by Bobby Anderson
Polly Milligan officially started her career in senior health as a dietary aide in a small Perry, Oklahoma residence as a young girl.
But truth be known the executive director of Emerald Square Assisted Living in Oklahoma City was born for working with seniors.
“I’ve literally known nothing else my entire life other than geriatrics,” Milligan said. “This is where I’m comfortable, this age group. I fit right in.”
That first dietary aide position quickly advanced when the dietary manager took ill and Milligan stepped in.
“One day no one showed up to work the floor and they said they needed some help,” Milligan said. “I did that and the steps kept going.”
The experiences of a lifetime spent taking care of others has landed her in the driver’s seat at Emerald Square Assisted Living where new ownership is investing in renovation and expansion with an eye on becoming the leading choice for thoughtfully-planned senior living in the metro.
A NEW HEART
With two decades spent in senior living, Milligan was comfortable right where she was at, leading a local residence owned by a nationwide company.
That was before the owners of Heart Living Centers called.
“I’m not one for small corporations much but there’s just something about this husband and wife that started this that I just knew was right,” Milligan said of the Colorado-based Heart Living Centers.
As the owners shared their passion for what they were doing, Milligan began to open up about hers.
“I was adopted by my grandmother when I was six weeks old out of an orphanage,” Milligan said. “My mother and father, when they divorced, neither wanted the kids. There were three of us so they put us in an orphanage.”
“My mother was 67 years old when she adopted me and she was taking care of her two oldest sisters.”
Due to her age, the orphanage would only let Milligan’s new mother, a Pentecostal preacher, adopt one child.
“Being an infant girl, she knew if I got adopted she would never see me again so she adopted me and bought the house across the street to the orphanage so she could stay next door to my brothers,” Milligan said.
Milligan still remembers going across the street every day to play with her siblings at the orphanage.
It was all about family and honoring that bond.
Milligan has carried that with her ever since, building relationships wherever she has gone.
At Emerald she called on those relationships to begin putting her touch on the facility immediately.
Milligan leads one of only a handful of residences in the metro that carries a special Veteran’s Administration approved designation.
“We have a lot of veterans here,” Milligan said. “The VA’s representatives come here frequently and visit their veterans and insure their needs are met. If we need something for them we can just call them and they will bring it to us. They take care of their transportation to their doctor’s visits.”
“It’s a whole working system.”
The designation means that approximately half of Emerald’s residents have served our country with pride.
Building on that program is on her to-do list.
Overseeing construction of more independent cottages in the back of the facility is also on her radar.
A new memory care will soon be offered.
“I’m so excited,” Milligan beamed. “It totally has blown my mind.”
Milligan’s staff is all hand picked through her years of experience in the industry.
They’ve helped initiate resident-favorite amenities.
Soon, Emerald Square residents will experience all-day dining, allowing them total control of when and what they will eat.
“It’s essentially a restaurant open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at night,” Milligan said. “They’ll be able to order and eat whenever they are ready.”
There so much excitement around Emerald Square right now but some things will not change.
“The biggest thing is I have one expectation,” Milligan began. “The expectation I have of everyone is to take care of the residents to the best of your ability. Everything else will take care of itself. Your finances will be fine. Your staff will be happy. Your residents will be happy.”
“You have to provide the best care you can. You never tell a resident they can’t do something. You find a way to make it happen because we are in their house.”