“Our responsibility is to keep people safe. But we want them to be happy too and have the best quality of life that they can for whatever time they are with us.”

SALUDA, Va. – Riverside Convalescent Center-Saluda recently welcomed Christine Morillo, LNHA as its new administrator.

Located on Gloucester Road, leading into the heart of Saluda in Middlesex County, Riverside Convalescent Center-Saluda offers comprehensive nursing and rehabilitation services in a homelike environment. Therapy services – including physical, speech, occupational and recreational – are available to ensure residents can always function at their highest levels. Riverside Convalescent Center-Saluda is one of several Riverside long-term care facilities to earn a five-star rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), joining other Riverside facilities on the Middle Peninsula in achieving a five-star CMS rating and placing it among the top 10 percent of facilities in the country.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the team here in Saluda,” Morillo said. “Saluda is like this tiny little dot on the map, but what is here is this incredible facility. We have wonderful residents and a care team who truly desires and wants to care for the people here. That in itself is phenomenal and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”

Christine Morillo, LNHA, Saluda Convalescent Center’s New Administrator

Born and raised on Long Island in New York, Morillo became a Virginian in the 1990s. She attended the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in the Biological Basis of Behavior and then went on to earn her culinary arts degree from the Culinary Institute of America. For years, before moving into a career of caring for older adults, Morillo cared for all people in a different way. Through food. After graduating from culinary school, Morillo cooked her way through Washington DC, the Outer Banks of North Carolina where she served as the food and beverage director at the Sanderling Resort, and eventually Williamsburg. 

“That’s when I got a call from Riverside that Patriots Colony in Williamsburg was looking for help in their dining services,” Morillo said. “I had been interested in making a switch and serving people in health care, and I realized quickly Riverside was a company I wanted to stay and grow with.” Soon after joining Riverside, Morillo began her Administrator in Training Program to become a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. Before joining the team in Saluda, Morillo served as an Interim Administrator at Patriots Colony and then as an Assistant Administrator at The Gardens at Warwick Forest in Newport News.

“This is our residents’ home,” Morillo said. “Everything that we do should be about making this feel like their home, from the care that we provide to the way we talk to them to the way we set up their bed or the furniture in the building. It’s always about putting the resident first.” Often, that can be harder than it sounds, Morillo said.

“There are 60 people here who make this their home and they all have different ideas of what home is to them,” Morillo said. “But by giving our team members the tools they need to put the residents first, and to make sure we are always asking what matters to the residents and their family members, we make that happen. Our responsibility is to keep people safe. But we want them to be happy, too, and have the best quality of life that they can for whatever time they are with us.”

Morillo’s background as a chef and working in hospitality translates perfectly to Saluda, she said.

“For me, food and being a chef, really stemmed from the ability to make people happy,” Morillo said. “The idea that I could make people happy through food and give people pleasure really drove me. As an administrator here, it’s the same thing. We’re still serving people. We’re providing hospitality. We’re making them happy.”

And food is at the heart of that. “As you age and begin to lose control over many things, food is one of those things you can still control,” Morillo said. “Many of our residents have lost the ability to walk or the ability to take care of themselves. But they are still eating and they can still taste. They can choose not to eat and choose to tell you they don’t like it. When you look at it from their perspective you can see why it’s so important to find something to serve them, to provide them enjoyment.”

Moving into the future, Morillo hopes to bring new programs to Saluda for people living with dementia, including music and sensory therapies. “Saluda has been here, serving this community, for a long time,” Morillo said. “It’s a small, close knit community. I am glad to be a part of it, to spend time listening to our residents and families and to be open to the tons of possibilities available to use to make this a grand home for all.”

For more information about Riverside Convalescent Center-Saluda, visit www.riversideonline.com/continuing_care/rcc-saluda.cfm.

Published: January 23, 2018