Meet Thom Avison
By Leslie Moore
Walking down the hall of Kingston Nursing Center in Conway, Thom Avison, Enrichment Team Director, greets everyone he meets with a smile and personal greeting. His kind spirit combined with a sense of playfulness and fun is welcomed by the elders, Thom’s respectful term for residents of the center. A Wilmington, North Carolina, native, Thom, an ordained minister, moved to Myrtle Beach 14 years ago. At first, he pastored Worship Center International Church, but now directs his energy solely to his job at the center, supervising a staff of three who handle all social services and activities.
Thom, tell us about your work.
I love my job and have never had a day when I dreaded coming to work. This is a great facility. We are a wonderful example of the change in nursing homes – what we do is called the Eden Alternative. There are several cats that live here and birds that the elders interact with. We have a wonderful outdoor area and greenhouse to sit and enjoy the outdoors. And, most importantly, the elders are in charge of their own schedule. They get to decide when they eat and sleep; it’s based around what they would do at home.
Our goal is to banish the three plagues of nursing homes: boredom, loneliness and helplessness. The children of our staff are regular visitors and have built up relationships with the elders. This is not a place to come to die. There is always something going on that’s fun and stimulating. Our elders have consistent caregivers also, meaning they always have the same staff helping them. This allows them to get to know each other and build relationships.
Our group of dedicated volunteers visits and spends one-on-one time with our elders. Usually there are 15 or so in the building during the week. The atmosphere is open and spontaneous. Activities include bingo (of course!) exercise, book club, movies – really we do most anything our elders want to do! One of our exercise classes involves a disco ball and ’70s music, everyone has a great time stretching and moving to the music.
I love this time of year at the center. So many people in our community feel the spirit of compassion and do things for our elders. We plan activities around all the holidays. Last Valentine’s Day we had a Sweetheart Banquet with steak or chicken cordon bleu – the theme was Hooray for Hollywood!
Each year during National Nursing Home Week, we have a theme and celebrations each day. Last year we created a “cruise,” and the elders picked our ports of call each day. The meals were based on the place, and the staff all dressed the part. We all had fun that week.
Even though I don’t pastor a church now, I still lead communion services at the center and have married staff and officiated at elders’ funerals. I’m very blessed in that respect.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was raised by my grandparents. I spent a lot of time with both sets of grandparents until I was 20 years old. I’m very attached to this sector of the population.
I stay very busy – I’m working on my doctorate in Christian Counseling as well as working full time. One of our staff members is here six days a week. I and another of my staff will work on Christmas this year to give our two staff members with young children time off. But, when I do get free time, I love bicycling, singing or horseback riding on the beach.
I am divorced and have two adult children. My son lives in Wilmington and my daughter is in the Navy. My grandson lives here in Conway, so I get to see him quite a bit.
How can our readers help?
I would love for everyone to visit us and learn more about nursing homes and the Eden Alternative. We also would love to have more volunteers to spend time with our elders. Come sit and talk with someone or play a game of cards. Listening is the most important gift.
Contact Thom at Kingston Nursing Home at 843-347-8179.
About this writer
- Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.