After 14 years as the social worker at South Peninsula Hospital Long Term Care Unit, Nancy Lander has retired. Her last day at LTC was Dec. 20. On Friday morning, Lander flew south to join her husband, Mark Robinson, former Homer High School choral director, in Ventura, Calif., and begin a new chapter of her life, dividing her time between the couple’s home in Homer and the second base of operations they are establishing near family in California.
“Advocate, professional, team-player, problem-solver, compassionate, caregiver, woman of steel, colleague and friend are just a few descriptions of what (Lander) has been and has meant to the people she has touched,” said Susan Shover, LTC director. “Nancy, thank you for your hard work and dedication and enjoy retirement knowing you have done an exceptional job for the residents, staff and the LTC facility as a whole.”
Lander began her time at LTC as a half-time social worker, the only one on staff. Since then, the position has expanded to full-time as the focus for facilities like LTC has become resident-centered care.
“I went from 20 hours to 30 hours and then there just weren’t enough hours in the day and, so, when we went to 28 beds, we got another three-quarter time social worker,” said Lander of the addition of Michelle Hosford to
As the changes occurred, Lander became an informal part of the management team. When Shover became director, that role became more formalized.
“I put my energy into really getting things in place working on special projects, policy and procedures, stuff I’d never had time to get written down before,” said Lander. Some of that work remains to be done and Lander’s replacement, Phoebe Proudfoot, will take over those responsibilities.
Originally from Ojai, Calif., Lander had a connection to Homer through an aunt who married a man from the southern peninsula.
“My grandparents gave me a trip (to Homer) when I was 12 and I said when I was old enough, I was coming back” said Lander.
She returned when she was 19, enrolled in Alaska Methodist University, which was later renamed Alaska Pacific University, and got a bachelor’s degree on sociology. While working in the field of juvenile justice in Anchorage after graduating, Lander was introduced by a friend to Robinson. After moving to the Lower 48 to continue their education, Lander and Robinson married in 1984, and then came back to Alaska, settling in Homer.
Lander served as co-director of South Peninsula Women’s Services until she became pregnant with her and Robinson’s son, Nathan. She developed and operated an at-home state-licensed childcare service for four years. That was followed by serving as Hospice of Homer’s executive director for a little more than two years before beginning work at LTC.
It was while working with a community-based program for elders when she and Robinson were living out of state that Lander discovered her love of working with elders.
“They are so genuine and wise. I like being around them. They make me happy. So, when this job opened up, I jumped on it,“ said Lander of the LTC social worker position.
The description of her job begins by stressing its function as a resident advocate.
“That means speaking up for people who are not able to speak for themselves. It means that we’re helping preserve residents’ rights and residents have pretty much the same rights you and I have in our homes. That’s what we are providing here, number one, a home for our people,” said Lander. “Sometimes it’s a temporary home if people are here for rehab. Sometimes it’s their permanent home.”
Shover’s comments about Lander at last week’s retirement party point to Lander’s success at filling that role.
“She blended the activities provided and worked hard to make sure all residents had their psychosocial needs met,” said Shover. “(Lander) worked to coordinate all aspects of a resident’s life to assure that each resident had a primary advocate with the goal of providing an optimum quality of life for each individual we serve.”
The decision to retire follows Robinson’s retirement in May after a 27-year career with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
“The other part is that we have some elderly loved ones in California where I grew up and we want to spend time with them,” said Lander, adding that she would welcome an opportunity to work as a volunteer ombudsman in California. “That would get me into nursing homes down there and I’d get to see how other nursing homes function.”
It also would allow her to continue doing what she loves: advocating for nursing home residents so they “have some control over their lives. That’s part of social work. Everyone wants to feel like they have some control and feel safe in their environment, to have meaning and joy in their lives.”
LTC staff, residents and residents’ family members praised Lander at Lander’s Dec. 18 retirement party. Their comments about LTC, however, carried the most weight.
“They talked about how it feels like family, how it feels like home, how they come in and feel comfortable here,” said Lander. “There’s no higher praise as far as I’m concerned for a facility than to have people say that.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.