Linda Swanson, director of health services at the Sherwood facility, gets to know her residents

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Linda Swanson is director of health services at Avamere-Sherwood.She loves horses, and you might have seen her in her cowgirl garb, but Linda Swanson, director of health services for Avamere at Sherwood, stays busy tending to the needs of the residents at Avamere.

Avamere is a facility that provides assisted living and memory care to those in the Sherwood community.

Swanson, a resident of Oregon for 25 years, joined Avamere at Sherwood a little over a year ago.

She has served as director of nursing at Mount St. Joseph, in Portland, and as executive director at the Wilsonville Senior Living Community and Hampton Alzheimer's community. For the past 12 years, Swanson has been director of health care services at Tanner Springs Assisted Living and Memory Care in West Linn.

Swanson originally considered becoming a veterinarian.

"I always wanted to be a vet," she said, explaining, "I've ridden horses since I was 12. So, I have always had a passion for horses."

While at Tallahassee, Florida, Swanson became aware of Florida State, which had a "great" nursing program.

"I met a bunch of women going into the nursing program and they convinced me that that might be a better option than doing the vet program," she said. "It's been a great career for me."

At Avamere, Swanson is involved in many activities, making for busy weeks.

"My responsibilities are, kind of, the day in, day out of making sure residents are being cared for, checking on residents who may have had an issue over the weekend," Swanson said, noting some residents may need a doctor or go to the emergency room, depending on their condition.

There is always somebody ready to help a resident with a health issue, according to Swanson.

"My LPN (licensed practical nurse) and I are on call, so I do one week and she does another week," Swanson said. "If there is something after hours (or on the weekend), one of us are on call to answer those questions, give advice – we are both here Monday through Friday."

Swanson further described her role at Avamere.

"Part of my role as the RN is I evaluate potential new residents," she said, noting the idea is to determine if a resident would need assisted living or memory care. Memory care handles residents who have some form of dementia.

"Sometimes, there is an individual who needs more care than assisted living can provide," Swanson said. "They might need a nursing home or intermediate care." PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Linda Swanson, director of health services at Avamere-Sherwood, works in her busy office.

While at Avamere, Swanson said residents have to navigate through the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was hard on a lot of them," she said. "We had a lot of people, kind of, get depressed and not eat well. We had to pay attention to those sorts of things and provide supplements for those who really weren't eating."

Swanson continued, "We were doing a lot of video, virtual appointments."

Swanson recalled that during the thick of the pandemic, families could not meet with residents, which caused a strain on families.

"It was a strain on both, the resident and the family, to not be able to see each other," Swanson said. "A lot of people were very unhappy not being able to go out and see their loved ones."

When the pandemic lightened up a bit, "What we did was window visits, where they could basically be at a window and talk to one another. You had to get creative."

At Avamere, Swanson likes to encourage residents to be active.

"The old saying, 'If you don't use it, you lose it' is very apropos for the elderly population," Swanson said. "I like to encourage residents to do as much for themselves as they can, for as long as they can."

Swanson continued, "We don't want to provide care that they're able to do for themselves. What we want to do is support them with allowing them to provide the care that they're able to do. Then we support them with the care that they need a little extra help with."

It's a tight-nit community at Avamere, where Swanson gets to know everybody's name.

"We're all kind of living together," Swanson said. "They have their own apartments, but they know where I am. I have residents visit me during the day and bring me little notes."

Perhaps a resident will talk to Swanson about a doctor's order they didn't understand, or may convey a health concern.

Pointing to her cowgirl outfit, Swanson mentioned National Assisted Living Week, held in September, where everyone is encouraged to participate in something fun every day.

"We had a Western Day. That's what this is," she said.

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