From the Sakura Intermediate Care Facility closure to today

Keiro recently interviewed Beverly Ito, who began her career with Keiro back in 1974 as a pharmacy intern. In the decades that followed, she embraced the culture and dedicated herself to preserving the legacy of Keiro’s founders to provide compassionate care to the residents. She held many key positions, including pharmacy director at City View Hospital, consultant pharmacist for the nursing homes, chief compliance and privacy officer, and eventually administrative roles at Keiro Nursing Home and Keiro Intermediate Care Facility.

Following the sale of the former facilities in February 2016, Beverly continued on as the administrator at Sakura Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) until its closure in August 2021. In September 2021, she resumed her work with Keiro to enhance the organization’s ongoing support of Japanese culture for residents receiving facility-based care.

Beverly led a dedicated team of health care professionals and ancillary staff as she cared for the ICF residents for over 20 years – a commitment she still carries to this day, even as the former residents now live in other facilities. Continuing Keiro’s legacy of caring and engagement with former residents remains a priority for Beverly. As the one-year anniversary of the Sakura ICF closure nears, we asked Beverly about her experience following the sale of the former facilities, her dedication to caring for older adults, and how she hopes to continue supporting the residents into the future.

What was your experience during the sale of the former facilities in 2016, and why did you decide to remain as the administrator at Sakura ICF?

The transition in ownership was very challenging for all of us. We had to adapt to new operational systems and the close oversight by the health department to ensure the quality of care and cultural preferences were maintained. I was fortunate to retain many of my key leadership and clinical team members which allowed us to provide a consistent and familiar home-like environment for our residents and families. After the sale, I declined other job opportunities because I wanted to continue the mission and the legacy of Keiro, even under different ownership. It was important to keep Keiro’s core values intact.

Could you share with us your experience and feelings at the time of Sakura ICF closure.

Announcing the pending closure of Sakura ICF and anticipating the collective angst and emotional response to the decision from residents, staff, family members, and the community-at-large was the most challenging journey of both my personal and professional lives. During the six months between February and August 2021, I went through all the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I, and my leadership team, had to bury a lot of anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness, as we tried our best to navigate through a very complex set of regulations, procedures, and adversity. On top of all the challenges of COVID, many of us made sacrifices in our personal lives, working longer hours than ever before, to support the residents and families searching for alternate care options. I was frustrated and angry that there were so many circumstances and decisions that were beyond my control, and as the face of Sakura ICF, I was under attack. The depression was the longest phase, and having to close the facility, to move on from my ICF family of 20+ years, continues to be an adjustment. 

As we near the one-year mark of the closure, how are you feeling now?

The closure still haunts me, but it no longer consumes me. Staying connected to so many of the residents, families, and staff has helped me find acceptance, that we did the best we could under dire circumstances. Time heals but the heart and mind do not forget. When I unexpectedly hear from one of my team members, or when I reach out and everyone talks about how much we all miss our ICF family, it makes me grateful for the experiences we shared. Successfully working together to keep our residents safe from COVID and supporting one another during the closure strengthened our bonds…so, today, I try to focus on our team accomplishments and cherish all of the wonderful relationships that I shared at the ICF.

As you return to working for Keiro, your support for older adults in residential care settings continues. What does your role currently entail?

My current role centers around maintaining connections to the legacy residents and staff of Sakura ICF as well as expanding Keiro’s ongoing efforts to support residential care facilities and their abilities to host culturally-enriching Japanese activity programs, supplementing food preferences, and supporting facility staff. I am also always available to be a resource to others and work as a Keiro ambassador.

Why is it important to you to continue these efforts?

After the closure, I tried to rest and recover from the strain of dealing both with COVID and the daily absence of my work family. My personal life was so closely tied to my professional life, and I was searching for purpose and meaning again. When I was offered the opportunity to work on special assignments for Keiro, it renewed my sense of purpose and belonging. I felt whole again.
I think the biggest reason why I enjoy this is because I can see how these programs provide such joyous engagement between the residents and the entertainers. It never fails to touch my heart as I watch the residents singing along in Japanese, clapping their hands in rhythm or appreciation, and seeing how their faces just light up with delight as they recognize a familiar song from the past. I feel grateful for the opportunity to touch their lives in such a meaningful way.  It reignites my passion for serving older adults in our community.

scott nagatani performing
Scott performing

At the end of the interview, Beverly shared a message from Scott Nagatani, one of the musicians who has been performing in the former Keiro facilities since the 1980s. Recently, Keiro hosted special performances at the Atherton Baptist Homes, where several of the former ICF residents now live. After the performance, Scott shared, “Playing music for such an appreciative audience is two-way communication. And I have seen the miracle of music touching the soul of those with memory loss and those at the end of their life. It is always a privilege to perform.”