Deborah Atsas’ plan was to stay in the geriatrics field of medicine for only a year before becoming a Registered Nurse, but within a few months she realized she had found her passion. Atsas has been the Executive Director of the Rittenhouse Village at Valparaiso for the last five and a half years at the assisted living facility.
Atsas is a native Northwest Indiana resident. She grew up in DeMotte and since graduating from high school has lived in Hanna with her family. She is married with an 18-year-old son and her two daughters each live within 30 minutes of each other. Between the two girls, Atsas and her husband have nine and a half grandchildren, which keeps her non-senior citizen lifestyle full of youngsters.
Atsas attended Ivy Tech Community College for a certificate in practical nursing and an Associate’s Degree in nursing. She then took a job at a nursing home since the need for nurses in elderly care was in high demand at that time.
“My plan was to work a year, go back to get my RN license, and then go somewhere else,” she admitted. “But then it became my passion.”
Ask most people who work with the elderly and they will say the same thing about why they choose to work with senior citizens: The stories.
“I love hearing their stories and what their lives were like when they young,” she said. “It is interesting to hear what their lives were like then compared to what their lives are like now.”
She works with residents who are her parents or grandparent’s age. As they begin to age, she feels closer to them knowing she is there to help them, just like she was with her own family. Her personal relationship allows her to help the families of the residents as they deal with the aging of their loved one.
But overall, she loves the ability to make a difference, no matter how big or small, in people’s lives.
Atsas’ ability to make an impact does not extend just to the residents. She works with the families of the residents when they come in and, of course, with her staff members, who she works with every day.
On a typical day, she oversees the managers of the different departments at Rittenhouse Village, helping them solve any issues or problems that may come up.
“I am the sounding board for everyone,” she explained. “I am just here for them to help with any decisions that need to be made.”
Atsas makes sure the home is financially stable and helps with any marketing and sales projects going on. Her favorite part of the day, and one that she doesn’t get to engage in as much as she would like, is visiting with the many residents and their frequent-visiting families.
“Visiting with the residents and families and seeing if they have any concerns they want to talk about, or simply getting to know them better, is my favorite part,” Atsas said. “If I had my own way, I would spend my whole day just visiting with the residents… but, there’s a lot of other stuff to do!”
The Rittenhouse Village at Valparaiso is located at 1300 Vale Park Road and is one of several Villages throughout Northwest Indiana. The facility is a senior-assisted living center with a memory care program option. The facility offers dining services, celebrations and events, wellness activities, and an overall fun, stress-free environment to live in.
When her one-year mark came up early in Atsas’ career, she knew she wouldn’t need any other form of nursing, having found her place in the geriatrics environment. She stayed with elderly care, and stayed in Northwest Indiana, knowing this was the only place to be.
“This is home, this is the only thing I know. I was born and raised here and will always live here,” she said.
Atsas and her family’s house is settled out in the country of La Porte County, close enough for a trip to Chicago, yet far enough to enjoy the quietness and simplicity of a small town, Indiana lifestyle.
In her free time she reads and works on many crafts, like crocheting. In the summer she likes to go on wine tours and tastings and stop at the local festivals when they return to town.
She spends every day listening to the stories of her residents, whether they were happy, sad, or inspirational, because, to her, those stories are what brings her to work every day with a smile on her face.