Oklahoma Gardeners Association presents Felder Rushing, a 10th generation Southern gardener, author, and speaker known the world over for his quirky and laid-back style of gardening. The public is welcome to join us for this fun and free event at 9:30 am on Wednesday, March 7, at Will Rogers Gardens Exhibition Center, 3400 NW 36th Street, OKC.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. (PRNewsFoto/Oklahoma Insurance Department)

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak has been named Chair of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Antifraud (D) Task Force. Doak was also named to the International Insurance Relations (G) Committee, Executive (EX) Committee and Property and Casualty Insurance (C) Committee.
“These appointments allow me to tackle critical issues affecting the insurance industry and consumers,” said Doak. “Keeping consumers safe from insurance fraud has been a top priority of mine from day one, so I appreciate the opportunity to find innovative ways to accomplish that goal. Collaboration is the key to success, and I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners across the country over the next year.”
The NAIC is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by insurance regulators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer review and coordinate regulatory oversight.
Doak will serve as Chair of the NAIC Midwest Zone in 2018. The zone groups are part of the NAIC Executive Committee. They help carry out the authority and responsibilities of the NAIC’s goals. The Midwest Zone represents 13 states.
Doak has also been named the NAIC’s representative to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As part of duties, Doak will attend meetings with international insurance regulators to discuss emerging insurance issues around the world.

By Ron Hendricks

$1,000 will be available for two students attending higher education this fall. Application for the scholarships are available thru the Central Oklahoma Chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America (COCHLAA). Visit the website at or pick up your application at the Hearing Helpers Room, 5100 N Brookline, Suite 100, Oklahoma City. This is the third year COCHLAA has offered scholarships to Oklahoma students. The applicant must have a hearing loss; however, there is no age requirement for application and the institution of higher education is the choice of the applicant — 4 year college, Community college, career tech, or any of the other varied higher education opportunities offered here in Oklahoma.
The mission of COCHLAA is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss. by providing information, education, support, and advocacy. We offer two meetings monthly, held at the Lakeside Methodist Church, 2925 NW 66th, OKC. Evening meetings are held on the second Monday at 6:30 PM and the day meetings are on the third Thursdays at 1:30PM. Speaker’s subjects range from highly technical, such as the latest developments in hearing technology, to every day subjects like gardening, or computer safety. There is no charge to attend meetings or to be a member of COCHLAA. All meetings are open to the public . The Hearing Helpers Room (HHR) is open weekdays 10-3. You can’t buy anything at the HHR but you can see many different hearing assistive devices, and some can even be taken out for a trial in your own home. You will find COCHLAA members attending various meetings, health fairs,, and community events all around the Oklahoma City metro area and you can always get your questions answered. Have a Hearing New Year!

As part of Oklahoma’s Healthy Aging: Living Longer Better collaborative, a falls prevention work group was established to develop a state strategic plan to prevent falls among Oklahomans 65 years and older. The state plan, Preventing Falls Among Older Adults in Oklahoma, has now been finalized. Participants worked extensively to develop state and community action steps that achieve the goal of reducing the number of nursing home residents falling with major injury and reducing intentional fall-related deaths among persons 65 years and older in Oklahoma.
Commitments to action in the state plan are organized by four focus areas, which include:
Tracking and Monitoring
Policies and Procedures
Public Education
Provider/Prescriber Education
As a result of these commitments to action by partners of the Healthy Aging Collaborative, a fall prevention web portal has been created to centralize available resources. New and existing resources are available for both the community and providers to prevent falls, what to do after a fall, and how to talk about it. Many private partners and state agency representatives continue to work together to help Oklahomans live and age well. State Ombudsman William “Bill” Whited led the small task force responsible for the web portal.
“Collaborators from across practice settings met four times in 19 months,” said Whited. “In that short time they created a strategy with actionable items to help our older adult population in Oklahoma prevent falls. Together, we have been able to do more than draft a report that sits up on a shelf.”
The Healthy Aging Collaborative recognizes that the consequences of a fall can be devastating, resulting in serious injury or death, in addition to high medical costs. Successful implementation of the state plan will have a positive impact on the health and safety of older adults, and give them the ability to age in the community environment of their choice.
“The fall prevention work group of the Healthy Aging Collaborative continues to work hard to complete the action items presented in the state plan to prevent falls among older adults in Oklahoma,” said Whited.
To receive more information on the state plan, Preventing Falls Among Older Adults in Oklahoma, and the Healthy Aging: Living Longer Better initiative, visit or call (405) 271-5288.
To learn more about how to prevent falls, contact the Injury Prevention Service at (405) 271-3430 or visit

Kara Bolino serves as the Executive Director of Heritage Point in Oklahoma City.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

With a lifetime in resident care Kara Bolino knows that no matter what, people always come first.
That’s why the Executive Director at Heritage Point of Oklahoma City is so proud her memory impairment community serves as a resource for families 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Most recently, Heritage Point has created a response team that allows for families to move residents in 24 hours a day if a crisis arises.
“We’re really good at making things happen if they need to,” Bolino said. “Any type of emergency situation we’re able to pull together and help families out. We have a nurse who is really flexible and more than willing to go and do an immediate assessment.”
“We can be here in the evening or at night for them. It’s important to be flexible. If we’re only here 9 to 5 how does that help anybody in a crisis?”
The ability to respond to patients’ changing needs – whether they be emergent or day-to-day – has always been the philosophy from President and Owner Kip Pammenter and Vice President of Operations David Thompson.
Pammenter created the original Heritage Point community in Overland Park, Kansas years ago, changing the way memory care was delivered and benchmarked.
Heritage Point was designed after that Overland Park community and is a sister residence to Heritage Point Tulsa.
When Pammenter talks about residents he uses their first names.
The president of a company that specializes in Alzheimer’s and memory care knows that’s the only way you can truly make a difference in someone’s life. Getting to know each and every client and meeting them where they are, is the hallmark of Pammenter’s successful approach to person-centered care.
Dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and trying to understand available care options can be extremely challenging for families. That’s why Pammenter designed Heritage Point to work with families to envision a better way to live with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related impairments.
Pammenter wants to truly reinvent Alzheimer’s care and what life should be like for seniors with cognitive challenges. The focus is on each individual resident; knowing who they are and what they love to do…and then finding activities that have meaning and purpose.
Heritage Point offers a smaller, home environment that promotes dignity, respect and love. A dedicated team of experienced and caring staff understands the importance of developing close personal relationships with residents and becomes an extended part of your family.
The philosophy is that everything starts with the idea that every individual is a whole person – regardless of their level of dementia – with many different backgrounds, abilities, interests, beliefs, preferences, and needs.
“Every day is different to be honest and I think that’s a good thing,” Bolino said. “All of our residents function different daily. Every day is something new. The residents dictate the day and that’s a big thing we focus on. We want everyone to be their own individual self and do what they normally do and us work around them.”
The belief at Heritage Point is that each resident deserves to be understood and should be encouraged to be involved, to whatever extent possible, in participating in their care.
There’s a value and respect for residents’ innate right to have choices everyday and strive to provide opportunities for life activities that not only have meaning and purpose, but also promote independence and choice.
To that end, each home has a homemaker that is dedicated to creating an atmosphere that encourages and inspires resident participation in dynamic activities program.
A key part of taking a person-centered approach to care is embracing an interactive process that focuses on building personal relationships between each resident, their family, medical professionals, and care staff.
The goal is to create a collaborative partnership among everyone involved that ultimately enhances each resident’s daily life experiences.
In each home, everything is guided first by the question, “What is the right thing to do for the resident?”
That begins with a comprehensive sit-down meeting with families and Heritage Point managers and caregivers.
From dietary to housekeeping to nursing each member sits down with families ready to ask and answer any and all questions to make sure residents feel at home.
“It’s critical,” Bolino said. “I think the families need to be able to come to you with whatever. Our entire management team sits down with families and tries to get to know residents on a personal level and their family so we can provide the care we’re talking about.”

SYNERGY HomeCare’s Weama Kassem (right) opened her Edmond location in 2013, with a second Norman office start-up in 2016.

SYNERGY HomeCare provides hope and help to seniors and their families

by Traci Chapman

Kassem always knew she had a calling to serve – it was a calling that became a beacon of light for seniors and their families who needed help.
“Caring for people and providing hospitality are my natural passions, and part of my culture is to care for seniors,” Kassem said.
Kassem’s passion lit the beacon that became SYNERGY HomeCare, a flame that began to burn in 2011.
It was in 2011 Kassem graduated with an MBA from University of Central Oklahoma. That graduation marked a turning point for her – Kassem said she saw a void when it came to compassionate senior care and was determined to do something about it.
Kassem had a unique approach – fusing her drive to care for people with her love for hospitality, she did extensive research on senior care franchises. When she found SYNERGY, Kassem knew exactly where she was meant to be, she said.
“My heart just connected with the mission and values of SYNERGY HomeCare,” she said.
Kassem’s philosophy quickly took hold, spurring growth for the local franchise. Today, Kassem’s SYNERGY operation includes two offices – the original in Edmond and a second location, opened in December 2016 in Norman – employing 10 staff members and more than 100 caregivers. The company has a 5-mile service area and also provides referrals to clients in other locales, Kassem said.
“Although the metro area is geographically widespread, the small-town culture naturally evolved into relationships extending southward down the Interstae-35 corridor, allowing SYNERGY to begin penetrating the Moore/Norman market,” Kassem said.
While about five percent of Kassem’s caregivers provide live-in care, most do not, offering services to clients that take anywhere from an hour and up to 24 hours, at any given time, she said. Those caregivers tend to a myriad of needs, from the most personal – like bathing and dressing, feeding, dealing with incontinence and other issues – to companionship, coordinating outside appointments and services, meal planning and preparation, transportation, light housekeeping and running errands.
Those, of course, are necessities and things seniors need assistance with every day. But, there is so much more to it – and, that’s where post-hospitalization care comes in, Kassem said.
“It’s difficult for anyone to come home after a hospital stay, but for seniors it can be much more challenging – they might suffer from memory loss, their health depends on remembering and following hospital discharge instructions, keeping follow-up doctor’s appointments and other matters,” she said. “They also face trying to take care of day-to-day tasks while they’re recuperating.”
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, almost a quarter of seniors hospitalized are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, many times for conditions unrelated to the initial illness or injury. That’s one reason why SYNERGY moves beyond daily assistance, with coworkers providing medical and emotional issue care, including care management, recovery assistance, difficult behavior management and more. Caregivers provide help, and hope, not only to senior clients, but may also provide relief for family members who need respite from taking care of a loved one, Kassem said. It’s assistance that can mean all the difference to everyone involved, she said.
All Kassem SYNERGY caregivers are employees, not contract labor – something somewhat unusual in the senior home care industry, and management is always a phone call away, including on-staff supervising registered nurses, she said. Care assessments are always provided on a complimentary basis, Kassem said.
Veterans are an integral part of SYNERGY’s mission – in fact, she said the organization is one of the largest veteran home care providers in the state.
“Veterans call us directly, and we can even help get them through the paperwork process,” Kassem said. “At times we work with the VA Center in Norman and with the Dale K. Graham Foundation in Norman.”
As SYNERGY continues to grow, Kassem said she hopes to provide even more services, including expanding a program started in 2017 – Dine & Discuss, an event hosted at SYNERGY’s Edmond location, which also served as an Alzheimer’s Association fundraiser.
“We partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association, where we provided complimentary dinner and two free hours of respite care while the topic was discussed,” she said. “The topics change each month, and the speaker also varies – we hope to create the same opportunity to the public going into 2018, but working towards creating a calendar of speakers further in advance and promoting it more so the word is spread.”

More information is available by calling or reviewing SYNERGY HomeCare’s websites, both for its Edmond and Norman locations:
SYNERGY HomeCare Edmond
13720 N Bryant Ave
Edmond, Oklahoma 73013
SYNERGY HomeCareNorman
1272 N Interstate Drive
Norman, Oklahoma 73072

Linda Ardray decided to open The Dusty Paw in Moore.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

Linda Ardray worked in health care for more than 30 years.
Approaching retirement after working as an MRI tech, Ardray wondered what she would do with the rest of her life.
She knew she had a lot of free time ahead of her. And she didn’t have any big plans to travel the globe.
Sitting at home all day didn’t seem too appealing either.
“My dad was an accountant and he always said you have to start your own business, that’s the only way you’re going to make it,” she said with a laugh.
So she took a deep long look at where her passions lied.
Turns out they were lying at her feet under the kitchen table.
“My dog is my kid and I wanted to get her really good food,” Ardray said of the beginning of her business plan. “I went online to see what I really needed to look for.”
She went to one of the big box stores for pets. Up and down the aisles she went, eventually leaving without what she was looking for.
“That’s why I thought we needed this in Moore,” she said. “I like that I’m right here and that I’m a little neighborhood store.
That’s how The Dusty Paw was born.
Just east of the Cleveland County Health Department’s Moore location, The Dusty Paw serves pet owners looking to make informed decisions about what they feed their animals.
“Unfortunately, the pet food industry is not very transparent,” she said. “There’s groups out there trying to change legislation on the wording of pet food. Instead of pet food a lot of it is pet feed.
“Once I started this store and really delved into it I thought ‘Oh, my God.’”
She noticed immediate changes from both her dog and her cat when she switched their food to one with purer ingredients.
A reduction in shedding was one of the first benefits.
Ardray has a miniature Australian Shepherd. Now 13, her dog still acts like a pup.
“She just runs circles in the backyard,” Ardray said. “When I changed her over I saw the biggest difference.”
Getting up every morning to go to work and then coming home at night, Ardray discovered that after 30 years she didn’t truly know the community she lived in.
Now, every day is an opportunity to bond with someone new.
“The customers are happy when they come in. The dogs are happy when they come in,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
She opened The Dusty Paw in February 2016, shifting from health care to entrepreneur.
“I had more time when I had a job,” she said, only half joking. “But it’s been fun. It’s been very rewarding.
And some things still remain the same. She’s still taking care of people on a daily basis.
Owning a business has allowed her to express her creative side. Often people come to The Dusty Paw in search of quality pet food but they fall in love with Ardray’s hand-made vests and leashes.
Pets are welcome to browse with their owners and most often leave with either a new treat, toy or article of clothing.
“I want them to know that they can come in here and if I can’t answer their questions about nutrition I’ll find out,” she said. “I have a nutritionist I can call for answers. I just want it to feel welcome here, not just a store.”
Ardray remains active in the community, raising funds for various causes, most of them animal related. In December she’s offering an opportunity for owners to bring their pets for photos with Santa. All proceeds benefit the Moore Animal Shelter.
She has a drop box for Pet Food Pantry, which currently serves over 8,000 lbs of dry food & over 2,500 cans of wet food each month to cats and dogs belonging to the homeless, elderly and veterans in Oklahoma.
The pantry also gets her expired food.
With Blake Shelton playing on the radio in the background, Ardray describes herself as a “wanna-be country girl.”
Her down-to-earth demeanor makes it easy for people to ask for advice. She’s researched the ins and outs of all things pet food related.
She warns customers to make sure they know where their food is sourced from.
“You can put Made in the USA on something and it can still be sourced from overseas,” she said.
You can be sure Ardray knows where everything in her store is coming from.
It’s now her passion in life.

Russell-Murray Hospice staff, board of directors and advisory board members gathered Nov. 15 for the organization’s annual meeting, a celebration of its move to a new, larger home base. RMH also has locations in Kingfisher, Weatherford and Oklahoma City.
Russell-Murray Hospice new office-annual meeting November 2017. Tara and Rodger Roblyer view the new space.


by Traci Chapman
Staff Writer

As Russell-Murray Hospice prepares to commemorate its 30th year in business, those associated with it are celebrating a new home and new levels of care to those who need it most.
“It’s appropriate we are here today, holding our board of directors and annual advisory board meeting, in our new building,” RMH Executive Director – and the organization’s first RN – Vicki Myers said. “It’s peaceful, it’s efficient, it’s just perfect for everything, and if Russell-Murray is here for 30 more years, this building is perfect for us.”
Myers made her remarks during the Nov. 15 annual meeting of the two boards at Russell-Murray’s new home, located at 2001 Park View Drive in El Reno. The new building, recently purchased by the longtime hospice care organization, is more than triple the space of its previous offices, located in historic downtown El Reno, Myers said.
“As we’ve grown, the staff really has had to try to work in a situation that just wasn’t feasible,” she said. “They were just crammed in with each other, and while everyone handled it very well, it just wasn’t working the way we wanted it to.”
That meant when a former medical office building located adjacent to Mercy Hospital El Reno came on the market, the organization jumped at it. The space meant not only plenty of room for a growing staff, but also room to grow and a more prominent location, headquartered not only near the hospital, but also other medical providers. That’s good news for the staff, but also for Russell-Murray’s patients, said Melodie Duff, RN, patient care coordinator. As RMH closes out the year and heads into 2018 – its 30th anniversary – Duff said staff and those associated with its success have a lot to be proud of, including 4,440 patients who have been treated and cared for by the organization’s nurses and caregivers.
“We currently have patients from infants days old to patients over 100,” Duff said. “We serve without care about their ability to pay, and we’re always there for them, no matter what.”
That’s something unique in Oklahoma hospice – and elsewhere – Russell-Murray Clinical Supervisor Missy Ellard said.
“If a patient qualifies and desires hospice care, we do not turn patients away based on their reimbursement status,” she said. “Many hospices, even not for profit hospices, have a ‘quota’ of non-reimbursable patients and will decline patients if they don’t have a payer source – RMH has never done that.”
That assistance totaled about $400,000 last year, Administrator Christina Ketter said. With $3.8 million in revenues and a $2.6 million payroll, Russell-Murray saw a jump in helping those who could not afford it.
“It might be younger people who lost their job and didn’t have insurance and, of course, the seniors who might not have access to Medicare or something like that,” Ketter said. “To me, our charity care, the way we look at our patients and how we treatment them shows what kind of an organization, what kind of people we are.” Russell-Murray’s approach has worked – from its roots as a small El Reno hospice care provider to an organization with offices also located in Kingfisher, Weatherford and Oklahoma City. In October, those sites combined served 118 patients through the work of 25 full-time RNs and LPNs, as well as several per diem PRN nurses, across RMH’s four offices.
“We serve approximately 75-mile radius surrounding each of the four offices,” Myers said. Even before the move, Russell-Murray was working to expand its services, not only to patients, but also their families. In March, the organization celebrated the opening of the Virginia E. Olds Resource Library, coordinated originally by Carol Russell Davis and Evan Davis and Vicky Joyner. When RMH began looking at moving, Carol Davis undertook the transfer of the library’s books to the new site, while Sue Pennington-Unsell is director of bereavement. Named for retired University of Oklahoma School of Social Work professor and longtime Russell-Murray counselor Virginia Olds, the library is unique among hospice organizations, Myers said – and is something that can help not only patients and their families, but also nurses who deal daily with end-of-life care and the emotional toll it can take. “We wanted to accumulate information related to social issues involved in bereavement, emotional and psychological resources, coping with these kinds of illnesses and more,” Myers said. “It’s important to remember that the patient isn’t the only person who suffers through an end-of-life illness – it’s incredibly difficult and stressful for their family, their friends and their caregivers.”
Those caregivers are the backbone of Russell-Murray’s nearly 30-year success, and they make those who work with them proud every day, Duff said.
“I can’t tell you how many thank you cards and calls we get, talking about how our staff treats their patients, and particularly those who can’t afford it,” she said. “We hear all the time that our nurses never judge and are always there to do everything they possibly can do – and that’s an accomplishment in itself.”

The Stacie Daniel Success Story

Hunting is Stacie Daniel’s passion. She loves being outdoors surrounded by nature, the thrill of the hunt and truly living off the land. But Stacie was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that not only threatened to end to her hunting days – but also her life.
“I remember my mom being in tears when I was diagnosed at six years old,” says Daniel. “They told her to love me while she could and pretty much wrap me in a bubble because the life expectancy at that time for someone with CF was 10 to 12 years.”
As a child, Stacie’s issues were mainly digestive. She didn’t start experiencing lung problems until she was a teenager. That’s when her disease started to progress. By the time she was 25, her lungs were only functioning at 30 percent capacity.
“I would get up every morning and start coughing,” remembers Daniel. “I’d have coughing fits that would last 45 minutes to an hour. If I got excited or laughed, or anything really, I would start coughing. It was miserable.”
Despite her deteriorating condition, Stacie did her best to live life to the fullest. She would try to go hunting as often as she could. “I wanted to enjoy life. I wanted to go out and have fun. I wanted to hunt and fish and be active and travel and see things. So I did.”
“Today, people with my disease are living well into their 30s,” adds Daniel. “Growing up with cystic fibrosis you know it’s coming – eventually. You just hope it’s later than sooner.”
At 29, Daniel was listed on the transplant list. She would wait nine months before getting ‘the call.’ “When you get the call, its earth shattering. It’s an answered prayer, it really is. But at the same time you know another family is now grieving. That part is hard to take.”
In August 2017, Daniel received a double lung transplant at the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center. Doctors say her new set of lungs is as close to a perfect match as possible. “Stacie is an ideal patient. Complaint and full of drive and dreams,” says Mark Rolfe, M.D. “She is the kind of patient that every transplant pulmonologist loves because she is so easy to take care of and takes advantage of the transplant to live life to its fullest.”
“I’m able to walk as long as my little legs will carry me, I don’t cough anymore and I can actually breathe. My energy is back and I feel great,” she declares. “But the best part is, I can hunt as much as I want to. In fact, I was out there opening morning of hunting season this year, which is amazing to me considering that it was only five weeks after my surgery.” Daniel shot a 9-point deer on the three month anniversary of her transplant.
In November, Stacie celebrated her 31st birthday … and thanks to the miracle of transplantation she no longer fears the inevitable. “I am not cured, I will always have CF and the sinus and digestive issues that go along with it. But the disease cannot get into my new lungs and it’s the respiratory issues that are the most fatal. So my prognosis is great and because of my donor and the generosity of his or her family, I truly have been given a second chance at life.”
Daniel hasn’t been in contact with them yet, but would like to someday. In the meantime, she will continue to share her story in hopes of saving even more lives. “In the last moments of your life, the best thing you can give is life. Check the little green box on your driver’s license and become an organ donor.”