TO YOUR HEALTH: When assisted living feels like home

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The residents of The Amber Assisted Living feel more like family members than they do like housemates. The “family feeling” is exactly what Heather Medina, Executive Director, strives to create.

The Amber Assisted Living, located at 365 SW Bel Air Drive in Clatskanie, provides assisted living to its senior residents, according to information on its website. It has existed since at least 2003, according to Medina. Since then, the facility has experienced a lot of changes, and for the better, Medina said.

When she started working at The Amber in 2015, Medina was employed as a medical technician, more commonly shortened to “med tech.” She worked there until 2017, and during that time, Medina said things were not going very well. One metric that Medina said exemplifies the failings of the facility during that time were online reviews on crowd-sourced review sites such as or

“If you would post online looking for a job, people would say ‘don’t go there,’” Medina said. “Now, I can post and people will say ‘it’s a great place to work, it’s a great place to live.’ That’s how I like to compare the reputation.”

In 2015, the turnover of staff and administration at the place was high. Back then, Medina said there was a general lack of family involvement, and staff was under-trained.

Nowadays, it’s a very different story. Medina said it’s common for residents’ grandchildren to spend the night, and to have families over for the holidays.

Medina believes a lot of these changes come from improved staff training. The Amber employs a staff of 21: 16 caregivers and med techs, three kitchen staff, one maintenance manager and one nurse. There are also two volunteers that are in charge of the Sunday and Monday church services. While all of them contribute to the general upkeep and maintenance of the facility, the care of the residents falls primarily into the hands of the med techs and caregivers. As a former med tech herself, Medina said she understood the importance of ensuring that med techs were as familiar as possible with residents and their needs.

“We try to make sure they know every resident, who’s in which room and what they need.

We have them read care plans and know what they’re doing before they’re on their own. We make sure that the confidence is there and that they know what they’re doing. Nobody’s ever thrown to the wolves,” Medina said.

Medina said she believes improved training has made a big difference in the quality of care that the elderly in the facility receive.

As for the daily activities, there are a lot of things for residents to do. According to Medina, residents can participate in up to three activities per day. Most recently, the residents did canvas painting, a dice game, and decorated their “positivity board,” which provides positive messages for residents to read.

Amenities provided for residents include a pool table where pool tournaments are often held, a library, a movie room, an activities room filled with board games, and even a salon. Residents can participate in leading activities. On Saturdays, Julia Lambert leads bingo, and she also runs a community store for the other residents.

Recently, The Amber had its first barbecue, something Medina wants to repeat on an annual basis. The barbecue is just one example of Medina trying to include residents’ families as much as possible.

Several residents said they feel like a family, not like folks who happen to live in the same facility.

“We all consider ourselves a family, and I think that every new person that comes in is like family. Even the staff, they treat us like we’re one of their own kin,” Lambert said.

Lambert, 61, said she has only one blood-related family member left, her sister, who has health issues that make it hard for her to visit. She and her sister talk on the phone a lot, but Lambert does not feel lonely due to lack of visitors. She recommends the place to anyone considering assisted living.

“If you’re older and you still feel like you have things to do, I think you should come here and join us, and be part of our family, and not just be sitting in a bed,” Lambert said. “We’re not really a community, we’re a family.”