for the residents.


Before we know it, we’re setting everyone back up at the table for lunch. One of the biggest blessings of working at a faith-based senior living provider like Buckner is that every day a resident prays over the meal. It’s such a sweet time! Family members also often join us for lunch. Some residents do eat in their rooms, so we work to accommodate those needs as well.


Then we start the process all over again of doing dishes, cleaning up and getting residents back to their rooms for an afternoon nap. During nap, we’ll look at the menu for the next day and see if there’s anything we need to do for prep. We’ll also do charting for the day and see if there’s anything we need to do for the next shift.

2:45: Final shift change

We’re relieved at 2:45, and at this point we do another shift change to keep the chain of communication going between nurses. Together we all work hard to let residents know they’re special, they’re still a blessing to others and they still have purpose.

I never would have picked nursing for myself, but now I know I was made for this. The Lord showed me he could open my heart to something unexpected, and he’s made this work so fulfilling.

Five ways to pray for senior adults

Thursday, May 3, is the National Day of Prayer. Here are five ways you can pray for senior adults.

1. People

Pray that senior adults are surrounded by people who love and encourage them. Whether from friends in the same life stage or everyday relationships like the grocer and banker, simple conversations often make all the difference in a senior’s quality of life.

2. Purpose

Pray that seniors have a clearly defined sense of purpose. Senior adults need to know they still add value. For some, this purpose comes from volunteering. For others, it comes from family and friends. Pray that seniors find what they love and have opportunity to pursue it.

3. Peace

Pray that seniors have the peace they need to handle change. Change is a regular part of life for senior adults, be it in personal physical health, a loved one’s health or in friendships. Pray they find comfort in friends and family, but also find peace and strength in the Lord.

4. Plans

Pray that seniors and their families have the necessary wisdom to make long-term care decisions should the need arise. It can often be difficult to have conversations planning for potential future needs, but having a plan in advance makes any future transition easier.

5. Positivity

Pray that senior adults have a positive outlook on life. A sense of positivity can have a dramatic impact on all areas of wellness—physical, mental, social, emotional and even spiritual. Pray that they see the good things in life, and that this positivity motivates them to maximize every moment.

For additional prayer resources, visit the chaplain at your local Buckner senior living community.

Writing on a prayer: Westminster Place resident becomes published author at 85

85-year-old Lee Rose never expected to be a published author. She never even considered herself a writer.

But today the Buckner Westminster Place resident is the proud author of “Time Alone with God,” a collection of prayers and conversations with God. The book candidly addresses struggles many senior adults face related to downsizing, loss and life transition.

“I didn’t sit down to write anything more than just my conversations with the Lord every day,” Rose said.

Rose wrote every day, one day at a time, over six months before the book was finished. The process, Rose said, deepened her walk with God in ways she never expected.

“Now I can hear the birds sing and know it’s something to give thanks for,” Rose said. “I don’t get down like I was before. My husband, brother and sister-in-law had all passed away in a matter of months. At the time I felt like it was the end of the world, but I don’t feel that way anymore.”

When Rose began writing the book, she had no intention of publishing it. She simply sat down every morning and wrote what came to mind, whether conversations with God or memories she didn’t want to forget. She wrote by hand, then went to the computer and typed it.

“I just set aside a time to be with the Lord, then wrote down what he taught me,” Rose said. “I did it for my family, but then I thought maybe there are others that have some of those same anxieties and fears. The response has been incredible.”

Well aware of the challenges that come with aging, Rose hopes that the book reminds people of who God is every day, in every season.

“I hope my book shows people that God continues to love us despite all our mistakes,” Rose said. “He sent his son to draw us to him, and he just continues to draw us to him if we just listen.”

Writing isn’t the only thing that keeps Rose busy. She volunteers twice a week at Heartisans Marketplace in Longview and regularly participates in Buckner Westminster Place activities.

“We’re blessed to have residents like Lee Rose here at Buckner,” said David Sims, executive director of Buckner Westminster Place. “Her genuine heart is so evident, and it’s inspiring to see the ways she continues to use her life to glorify God.”

Why we roll out the red carpet for residents

Charlie Wilson serves as senior vice president of Buckner Retirement Services. Today, he’s sharing his thoughts on why, when it comes to our hospitality philosophy, we work to roll out the red carpet for senior adults at each Buckner senior living community.

The entertainment world just finished awards season, and from the Grammys to the Academy Awards to the Emmys, there was plenty of pomp and circumstance to go around.

What do people remember most about these ceremonies? It’s often not the speeches, the performances or even the awards themselves.

It’s the red carpet.

Famous for it’s flashy fashion and high-profile attendees, the red carpet is where we honor these celebrities for the work they’ve done.

At Buckner senior living communities, we roll out the red carpet for every resident every day. Not literally of course, but we do strive to make each resident feel like a celebrity because to us, they are.

The residents at Buckner senior living communities are veterans, teachers and philanthropists. They’re doctors, parents and pastors who’ve made a deep impact on the world we live in today. It’s because of their hard work, their sacrifice, that we’re able to enjoy the world we do today.

People like Billie Schmidt who worked as the assistant to the associate director of NASA and John Ramsey who spent 45 years in the ministry, including 27 overseas, inspire us to dream. Others like Virginia Derry who leads music for residents with Alzheimer’s and Jane Wulf who makes quilts for charity remind us to make a difference right where we are.

These are the kinds of people we want to honor.

Rolling out our own red carpet for these residents means that every Buckner team member goes above and beyond to serve residents with excellence. We’ll go out of our way to ensure each resident has the opportunity to live a vibrant, positive lifestyle.

Wilbrun Gage, a Buckner Westminster Place resident, said it best: “Anything you want done that needs to be done, they’ll do it! If you want ice cream, they’ll go get it. They take care of people.”

At Buckner, we ensure each resident feels like a valued member of the community—someone worth celebrating.

To put it simply, we roll out the red carpet for residents because we’re the ones honored and privileged to have them at Buckner.

David Sims named Executive Director of Buckner Westminster Place

buckner hope shines here

Buckner Retirement Services named David Sims as Executive Director of Buckner Westminster Place, effective March 7.

David comes to Westminster Place from Christian Care in Mesquite where he served as Health Care Center Administrator. His tenure with Buckner, however, began four years ago when he served as Administrator for Elsie Gayer Healthcare Center at Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo from 2014 to early 2017.

As Executive Director of Westminster Place, he’ll be responsible for overseeing the daily operations and future direction of the Longview nonprofit senior living community.

“David’s wealth of experience in senior living and his commitment to the mission and values of Buckner make him an excellent fit to lead Buckner Westminster Place,” said Charlie Wilson, Senior Vice President of Buckner Retirement Services. “We are pleased to have David join our leadership team and look forward to the ways his skills will help us continue to build this great organization.”

Opened in 1996, Westminster Place is a thriving faith-based senior living community offering a full continuum of living and care, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, long-term and skilled nursing.

David comes to his role as Executive Director with extensive senior living and health care management experience. He’s worked with various senior living communities across Texas—from Waco to Abilene to San Angelo—since 2010 and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington.

David thanked leadership from Buckner International and Buckner Retirement Services for the opportunity to continue serving senior adults through life-enriching programs and expert health care.

“Serving senior adults is my passion and calling,” David said. “Getting to live out that calling as part of this outstanding Buckner team is a true honor, and I look forward to furthering Buckner Westminster Place as a leading provider of East Texas senior living.”

How to love a spouse with Alzheimer’s

Updated Oct. 23, 2018: This article has been updated in the wake of Retired Supereme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s announcement today that she has “beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.” She is the latest of about 5.7 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s daily. Buckner Retirement Services offers memory care in all of its senior living communities throughout Texas.

Dorothy Horne is a Longview, Texas, author and contributing columnist and blogger for the Longview News-Journal. Her husband, Byron, lives with Alzheimer’s disease and is a resident at Buckner Westminster Place’s The Harbor.


Byron has now been in memory care at Buckner Westminster Place for eight months. I’m thankful for the gift of community God has given Byron at Buckner, and I’m grateful he’s in such a caring and loving environment. I have come to know the staff well, and they are amazing. I love watching them interact with and care for the residents with such patience and love. Theirs is not a job, but a ministry of serving.

There is such tenderness and beauty in Byron’s community. If you want to see what unconditional love looks like—a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things—then visit Buckner memory care.

You’ll find husbands, wives and family members who come on a regular basis to be with their loved ones. They may or may not be able to converse much, depending on the stage of the disease. That doesn’t matter, though, because their communication and love is expressed through simply being present, not necessarily through words. Being present with someone is saying, “You matter to me and I love you unconditionally.” Just sitting together, holding hands—being instead of doing.

When I’m present with Byron, he’s content and so am I. At this point in our journey, much has been stripped away. We’re down to the marrow. What’s left, though, is life’s essence: unconditional love. And when the inner light of love shines from Byron’s eyes when he looks at me, it’s pure gold.

Whether our loved ones with Alzheimer’s (or other long-term diseases) are in a memory care community or at home, there are many ways we can continue loving them well.  What better way to do this than by being present and creating moments of joy?

It’s not in our power to give our loved ones a great day, but it is in our power to give them happy, joy-filled moments. They won’t remember these, but the contentment and good feelings you’ve helped them experience will linger.

So, when it comes to loving a spouse through Alzheimer’s or dementia, think “moments” and simplicity. Think about what brings delight or comfort. The simplest activities can bring the most satisfaction. I’ve learned to look for what brings a smile and sparkle to Byron’s eyes, and that’s what we do.

It varies from day to day, depending on his energy level or state of confusion. It may be listening to music, playing his guitar, going for walks over by the Buckner lake, looking for rainbows in the fountains, dancing (we’ve always loved to dance) or playing catch. Think about what the two of you have always loved to do, then modify and adjust the activity and keep doing it!

For practical ways to love your spouse despite their disease, try these ideas:

  • Hug and hold hands often.
  • Tell them how special they are, and why. Remind them of the great things they were known for.
  • Remind them how they’ve made a difference to you, your family and friends.
  • Think about the ways your loved one used to show you love, then do those things for them.
  • Touch, feel and talk about their treasured possessions.
  • Give them a back rub.
  • Comb their hair.
  • Rub scented lotion on their hands.
  • Read and sing to them.
  • Read Scripture and pray with them. Remind them how much God loves them and how he is taking care of them.
  • Look at photo albums together. Talk to them about your shared experiences. Tell them “their story” often. It hands them back their life and memories, even if just momentarily.
  • Go out for ice cream.
  • Talk about all the things you are thankful for. Make a list and read it together often.

Thanks be to God for the gift of His miraculous grace that turns water into wine in the magnified, joy-infused moments He gives us each day!

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ” –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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