On the Frontline: Randy Stoll and Mt. San Antonio Gardens

By / Posted on May 21st, 2013

Randy Stoll once watched a woman on staff wash a wall in the skilled nursing facility where he’s the president and CEO. He noticed how she washed—from the bottom up. Smart, he thought, that way there are no drip marks. But what he really noticed was that she was wearing high heels. She wasn’t a housekeeper—she was a director—but she knew how to do every job.

Randy knows about this. Not the drip marks maybe, but the idea of a versatile worker—everybody being able to do everything, everyone being responsible. While he’s currently the president and CEO of Mt. San Antonio Gardens, a Life Care senior community in Southern California, he started off in a completely different place and got there via a different route. Some people come up through academic programs in administration, which Randy would eventually do, but first, he worked at a hospital.

“My dad was a stickler,” he said. “When I quit college he told me to go get a job, so I did—first as an orderly—and I loved it. I was serving the patients—they were my customers, not the hospital.” Eventually he became a housekeeper, a supervisor, and then a director. And after doing almost all the jobs that he could within the hospital, only then did he go back to school in administration—another versatile worker.

Today Randy oversees an entire team of versatile workers at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, a senior community in Pomona, CA. This summer, the Gardens will open the Evergreen Villas—the first Green House retirement homes ever built in California.

“The Gardens has always been a ‘resident-driven’ community,” he said. “I inherited that when I came on board in 1995. There have been six residents on the board for years.”

And over time, the Gardens did everything they could to keep up with that ethos—remodeling social spaces and common areas, putting in flat screen TV, hiring skilled nurses and training the staff thoroughly and ethically—but the traditional medical-model skilled nursing facility just doesn’t lend itself to providing person-centered care that would be attractive to elders. Randy knew there had to be a better way.

Having tried all they knew, some key stakeholders visited the first-ever Green House home in Tupelo, MS. Intrigued by the model’s promise, they then sent five residents with a board member to visit The Green House homes in Lincoln, NE to gather information and stories about the concept. Everyone came back wanting to bring this model home to California.

“Green House homes gave us the best chance of surviving without creeping back to the old way of doing things,” Randy said. “The Green House Project provided the philosophical framework and the extensive training and support we needed.”

Green House consultants also shepherded Mt. San Antonio Gardens through regulatory and legislative processes by calling state senators and seeing it through to approval.

Randy knew that The Green House model would help the Gardens improve upon the delivery of their core set of values which are built on the principles of person-driven care. He knew it could be a complete culture change. They all knew. But Randy also understood that while the residents would approve it, and that eventually he would get the state to approve it, he also wanted something else.

“The CNAs, the front-line caregivers,” said Randy. “They’re the ones who are really there at the end of life. They’re the ones who should be enabled to be advocates for the residents.”

It took over two years to get it pushed through the state, and during that time, five housekeepers went back to school to become CNAs at the new Green House home. Instead of the director of housekeeping being upset that 25% of his housekeeping workforce were transitioning to the new homes, he knew that if the employees wanted to be there, that it would make a difference to the residents. In fact, he threw a party for them and invited the residents.

“ Isn’t it nice that my favorite friend will be there to care for me?” Randy heard one resident say.

Continuity of care is part of the culture. Everyone on staff at the Evergreen Villas were employees at Mt. San Antonio Gardens. And that’s just one of the reasons Randy says that from an operational standpoint, The Green House approach costs the same to operate as the model it is replacing, not including depreciation. “But we didn’t do it for the money,” he emphasizes. “We did it for the residents and staff.”

It goes both ways, as the residents have pitched in, privately donating over $1.3 million to the Gardens—not a couple lump sums, but a bit from each of the 400 residents currently living there. They knew they were all working towards something good. Something that should be universal: Real care.