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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Food for thought

Today I decided to go to Senior Citizens for lunch. Although what was served did not resemble the chicken fajitas on the menu it was good in a strange sort of way. While waiting for the food to be ready I listened with interest to a table mate relay her experience with our local nursing home, Grants Good Samaritan Center.

A couple of years ago now 82 year old Jackie stepped out of her bathtub heard a crunching sound and realized she had somehow broken a major bone in her foot. She managed to summon help and was rushed to the capable hands of a surgeon who happened to be on duty that day. After surgery and a stay in the hospital she was moved to our local nursing home, until she was healed enough to go home and fend for herself with the help of a friend.

Having briefly worked at Good Sam several years ago as the Resource Development Coordinator, I was very interested in what she had to say. Both of my ex-husband's parents were also residents of the facility at different times so I had formed opinions from both sides of the coin from personal experience. I was not prepared for Jackie's refreshing outlook.

She actually said, "I had fun!"

I don't believe I have ever heard a patient make such a positive remark about their stay in a nursing home. Because her only problem was a broken foot she pretty much had the run of the place, with I assume the assistance of a wheelchair or walker when needed. She said she would sit at the entrance and greet visitors. She soon became the official greeter for the facility. She also felt it was her job to watch out for residents who because of dementia were not allowed to leave the building. Adding to that was her duty to get help from the nurses for patients who needed assistance. She said it was her job.

Jackie had only good things to say about the friendliness of the staff, the cleanliness of the facility and the quality of the meals. She made her stay sound more like a vacation than a negative experience. She said when visitors came to see her she was never in her room. Friends had to wander around the halls looking for her.

What impressed me more than anything was when she talked about befriending an Alzheimer patient. This really hit home because it was why my mother-in-law had briefly been a patient in the past. I can remember trying to communicate with her and becoming so frustrated because I had to say the same things over and over. It was like trying to talk to someone who didn't understand English. Listening to Jackie's story made me feel a little guilty about my previous impatience.

Instead of trying to force the Alzheimer patient to come into the present she stepped into the other person's world, wherever she was at any  given moment, and gently attempted to reason with her. Because of her approach someone from administration asked if she had training in psychology. I think she just had training in life.

Although the food was questionable today the food for thought I was given was unbeatable.


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