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New executive director looks ahead

Helen Lanagan is right at home in Brooksby

Created date

September 24th, 2013

Helen Lanagan vividly remembers her first day at Brooksby Village. She drove in, parked her car, and noticed the community s shuttle bus passing through the lot. The bus driver opened the door and said, You re new here; how about I take you to where you re going? She drove me and then the very next day she came up and said, Hi, Helen, Lanagan says. Lanagan had joined Brooksby in March 2005 to open its visiting nurses program. When she returned home that first night, she told her husband, I don t know what s going on there, but there are a lot of people smiling all the time. In the eight years that followed, Lanagan intimately came to know the community, its people, and its culture through a growing array of responsibilities among many departments. What is happening here the culture that has been created they re happy to be here. That just permeates the community, she says of the smiling residents and employees she noted her first week. This summer, Lanagan became Brooksby s executive director, making her responsible for the operation of the community and its nearly 1,600 residents, 950 employees, 92 acres, and 130 apartments.

Greatest impact

The transition is natural for Lanagan, who began her professional career as a registered nurse but soon learned that she would make a bigger difference in a management role. I knew I was a very good nurse, but what I realized is if I were promoted to these different positions, I felt the impact I had could be greater, she says. Lanagan came to Brooksby with a strong background in nursing, elder care, and management. She was at various times the CEO of a visiting nurse organization, CEO of Blaine Beauty School, president of a private home care organization, and the director of nursing at a skilled nursing facility. Lanagan s husband was reading the local paper when he spotted the advertisement describing the open position at Brooksby. As home health administrator, Lanagan would set up a program for people living at Brooksby who required in-home support services. I had a lot of experience with visiting nurse organizations, but the prospect of starting here with a clean slate was an exciting opportunity. Seven months later, Lanagan had cultivated a fully-staffed home health agency and produced a deficiency-free Massachusetts Department of Public Health Survey. Brooksby s on-site continuum of care includes nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social work, and home health aide services. Its visiting nurses program has never received a deficiency. That s pretty outstanding, Lanagan says.

Team building

Lanagan gained new responsibilities as she was promoted to director of resident life, followed by director of operations, associate executive director, and this year, executive director, when then-Executive Director Jim Wingardner accepted the position at Brooksby s sister community Linden Ponds, in Hingham, Mass. I m very, very proud of her and very happy for her, Wingardner says of Lanagan. She s going to do a great job. Lanagan credits Wingardner for giving her the opportunity to work with so many departments at Brooksby. I was able to see why it s so important for people to work together well they do on so many levels, she says, for example, when the housekeeping and community resources departments set up rooms for resident activities. Lanagan brings her employees together with weekly manager meetings and hosts regular town meetings, open to all community members, in Brooksby s three clubhouses. She also meets with the Resident Advisory Council, Brooksby s group of resident liaisons to management, and appears on Issues and Answers, a television program on Brooksby s in-house TV channel.

Accessible and devoted

Lanagan s interactions with those who live at Brooksby aren t limited. She has an open door policy, meaning people can stop by her office to talk rather than just scheduling time to meet. They need to know at any time they can come in and see me; I ll make time to see them, Lanagan says. On a recent day she made a point to walk through Brooksby s campus en route to a meeting, stopping to observe a billiards game and other resident gatherings. In recent years, Brooksby s full schedule of activities has grown to include Zumba, an aerobic exercised based in dance, and tai chi, a Chinese mind-body fitness. Lanagan is overseeing continued improvements to not just programs, but also the physical structure of the 13-year-old community. What has kept me here is our mission in terms of the devotion that we have to residents, to making sure that they re enjoying living here, and then on top of that, they have all these extras, she says of Brooksby s activities and amenities. As Lanagan continues in her role, she says she seeks to answer the question: What are the changes we can make to enhance the lives of our residents, both today and in the future?