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Veterans Health Administration


Community Living Center Vets Enjoy Holidays

Community Living Center veterans in wheelchairs wearing festive red vests

A great time of the year for the greatest generation.

The San Francisco VA Medical Center hosted its fifth annual special holiday celebration lunch for Community Living Center (CLC) long-term care Veterans on December 14.

The lunch was staffed by more than 50 volunteers, including active duty and retired military staff. The majority of the volunteers are from the Coast Guard and Auxiliary Coast Guard, and the others are former employees of the medical center and family of staff members.

Music and entertainment was provided by Bread and Roses, a musical organization that provides hope and healing through live music. The Veterans, along with the Recreational Therapy staff, formed a chorus and started the festivities with singing for everyone.

More than 100 residents and their family members took part in the holiday event. The Veterans ranged in age from 30 to 100.

“To provide them with a joyous celebration is very special.”

Cultural Transformation

According to Dr. Elizabeth Sutherland, “Back in 2005, the CLCs across the nation went through a major transition called Cultural Transformation. We transformed the way we provide care for our residents in long-term care facilities from an institutional model to a person-centered model with more of a home-like environment.”

The Cultural Transformation initiative focuses on ensuring that extended care facilities are places where people want to live, not places where they go for their final days. Staff and volunteers have reshaped their perceptions and practices to meet this new method of health care delivery that has resulted in much improved Veteran satisfaction.

“We have been very lucky that community businesses in the Bay Area wanted to work with us to provide a special holiday for our Veterans. Since many of them cannot leave the CLC to go to certain restaurants, we are bringing it to them,” Dr. Sutherland adds.

Dr. Sutherland is a Geropsychologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and Assistant Clinical Professor in the University of California San Francisco Department of Psychiatry.

Group photo of volunteers wearing blue uniforms

Volunteers who made holidays happy for CLC Veterans

Reflecting on seeing the Vets enjoying their Christmas gathering, Dr. Sutherland said, “I cannot believe this is our fifth year with all of these wonderful and generous donations from our neighbors. Some families come from all over the country to spend the day with their loved ones. Each year some of our long-term care residents die and to be able to provide them with a joyous celebration is very special.”

Dr. Sutherland was once a chef at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, which donates generously to the Veteran lunch every year. She attributes her dedication to the Veterans in the Community Living Center to the experience of helping her grandfather deal with Alzheimer’s.

Other Bay Area businesses donating goods and services to help make the event possible include: Liverpool Lils, Woodlands Meats, Upper Crust and the Diestel Turkey Ranch.