Winnfield native, Thomas Little, who has recently returned to his hometown to manage Autumn Leaves Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club meeting this past Wednesday, at the request of the Rotarian of the day, Teddy Ray Price.
Mr. Little, a graduate of Winnfield Senior High School, obtained his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern State University, and initially returned to Winnfield as a coach at the high school. Subsequently, after considering suggestions of relatives and experiencing his own grandparents’ need for short term and long term nursing care, he decided to further his education and obtained his degree and license in health care administration.
Thomas received some of his clinical training in a VA nursing home in the New Orleans area. Once he became licensed, his first job was in a facility in Gretna, Louisiana. His company soon transferred him to their facility in Ruston.
Mr. Little later accepted a job with Central Management, headquartered here in Winnfield, and was posted to a nursing home in Zachary, LA. Ultimately, he was offered a transfer to his current post here at Autumn Leaves. He is glad to be back home near friends and relatives, and very happy to work at Autumn Leaves.
Among the reasons he is happy to be at Autumn Leaves is the nice sprawling facility with all private rooms. However, he says the chief reason is the staff there—the people make the difference between different facilities. Autumn Leaves has a great staff, from the highest level of the administration to housekeeping to maintenance and all areas in between.
According to Mr. Little, the Autumn Leaves mission is to maintain faith in God, quality care, teamwork, integrity, and a sense of community. In addition to its long term care skilled nursing facility, Autumn Leaves has a robust short term rehabilitation facility with a top notch rehabilitation team. They include physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists who get great results. In the last six months, 26 members of the Winn Parish community have been admitted to Autumn Leaves for inpatient rehab therapy and have been successfully discharged home.
All staff of Autumn Leaves are dedicated and work very hard to provide excellent care for the residents, both short term and long term. Mr. Little has worked in every department of nursing homes in his training and says Autumn Leaves has great employees in every department, including dietary, maintenance, administration, bookkeeping, billing, medical records, social work, nursing, laundry, housekeeping, and activities. He mentioned several activities organized for the residents, such as preaching, music, gardening, coffee and conversation, parades, bingo, and even activities like hunting (not with real bullets) for those so inclined.
Mr. Little spoke about the effect of the COVID-19 epidemic on nursing homes in Louisiana for the last couple of years, which, of course, included discontinuing of all visits from outsiders, which was very hard for the residents. Some staff were afraid of the virus and quit their jobs as a result. Of course, despite precautions, some staff contacted the virus, and some residents who came in contact with them contracted it as well. Staff still cared for those residents with the virus, despite knowing they were quite likely to get it also. Autumn Leaves, however, has a great record of having only a few cases during the time the pandemic was spreading in the area. The staff were all vaccinated, management made sure that all staff had all the personal protective equipment needed, and all staff was tested for the virus twice a week for about two years.
Mr. Little also discussed the emergency management plan of Central Management for Autumn Leaves and its 21 other facilities in Louisiana. Whenever there is a natural disaster in Louisiana, and evacuation of nursing homes is required, all administrators in north Louisiana drive buses to south Louisiana to retrieve the residents and drive them to the facility in which they will be housed until their facility in south Louisiana is ready for their return. The plan is all mapped out as to where each driver is to go and retrieve how many residents and where they are to take the residents. If a natural disaster is anticipated but the nursing home residents may shelter in place, the administrators and even some staff remain overnight at their respective facilities. The emergency management plan for Central Management facilities is re-evaluated every year.
Thomas said he feels as if, in coming to work at Autumn Leaves, he has come full circle, going from visiting his own grandparents there, to further school and training, and then from this post to that, till he has, at last, come home once again to serve in the facility that served his own family well.
Little answered the group’s questions, and the meeting was adjourned, as customary, with the Rotary motto, “Service above Self!”