In her own words: Gina Stutchman-Lewis, Arbors Memory Care

Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about your company.

Gina Stutchman-Lewis: Arbors Memory Care Community provides residential care for persons living with Alzheimer's and dementia. We excel in creating individualized care plans for clients and their families who are faced with the many challenges a dementia diagnosis brings. We're also very proud of the continuous A grade that we've received from the State of Nevada in our annual surveys. We have a staff of 40 incredible caregivers, cooks, activities staff, housekeepers, maintenance staff and managers. Without their hard work and dedication, we would not be able to offer the best memory care in town.

NNBW: What role do you play?

Stutchman-Lewis: I co-own the company with my brother, Brent Stutchman. I oversee our finances and our marketing plans.

NNBW: How did you get into this?

Stutchman-Lewis: The Arbors is the culmination of a life spent growing up in the senior housing industry. My mother and father developed and built nursing homes throughout my childhood. About the time I graduated high school they entered the active retirement industry. That meant that every afterschool and summer job that I held was related to serving the senior population. Upon completing my masters degree in marketing, I was very happy to put my experience and education to the test by opening my parent's latest development at that time, an assisted living community in Sparks. While there, it became clear to us that there was a population in the Reno/Sparks area that was completely underserved; families caring for a loved one with dementia truly had no positive options in northern Nevada at that point in time. Our family spent the next few years researching the best environments and programs to enhance the quality of life for people with memory loss, and in 1998 the Arbors opened. It has been extremely rewarding to be able to develop and design a community and actually see our programs working so well within the space. And we're proud to remain family owned and operated when most communities like ours are now owned and managed by large, national companies.

NNBW: What is necessary for someone to succeed in this job?

Stutchman-Lewis: You must truly have a passion for improving lives. Many times when families come to us for help, they are exhausted, frustrated and sad. It is a difficult thing for a family to accept that, at times, caring for a loved one at home is not possible. Empathy is key. Flexibility is also very important. No two families have the same set of needs. Individuality does not disappear with dementia.

NNBW: If you could have had any other profession what would it have been?

Stutchman-Lewis: In college I was really interested in archeology. The travel aspect of it was a big draw. When I realized that it was all about recording the past and had nothing to do with shaping the future I lost interest.

NNBW: What are some of the important trends you see in your industry?

Stutchman-Lewis: Increasingly defined regulations to address those instances where a resident's rights bump up against current regulation.

NNBW: What do you like to do when you're not working?

Stutchman-Lewis: Time spent on outside activities with my family ranks high. I also love to travel every time I get the chance. Those two things keep me grounded and happy.

NNBW: Have any advice for someone who wants to enter your profession?

Stutchman-Lewis: Memorize the state regulations. The state of Nevada and the Assisted Living Advisory Council have established a fantastic mentoring program to guide and train people interested in being leaders in our industry. Our executive director, Diana Roberts, is one of the administrator mentors.

NNBW: Would you rather be younger, thinner, richer or smarter? Why?

Stutchman-Lewis: Definitely smarter, so that I could put off the moment in time when my children become smarter than me.

NNBW: What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Stutchman-Lewis: My dad always said "You can never really know the circumstances of a person's life so you are never really in a position to judge their behavior. Just treat everyone with kindness and you'll be OK."

NNBW: What are five things you can't live without?

Stutchman-Lewis: Kisses from my kids. Chocolate. Farm fresh eggs and toast with lots of butter. Hot baths. Sunshine.

NNBW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why would you want it?

Stutchman-Lewis: I would want to fly. The freedom.

NNBW: What does the content of your refrigerator say about you?

Stutchman-Lewis: That I love to eat good food but am fairly weight conscious.

The basics:

Name: Gina Stutchman-Lewis, owner and developer, Arbors Memory Care.

How long have you been in this job? Started research for design of the Arbors in 1994.

How long in the profession? Since I was 6.

Education: MBA, marketing, La Sierra University and a BA, business administration, Loma Linda University.

Best book you've read? I'm a fan of Ken Follett.

What's on your iPod? ABBA, Black Eyed Peas, Bob Marley, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Johnny Cash.

The best movie ever? "Fried Green Tomatoes."

Spouse, kids or pets? Married to Jason Lewis. Two girls, 6 and 3.


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